Tag Archives: Mickey Keating

No Place Like Home


by Hope Madden

Lean, mean and affecting, Mickey Keating’s take on the home invasion film wastes no time. In a wordless—though not soundless—opening, the filmmaker introduces an unhinged presence.

Cut to Ana (Vero Maynez). She’s sleepy, it’s late, the bus is empty except for the driver hustling her off, his voice constant, annoyed, and on repeat: Come on. Get off the bus. Last stop. You gotta go.

It’s 4:30 am. The bus was late, the station is deserted, and Carmilla—Ana’s cousin—is not answering.

Immediately Keating sets our eyes and ears against us. His soundtrack frequently blares death metal, a tactic that emphasizes a chaotic, menacing mood the film never shakes. Using primarily handheld cameras from the unnerving opening throughout the entire film, the filmmaker maintains an anarchic energy, a sense of the characters’ frenzy and the endless possibility of violence.

Keating strings together a handful of believably tumultuous moments early in the film—particularly a couple of run-ins with a horn-blaring cabbie—to work the nerves and leave you feeling as raw and vulnerable as Ana. Rather than dip and settle, Invader delivers relentlessly on that early sense of harried terror.

Scenes possess an improvisational quality that coincides with the rawness of the overall effort. Keating is spare with exposition—if you can’t figure out what’s going on without having it explained to you, you are clearly not paying attention. The verité style accomplishes what it’s mean to, lending Invader an authenticity that amplifies the horror.

Maynez carries that authenticity. Ana never feels written, she feels alive. Her confusion, anger, fear—all of it runs together in a way that reflects what the audience is experiencing in each moment. Her limited screentime with Colin Huerta introduces enough tenderness to give the sense of terror real depth.

Joe Swanberg, with limited screentime and even more limited dialog, crafts a terrifying image of havoc. His presence is perversely menacing, an explosion of rage and horror.

Invader delivers a spare, nasty, memorable piece of horror in just over an hour. It will stick with you a while longer. 

Deja Vu

Carnage Park

by Hope Madden

Writer/director Mickey Keating says his newest effort, Carnage Park, owes a debt to Sam Peckinpah and Peter Watkins – and their influence is certainly apparent, right down to the film’s title, cribbed from Watkins’s desert terror Punishment Park. Still, the film itself boils down to a poor man’s Wolf Creek as directed by Quentin Tarantino.

Actually, that sounds a lot better than it is.

It’s the California desert of 1978. Two armed men carrying a bullet wound, bag of cash and hostage flee a small town bank heist. They lose a trail of cops via a hidden, hilly dirt road.

Big mistake.

All the swagger, dusty boots and retro Seventies soundtrack in the world can’t shield Scorpion Joe (James Landry Hebert) and farm girl hostage Vivian (Ashley Bell) from the much larger danger they’ve just driven into.

Keating’s amassing quite a list and variety of indie horror films. His style is homage. Where Carnage Park aspires to the gritty look and desperate feel of the road pics of the indie American Seventies, last year’s Darling offered a stylish ode to both Kubrick and Polanski.

This approach need not feel derivative. Let’s be honest, Tarantino’s become among the most lauded and watched filmmakers of his generation by doing the exact same thing. The big difference is that QT’s take on all the cinema that has come before is filtered through his own lunatic genius, the final product becoming uniquely, fantastically his own.

There’s something more workmanlike, less inspired in what Keating does.

That’s not to say Carnage Park is an abject failure. A game cast keeps the film intriguing. Bell is deceptively savvy (aside from a few wildly idiotic mistakes, but let’s be honest, screenwriter Keating is to blame for those). Genre favorite Pat Healy chews some scenery, playing against type as the damaged Vietnam vet cliché, while Larry Fessenden (a regular and welcome contributor to Keating’s canon) shows up for a quick and gory moment or two.

But from the bleached out yellow of the scenery to nearly every set piece, Keating’s habit of lifting from other films takes on the feel of compulsion. Larceny, even: The Hills Have Eyes, Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2, Reservoir Dogs – the list is bloody, hip and endless. And tired.

Keating has proven many strengths in his few years in filmmaking, but it is time for him to develop his own style.