As someone who’s lived in NYC for his entire life, I find myself especially excited for films that take place in, and are shot in my fair city. Bonus points if the films in question are genre films. Writer/Director Justin Reinsilber gets those extra points for setting his directorial debut in the greatest park in the world, Central Park. It’s a solid debut to boot, but we’ll get to that in a bit…
Six good friends decide to spend a night in the titular park to cheer up one of their own, whose dad has just been implicated in a Ponzi scheme that’s even bigger than the one Bernie Madoff will spend the rest of his life in prison for. Harold (Justin A. Davis) is the teen with the felonious father, and his friends are all there to cheer him up. There are six of them in total, and they’re all couples as well, so the idea to hang out in the park to laugh, smoke, and mess around with each other makes sense to all of them. I don’t think it’d be much of a surprise when I say that none of these kids are exactly Mensa students either, despite thinking and acting they’re smarter than everyone else.
But before the film kicks into second gear, we get a lot of exposition featuring the kids doing what kids will do. Talking crap in the bathroom, talking crap in class, and poor Harold taking crap by way of some really crappy comments about his dad from fellow students. All of this goes on for what feels like quite a while before the kids finally end up in the park.But they eventually do, and not soon afterwards, the carnage begins. Mind you, Central Park plays it kind of safe in terms of gore, but the brief snippets we get are satisfyingly gruesome. There’s also a weird subplot that involves a woman who gets her policeman ex husband to look for her current husband who’s gone missing after going out for a bike ride in the evening that only serves to distract from the main story, and complicate the proceedings ever so slightly. I’m not sure why Reinsilber decided to include it, as it feels like it’s taking place in a completely different movie. But it’s there, and while it’s slightly annoying – it isn’t a deal-breaker.
The second half of the film picks up the pace quite a bit, but there are still some issues to be found here. None of the characters are particularly likable to be honest, and I was kind of rooting for them to go down in the most violent ways imaginable. Especially since none of them are very bright. I mean, why wouldn’t one of them simply dial 911 on their ever present cell phones to call for help? I understand that sometimes people make bad choices when under pressure, but come on! They live in New York City, and there are literally dozens of cops patrolling Central Park 24 hours a day. Help is just a phone call away, but Reinsilber’s script does them no favors in that respect.
All of the kids are up to the task at hand though, with good performances from all of them. The adults do a good job essaying their roles as well, but as I mentioned earlier, their story line tends to distract from the main plot. The best part of the film for me was when we discover who the killer is, and his reasons for killing the kids. It’s different for sure, and admittedly unexpected. His methods are definitely old school, but I dug them regardless. Central Park did a good job of reminding me of the prototypical 80’s slasher films I watched as a teen. Reinsilber does a fine job keeping the proceedings moving along at a nice pace, despite the sluggishness of the first half. Cinematographer Eun-ah Lee makes my city look beautiful, and the scenes in the park are decidedly dark & foreboding. No scenes are brightly back lit as I’ve seen in other woods based slasher films. Everything here looks and feels natural, not manufactured.
Central Park isn’t gonna revolutionize the slasher genre, but it’s a fine example of what it takes to make a good slasher film. It doesn’t overdo the gore, doesn’t utilize any needless CGI, and is a confident debut for Writer/Director Justin Reinsilber. I don’t know what he has up his sleeve for his next film just yet, but if this is what he’s capable of, then I’m very curious to see what he comes up with next time around.
Central Park (3 / 5)