Film Review: Sunset Edge

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Documentary filmmaker Daniel Peddle brings a hands-off, let-the-story-tell-itself sensibility to this tale of three aimless–which is not to say brain-dead–teenage skateboarders who spend their spare time exploring Sunset Edge, an abandoned trailer park with a spooky reputation. Not than any of them really believes that the place is haunted...they're just morbidly fascinated by the detritus of other people's stunted lives: the muddy children's toys, rumpled linens and moldering cardboard boxes full of stuff that must once have meant something to someone, abandoned as though everyone woke up one day and ran for the hills, just steps ahead of some unimaginable disaster.

Curly-haired Will and Haley (William Dickerson and Haley Ann McKnight), the only girl in the group and a serious art-chick in the making—check out her messy and yet unmistakably Louise Brooks-style bob—are the too-cool-for-school kids in the group, the ones you could just maybe see one day getting out of town and making something of their lives. But you're judged by the company you keep, and someone is watching all the teens: young Malachi (Gilberto Padilla), the deeply unhappy product of a mixed marriage that ended badly. Malachi is also poking around Sunset Edge, but he's looking for the key to his past, a key he's never going to find because his family and neighbors are long gone and the aging grandfather who raised him, a reluctant witness to the explosion of pain and anger that turned Sunset Edge into the haunted conscience of a ghost town, would rather leave the past in the past.

Like the sort of sleepy slasher film it vaguely resembles, Sunset Edge—whose single finest piece of casting is the real-life abandoned trailer park that serves as its primary set—is ultimately all about the sins of the fathers being visited on the next generation. The allusion is obvious in Malachi's case but no less potent in those of his not-quite-so-damaged peers, the ones who appear to have been less poisoned by the past because they have no apparent families to pass along the curse of lives like country songs, full of disappointment and disillusionment. That's not to say they're orphans—only that Peddle chooses to recognize and indulge their sense of self-determination even though, like F. Scott Fitzgerald's blighted jazz babies, they're trying to get a bead on the future as they're being inextricably borne back into the past.

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