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THE CANYONLANDS (2020)
Directed and written by Brendan Devane.
Starring Stephanie Barkley, Marqus Bobesich, Wayne Charles Baker, Ari Anderson, Dennis Connors, Sheldon D. Brown, Larry Yazzie, Lauren Capkanis, Jesse Buck-Brennan
Find out more about this film here!
A group of youngsters win a free rafting trip on the Colorado River in Utah. Outdoors expert Lauren (Stephanie Barkley) is assigned to take the group on the trip where a lost Native American tribe once lived. Once they set camp, strange things begin happening and an ages old curse is awakened!
Reminiscent of the slasher films of the mid-late nineties when the 80’s slasher boom’s heyday had been long since fresh, THE CANYONLANDS is one bad boat trip. Name a slasher cliché and I think this film does it. The scant script is filled in with some of the most tired stereotypes you’re going to find. After the opening jump scare, we are introduced to our cast of victims–I mean, rafters, who are all supposed to be strangers and introduce themselves to each other though they all seemed to arrive at the camp in the same van. I guess that was a pretty quiet trip. There’s a dumb jock training for the MMA, the vapid social influencer who never puts down her phone, a guy with glasses who works on computers, a rock-climbing lesbian–oh, and the black guy who likes weed…a lot. Past those surface level characteristics, there is very little in terms of personality to be spared among this quintet of soon to be corpses. With the action picking up immediately after sundown, all this film does is separate this group into pairings before they start dying, so we really don’t need any time to get to know these guys. It’s just long enough to get them arguing so as you hate them and want them all to die.
Cue Rob Zombie’s long lost brother (Wayne Charles Baker) who plays the spirit of a mad miner who killed a bunch of Native Americans back in the day. This Miner 49’er wears embarrassingly bad fright makeup and has the signature move of making boogity eyes to the camera every time he’s in scene. There are also a pair of Native American ghosts who are hanging out in a bunch of mist and spooking the rafters. This trio are supposed to be pants-shittingly scary, but the direction and budget are so low, they simply look like folks on break at a local haunted house attraction.
While the drone shots of the mountainous terrain is quite breathtaking, any time the camera settles to the ground and tries to capture action, everything looks and feels mundane and tension-less. Shots are set up poorly so jump scares are spoiled because we see the person standing behind them before the piano-bang music. Scares are projected by long pauses and from a mile away. It takes an insanely long amount of time for the rafters to be picked off, meaning we have to hear them gripe at one another for said amount of time, and then we are treated to an ancient Native American Indian woodenly (pardon the pun) explain the plot to the survivors and to the audience before the tiresome climactic battle.
I know every film has someone behind it with passion and a dream. Unfortunately, THE CANYONLANDS doesn’t communicate an ounce of either. It feels like something made simply to get something else done. Very little effort was made from top to bottom in the acting, writing, and direction departments. Without an ounce of self-awareness, the film feels like it was earnestly done by someone who saw his last slasher movie in the 80’s. Avoid this trip to THE CANYONLANDS. It ain’t worth it.