Often times we never take pause to consider the implications of the things we do, both good and, well, not so good. The ripples of our actions, you really never know just how far they extend. And in the case of Justin Reinsilber's disturbing thriller Central Park, the way in which they do, can prove to be absolutely devastating.
Set in present day New York City the film centers around six high school juniors. Collectively they have done everything there is to do, know it all better than everyone else, and mean the world to each other. When one of their fathers is implicated in a Bernie Madoff-esque Ponzi scheme, the gang rallies around their friend. To blow off some steam, they set out for an epic night in Central Park. Little do they know the consequences of his crimes will go far beyond his client's bank accounts.
Central Park is a slow-boil of a thriller, and one that can at times feel a bit scattered. We have the aforementioned controversy involving the Ponzi scheme, but there are also other plot threads involving what you'd typically expect from a teen/school drama. There's boyfriend-girlfriend relationship...stuff, plenty of teacher-student dynamic (that serves to deliver a whammy of a conclusion), and what feels like the most relevant of all, the rallying of the film's central group of teen friends around the one directly affected by the failed Ponzi scheme, Harold Smith (Justiin A. Davis). All of the events eventually lead to a rendezvous at Central Park where sex, drinking, smoking weed, and a little introspection are indulged by all in hopes of cheering Smith up. But of course, as is the case with most teenagers-in-the-woods horror, a patient evil awaits their arrival, sharpened hatchet in hand. A vengeful victim of the mistake made by Harold's father, this nameless stalker wants nothing more than to severe all ties among the group of friends, by literally severing their limbs in as gruesome fashion as possible.
While I admit that my description of the film's story may come off a little dry, Reinsilber's script really does deserve credit here for bucking some of the tropes and cliches that are inherent with these kind of films. First, yes, while ultimately Central Park amounts to a New York based iteration on the Camp Crystal Lake formula, how we actually get here and what drives character motivation is fairly unique. Additionally, we have a diverse cast where the black guy isn't horror fodder! Hallelujah! And while the additional plot threads touched upon earlier aren't anything you haven't seen before, they are handled with attention and care.
Those bars cleared, the film takes us back into more traditional territory, but that isn't necessarily a negative. When the action gets going and the body count begins to rise, we are treated to some rather spectacular deaths, some even - as a result of the character development early on - carry some emotional weight to them. People are bludgeoned, burned alive, hung, stabbed and more; it's all pretty brutal stuff and the Central Park location really does make for a rather suffocating killing floor. Of course once the bloody mist clears, and the overarching story comes to an end, you'll be left feeling as drained as the survivors of the ordeal. If this sounds like your kind of horror - an effectively harrowing and deeply disturbing slasher thrill ride - then you can do much much worse than Central Park.