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Red Canyon (2011)
28th Jun 11
A pair of siblings return to the town where they suffered a brutal attack many years ago. A terrible terrible film ensues.
Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to Red Canyon: the longest 94 minutes you’ll never spend. A hybrid of slasher, psychological thriller and family drama that completely and utterly fails at all three; it’s the directorial debut from veteran scenic artist Giovanni Rodriquez. It’s poor play to completely write off a filmmaker based on their first attempt, but let’s hope if he makes another that Rodriquez learns to y’know... make a film.
The plot or what seems to resemble one kicks off with siblings Regina (Christine Lakin) and Devon (Tim Draxl) coming under attack by some gas mask wearing boogie man in a drug den/mine shaft out in the middle of the desert. We don’t see the attack but a jump forward “some year later” reveals that whatever went down caused a great deal of trauma to them both, as they return to the desert town to sell their family home bringing some annoying friends along for the ride. Regina seems to have taken the brunt of it and we’re drip fed the past event as she struggles to remember what happened and come to terms with her past. The group of pals meanwhile get menaced by the local good for nothing (Norman Reedus of John Carpenter’s Cigarette Burns and The Walking Dead) and generally act like tossers you want to see killed. So not much of a plot then, but of course plot isn’t really essential to making a successful horror. Sometimes a plot can actually be downright distracting when there’s gore to be had. But despite the hints of slasher with a gas mask wearing loon picking characters off in a bloody fashion, Rodriquez is aiming for a moody character piece dealing with personal crisis and the tricks our memory plays when the truth is just too hard to bear. Unfortunately what he’s made is deathly dull and inept on pretty much every level imaginable.
Performances range from wooden to non-existent as the gang of unlikeable characters plod from scene to scene spouting the worst kind of direlogue. It’s hard to tell if the actors involved are just talentless voids or if it’s just a case of bad writing and direction. Never before will you utter the phrase “would one more take have killed them?” quite as much as you will while watching Red Canyon. A quick sqiuz of IMDB shows almost all the cast have a healthy filmography which makes you suspect that a) Rodriquez had a bit of budget to work with and b) he didn’t have a clue how to use said budget or his actors. Your heart really goes out to these guys as they have to deliver lines like “someone should fire the maid” when investigating a dilapidated house (ZING!) or when the medical student amongst them lights a cigarette and one opines “you’re gonna make a great role model for your patients, doc” (OUCH!). This is as close to colourful as the chat gets and perhaps Rodriquez and co-writer Laura Pratt shouldn’t have bothered trying to be witty if this is the best they could come up with.
Lakin and Draxl struggle to convince in the central roles and where Regina’s plight should be affecting and make us care for her, Lakin barely registers and is just a bit jumpy and cry-y. Even the reliably lizard like Reedus is wasted as the most outwardly sinister character, as is Justin Hartley (Smallville’s Green Arrow) playing the token and all important arsehole of the group. A shame because I reckon this dude has a great arsehole in him. The only interesting performance in the whole thing is Walter Rodriguez as a Mexican shop keeper with an accent so thick the makers saw fit to give him subtitles even though he’s speaking English(!) and a ‘tache/beard combo that makes him look like the lovechild of Salvador Dali and the Techno Viking. But please note I said interesting not good.
Characterisation and dialogue aren’t the scripts only problems. The plot beats are infuriatingly tedious as events play out slowly, predictably and without any sense of importance. The only hint of surprise you’ll get is thinking “oh it can’t be that obvious” only to find that yes it really is that obvious. Rodriquez and Pratt may think they have some twists up their sleeve using the unreliable memory trick but unfortunately they’ve forgotten to wear a shirt. The big reveal of the final act doesn’t hold up to even the vaguest scrutiny; I won’t spoil it here but please don’t be tempted to check this one out just see what happens. It’s very dull and very lazy. The ending is the closest the film has to anything original but they’ve mistaken mean spiritedness for disturbing and it just comes off as nasty instead of chilling. It’s offensive to film fans everywhere and probably to women in general. There’s a germ of something interesting in Red Canyon but the execution across the board is simply appalling and misguided.
The vistas provide a nice setting that could have created an unsettling backdrop ala The Hitcher or Near Dark but they’re filmed with very little care for composition or atmosphere. The fact that it was filmed digitally is no excuse as the equally digital Wolf Creek is one of the scariest films of the last decade and mainly because of its outback setting. The kill scenes when Red Canyon goes all slasher trying desperately to keep our attention are laughable. Remember that old trick of pretending to stab a friend right through with a toy sword by having them stand side on? Believe it or not that trick is used here and much worse than you could possibly imagine. A dog attack with all the intensity of a You’ve Been Framed Pet’s Special and the clumsiest death by hook ever caught on screen are the crowning turds in the water pipe. Again inept is really the only way to put it.
Amongst the general stench of awfulness it must be said that the song based soundtrack is quite decent. Consisting mostly of haunting guitars and moody vocals it is suitably country and would have added to the overall atmosphere if there was any to speak of.
With terrible dialogue, two-dimensional characters (in a character-driven movie no less), unconvincing gore and unbelievable motivations Red Canyon is the kind of horror that gives horror a bad name. Sure, the majority of our beloved genre suffer from these problems too but a lot of them are at least entertaining and energetic despite these faults. But I’ve saved the worst offence for last: In the first act Regina, Devon and co open up a garage to reveal a collection of dirt bikes. We’re in for some desert dirt bike montage action in the style of the dreadful (but still more entertaining than this garbage) Hills Have Eyes 2, you might think. Well no; Rodriquez pulls out after the first thrust and we’re left with a total of 29 seconds of dirt bike action. 29 seconds! This is unacceptable.
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