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Review: CATSKILL PARK (2018)

In 2013 writer/director Vlad Yudin released GENERATION IRON, a documentary that is to modern bodybuilding what PUMPING IRON was to the era of Arnold Schwarzenegger. He followed it up with several other non-fiction pieces on the sport and its competitors. So when I was offered a screener for CATSKILL PARK, I grabbed the chance to see it, despite my ambivalence for most things found footage.

This isn’t a new film, it bears a 2012 copyright date and was apparently held up due to unspecified issues. While it doesn’t really affect the plot, it does explain some of the seemingly odd fashion and music choices we see in the film.

We start with the all too familiar text telling us of the mysterious origins of the footage we’re about to see. CATSKILL PARK then gives us the standard found footage film opening as a camera moves around an office filming the various folk working there before heading out to Catskill Park and the film’s main plot.

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Two couples Tommy (Gregory Lay) and Karen (Wen Yann Shih TIMECOP 2) and Ex (Alexander Cendese SHOCKWAVE DARKSIDE) and Sam (Lauren Francesca DON PEYOTE) are out camping when two things happen. First it starts snowing, then a UFO shows up and attempts to abduct Sam. Now trapped deep in the forest, they have to try to get back to civilization. But there’s more going on than it first appears.

CATSKILL PARK has some genuinely creepy sequences that make use of both the dark woods and sound effects. Even if we don’t see anything, we know they’re there. A seemingly deserted farmhouse is also used to great effect. When we do see the aliens and their ship, the effects by visual effects supervisor/producer Wayne Harry Johnson Jr. (AHOCKALYPSE) and his team are excellent.

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On the downside, we have some of the usual problems with found footage films. We know it won’t end well for anyone involved from the start, which always makes it hard for me to get into a film. There’s also a bit too much shaky cam footage and shots that suddenly change perspective or shouldn’t be possible if of the characters are shooting it. But this hasn’t turned fans of the genre off yet, and I doubt this film will either.

While it might not be up to the level of THE FEAR FOOTAGE or its sequel, CATSKILL PARK can sit comfortably with UNLISTED OWNER, another long delayed found footage film that saw the light of day this year. My rating is for the average genre fan, those into found footage can easily add another star.

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CATSKILL PARK debuts on VOD and will be available on Digital HD across North America through Freestyle Digital Media on November 27th. You can keep updated on their Facebook page.

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