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The Independent Critic

Justiin Davis, Grace Van Patten, Ruby Modine, Justin Reinsilber, Michael Lombardi, David Valcin, Marina Squerciati, Sarah Mezzanotte, Charles Borland, Guillermo Arribas
Justin Reinsilber
87 Mins.


 "Central Park" has World Premiere at Dances With Films 

Writer/director Justin Reinsilber's debut feature film Central Park had its world premiere at Dances With Films, one of the indie/microcinema world's most beloved fests, and now heads out on the festival circuit armed with its retro vibes and rock solid ensemble cast to tell a horror story that feels familiar yet is still immensely entertaining. 

Central Park centers around the teenaged son, Harold (Justiin A. Davis), of a disgraced New York billionaire and the group of friends who decide to help him blow off some steam by spending the night in New York City's Central Park. Of course, when you're the son of someone who has supposedly screwed people out of millions of dollars you might want to be a little more careful about where you hang out with your friends. You know?

Central Park possesses a deliciously retro vibe, from Andre Fratto's nostalgic original score to Eun-ah Lee's shadow-tinged lensing and Reinsilber's own story that is familiar in all the right ways. The film's set-ups do feel overly familiar, a fact that keeps Central Park from ever really being as suspenseful as it could be if a few more original twists had found their way into the story. Despite this familiarity, Reinsilber has assembled a surprisingly solid cast around Davis's cocky yet vulnerable turn as Harold including Deema Aitken as the "you just know he's ill-fated" Mikey, whose drug-fueled paranoia leads high school teacher Mr. Shaw (Michael Lombardi) down a path he probably shouldn't take, along with the likes of Ruby Modine (Showtime's Shameless) as Sessa, Grace Van Patten as Leyla, David Valcin as Sam, and Marina Squerciati (Frances Ha) as Melissa Shaw among others.

Central Park, which takes its time setting the horror in motion, benefits greatly from an inherently complex locale, New York's famed Central Park being the kind of place that simultaneously feels capable of producing both extreme joy and squirm-inducing vulnerability. While the film doesn't ultimately lead to a whole lot of squirming, that's largely because Reinsilber has refreshingly grounded it in a sense of reality that gives the film more of a natural feeling than we often find in this type of horror film. The mysterious man who taunts this group of friends is a near constant presence in the film rather than a sudden surprise, a shadow lingerer whose stalkerish ways and homicidal tendencies hint at a thinly veiled justifiability that makes the central story here a little more compelling. 

Central Park is a solid indie debut from Reinsilber, never quite as fresh as we'd like it to be but consistently entertaining and with enough thrills and kills to please most horror fans except for the true gorehounds. Behind a solid ensemble cast and a devotion to its retro vibe in a contemporary story, Central Park is the kind of horror film that feels as if it could be ripped right out of the news headlines and sometimes that's the scariest kind of horror. 

© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic