I was really excited to watch The Park. The trailer promised a post-apocalyptic, Lord of the Flies-esque fight for survival set in a world without adults and I was totally on board. I couldn’t wait to see this movie, but after finally getting the chance to check it out, I’m sad to say that it’s very different from what I was expecting (and not in a good way).
The Park was written and directed by Shal Ngo, and it stars Chloe Guidry, Nhedrick Jabier, and Carmina Garay. It’s set in a world where a mysterious disease has wiped out all the adults and the only people left are the children. In this Mad Max-like setting, two kids, Ines and Bui, eventually find their way to an amusement park, and while there, they have to find a way to coexist with Kuan, a girl who’s already taken up residence at the park.
As I said, The Park was very different from what I was expecting, and if you read the official plot synopsis that came with the trailer, it’s not hard to see why. The official plot synopsis says the film is about “rival kids battl[ing] for control of an abandoned theme park,” but that’s not really what happens. Granted, when Ines and Bui arrive at the park, they initially clash with Kuan, but their animosity soon gives way to a more or less peaceful coexistence. From there, as I said, the story is essentially about these kids learning to live together, and while things do eventually take a turn for the worse, it never becomes the all-out post-apocalyptic war I thought it was going to be.
To be fair, that doesn’t automatically make this a bad movie. We have to judge films on their own merits, not on how well they match our expectations, so despite the slightly misleading marketing, I tried my best to give The Park a fair shake. But even then, I still have to say it’s not a very good movie. Granted, I didn’t hate it, and it has some redeeming qualities, but on the whole, the cons here end up far outweighing the pros.
For starters, we have the characters. While this film has a bit of horror sprinkled in here and there, it’s really more of a post-apocalyptic drama than anything else, so it pretty much stands or falls on the strength of its characters. And unfortunately, while the kids in this movie are far from terrible, they’re not good enough to carry the entire story.
Most notably, the acting is a bit hit or miss. Chloe Guidry is pretty believable as Ines, but the other two leads, Nhedrick Jabier and Carmina Garay, are a bit uneven. Sometimes they’re good enough, but other times there’s just something a little off about their performances. It’s tough to put my finger on what exactly is wrong here, but their characters have an almost uncanny valley-esque quality to them.
Jabier and Garay are good enough that their performances almost work, but much like CGI characters who fall just short of verisimilitude, that “almost there” quality somehow makes their shortcomings even more noticeable. Something about the way they deliver their lines just doesn’t feel entirely natural, so even though part of me felt like I should’ve been fine with these characters, I simply couldn’t buy into them enough to make the story truly work.
On top of that, The Park also skimps on the horror. Granted, as I said before, there’s not much genuine horror in this movie, but even when horrific things do happen, the camera shies away from them a bit too much. To be fair, the filmmakers probably didn’t want to show children getting maimed and killed on screen, and I get that.
Most viewers probably wouldn’t want to see that anyway, but if a movie has to hide its gore, it should make up for that some other way. For instance, a film can have thrilling action while still letting the bloodier moments happen offscreen, but this one doesn’t even do that. It’s just lackluster all around in this department, and I found that really disappointing.
Last but not least, let’s talk a bit about the way the movie ends. The final few scenes of The Park try to wrap everything up nicely and convey a heartwarming message, but when I got to that part of the film, I didn’t feel like it really earned its ending. The last couple of scenes just don’t flow naturally enough from the rest of the story, so even though I appreciate what it’s trying to say, it doesn’t have the emotional impact a good ending needs.
All that being said, I don’t want you to get the wrong impression. Pretty much everything I’ve said about The Park has been negative, so you might think I hated this movie. But I actually didn’t. Chloe Guidry’s performance as Ines elevates it enough that it’s more mediocre than outright bad, so I don’t at all feel like I wasted my time with it.
But that’s pretty much the best thing I can say about this film, so at the end of the day, I’m sad to report that I can’t recommend it. The weak characters and lackluster horror drag it down way too much, so if you’re looking for something good to watch, I suggest you look elsewhere.
The Park hits VOD on March 2.