Kenneyville (2010) – By Cary Conley

When a young girl mysteriously disappears and the police drop the case a bit too quickly, two private detectives travel to the town of Kenneyville, Ohio, to investigate the strange case. Their quest for answers leads them to the chilling discovery of a prominent Kenneyville family who have a top secret contract with the government to provide the most dangerous assassins ever created. The missing girl is connected to this conspiracy. Tension is ratcheted up several notches when the female detective, Kelly, goes missing. Time is of the essence if her partner, Charlie, wants to rescue her before the family’s sadistic experiments brainwash–or even kill–Kelly. Will Charlie be able to rescue his partner before it’s too late? Will he be caught and mysteriously vanish, too? Just how deep does this conspiracy run in the tiny town of Kenneyville?

In his feature film debut, director/writer/editor/producer Brooks Hunter has crafted a decent little indie thriller about abduction and brainwashing, and what it feels like to have to wage war with your own mind. While the mind games in Kenneyville occur due to external influences, the film itself was influenced by Hunter’s own ongoing battle with bipolar disorder. Hunter has this to say about Kenneyville: "[The film] has numerous metaphors in it for the painful journey one must travel through while falling into serious stages of anxiety and delusional thinking.  It is a fictional, fantasy world in which many of the characters, events, sets, and production design represent various stages and elements of transitioning from feeling ‘normal’ to having the world become emotionally paralyzing."

Indeed, the scenes and sets are sometimes hallucinogenic or off-kilter as Kelly (Vanessa Broze) fights a losing battle against the drugs and other brainwashing techniques the kidnappers employ against her. The cinematography is also representative of someone at war with their emotions as scenes are often filmed at odd angles and the camera focus is manipulated, representing a mind that sometimes has a difficult time focusing on the task at hand. It is clear that Hunter is working out some of his personal demons on this film. Cinematographer Pasha Patriki does a very nice job of keeping things interesting with the camera without falling back on the "shaky camera" tricks many films employ.

It is also clear that Hunter is a horror film fan, and, though too young to have experienced these films first run, he takes his cues from some of the classic horror flicks of the seventies. Films such as the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Hooper’s other "crazy family" film, Eaten Alive, come to mind. The family in Kenneyville is not just crazy, but rather intelligent as well; however, their penchant for isolated homes deep in the woods and odd furnishings is quite reminiscent of these earlier films.

There are a couple of points in the film when one must take a leap of faith, however. For example, when Charlie and Kelly meet their first Kenneyville residents, it is clear to the viewer that these folks aren’t right in the head. But when the couple take Charlie and Kelly back to their home, as a private detective, if warning sirens aren’t screaming in your head, you probably won’t make it in the business long. The house they end up at is screaming "crazy" but neither investigator seems to notice. Even when the Kenneyville residents’ stories don’t match, this odd occurrence is summarily dismissed by both investigators, who then opt to hang around and party with booze and marijuana, a poor choice indeed. Later, when Charlie is rescued from an angry mob in a local bar by a Kenneyville resident when he tries to report his girlfriend as missing, the two escape only to go to the this resident’s house. They then act surprised when they are followed to the home. What did they expect? If you leave a bunch of people pissed at you and then go straight to your place of residence, you deserve to be beaten and kidnapped. Again, not very investigator-like behavior from Charlie. And it seems the entire town is in on the conspiracy, but Charlie is lucky enough to receive help from two different sources that are "in the know" but handily decide they have had enough just at the right moment to help Charlie. This decision by the two townsfolk didn’t seem realistic at all since neither person had a good reason to quit other than they were "tired" of it all. But while the story isn’t perfect, it is still a fun little film if you don’t mind turning a blind eye to a few silly inconsistencies. Overall, I was impressed with Hunter’s first foray into feature film territory, and look forward to seeing more of his work in the future.

Kenneyville was released on October 11 and is widely available at stores such as Wal-Mart and online at Amazon. For more information about the film, go to www.kenneyville.com.