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May 2011

Red Canyon

cast: Christine Lakin, Tim Draxl, Norman Reedus, and Walter Rodriguez

director: Giovanni Rodriguez

94 minutes (15) 2008
widescreen ratio 1.78:1
Fusion Media DVD Region 2
[released 23 May]

RATING: 5/10
review by Mark West

Red Canyon
Spoiler Alert!
In the pre-credits sequence, a brother and sister - Devon (Tim Draxl, the poor man's version of Shia LaBoeuf), and Regina/ Reggie (Christine Lakin) - are attacked in a deserted mine, deep in the badlands of Utah. They've ignored the sign that says 'no trespassing' and the fact that there's a van parked outside but, pesky teenagers, what are you going to do? Cut to 'some years later' (so says the title card, though most of the characters suggest it is seven years) and the duo are back, college kids now (looking as much into their early twenties as they did seven years earlier) with a van-load of friends - Terra (Katie Maguire), Tom (Justin Hartley), and Samir (Ankur Bhatt).

It's not made clear why they've come back, especially since Reggie is living on her nerves and suffers repeated flashbacks of the attack, but they decide to head to the Luna Mesa, very close to the mine. There, they meet the bartender Walter (Walter Rodriguez), a self-proclaimed 'wetback' who actually appears to have a Dutch accent and is - shamefully - subtitled throughout the film (though his diction is very clear). They also run into Mac (Norman Reedus, best known for Cigarette Burns, and getting Helena Christensen pregnant), the local hard man, who seems to have a score to settle with Devon. Throw in a bulky maniac in a gas mask, a local dog that's as vicious as they come, and you have all the ingredients of a 'small-town-kind-of-like-Wolf-Creek-perhaps' horror flick, yes?

Well, no. This is a very confused - and confusing - little film, that appears to be going one way - judging by the advertising materials, cover art, tone and performances - when, in fact, it's going somewhere completely different. Worse, when you get to the end and realise what it is that you've been watching, none of it actually makes sense.

Having annoyed Mac, the group head back to the cabin they're staying in and they're laid siege to, the local police force is killed in their front yard and they're menaced, once again, by the gas masked killer. Tom gets a shotgun blast, at point blank range, to the leg but doesn't lose the limb or any chunks from it - though it's Devon who shoots him, by accident. Samir is caught by the killer and beheaded. So the chase is on, with the twenty-somethings trying desperately to escape from the killer who wants them because - well, why would he want them?

My problem with the film is that the horror tropes are unnecessary. The gas mask is a macguffin, something to be used for the ads and posters, because we all know who the killer is and he has a limited cast to decimate. There's no reason for Devon to have taken any of the party there, no reason for them to have been killed because, at the end of it all, he and Reggie aren't really brother and sister. He's Walter's son, he was involved in the original attack and having spent seven years building his pseudo-sister's confidence and self-esteem up, he now wants her for himself and so decides to take her back to daddy.

So it is a horror film, in the sense that incest is a horrific thing. It's also horrific in that Reggie suffers almost constantly, with no real let up and the viewer begins to feel as if he is partly responsible. Everyone gets onto her, nobody believes her at key points and, worst of all, the thing she's been worried about from the beginning happens to her.

Technically, it's not bad through the image is very grainy, especially in the night shots and too often it's hand-held, with the cameraman clearly not quite sure what he's supposed to be shooting. There are plenty of shots of the vistas (which are beautiful to look at, but perhaps only aid in padding the film out, after a while), but the action all takes place in claustrophobic areas which means you can't see as much as you'd perhaps like to. The special effects are terrible, with no link to reality - a freshly severed head on a pole would bleed a lot more than Samir's does, and had Tom been shot in the knee by a 12-bore, he certainly wouldn't be laughing about it afterwards and he'd also have one limb less.

The acting is okay - though I felt embarrassed for Rodriguez getting subtitled - and so is the music, but it's all let down by the script that wants to be Wolf Creek and a sibling-abuse-movie-of-the-week all at the same time. It's not bad, overall, though it's difficult to know who the audience would be (a similar worry the distributors obviously had) because the horror doesn't work, and the family ties made me feel a bit grubby.

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