Crash Analysis: DEADWOOD PARK (2007)

Could have been a contender

Dead kids + return of surviving brother = mystery solved

Eric Stanze was certainly ambitious when he wrote and filmed this near miss. After all, he got a group of “living historians” to recreate an extensive WWII scene with genuine equipment – though why he had a girl in a 1945 flashback wear modern sneakers is beyond goofdom.

The story follows Jake Richardson’s (William Clifton’s) return to his old family home in a dying town. Many years before, his twin brother had been kidnapped and murdered by a mysterious somebody who had claimed two dozen victims. In any event, like all films of this ilk, Jake soon learns that “you can’t go home again” – yawn – and that the local sheriff (Bryan Lane), doesn’t want him around – yawn. Oh, and Jake and Olivia (Lindsay Luscri), work together to solve the mystery of the murdered kids, and she just happens to be the good sheriff’s daughter – double yawn. Timeless clichés aside, Jake’s old family home seems to be haunted by all the slain children.

For horror lovers, this is the point where anger sets in. The ghost kids giggle, appear and disappear, and leave little clues behind for Jake to unravel. Now, since they can obviously communicate, why doesn’t one of them just write on the wall the name of the damn killer? But no, we must be tortured by ghosts that seemingly want human help while mindfucking said humans in the process.

The problem with DEADWOOD PARK is that one can see the scares coming a mile away. And even though some of Stanze’s cinematography is fairly decent, the multitude of scenes have that “sterile” feel that automatically hints at bad ultra-low budget. Worst still, except for Bryan Lane, the acting is stiff and not memorable. Oftentimes, William Clifton seems to mimic Jack Webb’s Joe Friday from “Dragnet”. And once again, actors spend too much time standing around to talk, stalling the action and putting us to sleep – and that is the directors fault.

Did you ever see Byron Mabe’s SHE-FREAK (1967) where he films a carnival for about an hour and throws in bits of a story with some sexy shots of Claire Brennen? Stanze does the same thing here, except that the amusement park has been abandoned – and there are no sexy shots of anyone. Instead, I was left wishing I had been there to get some great still photos in black and white.

Regardless, the story at one time weak, becomes mashed-up-crazy as Stanze takes us back and forth through time to deliver a killer that leads to a jarring sub-genre turn late in the third act.

If the story had been mapped out better, with stronger actor and direction, this could have been something worthwhile.

The 1.5 stars goes to Bryan Lane, the abandoned amusement park and the living actors for bringing WWII to the fore. It’s a shame that after working in independent film for twenty-five years that Stanze couldn’t have put something stronger together.

1.5 out of 5 stars

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