Before I quit my job at the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh to play at being a writer, I was a regular contributor to the Eleventh Stack blog. I was able to write about pretty much any material I wanted in the Library’s catalog. It was great! On Thursdays, I’ll revist some of my old faves. A version of this post first appeared on April 4, 2016.
Sunset Edge is a long-abandoned trailer park somewhere in rural North Carolina. Two stories intersect here when a group of skateboarding teens explore the remains while another lonesome teen wanders around discovering the grizzly secrets of the park’s past.
With Sunset Edge, director/writer/producer Daniel Peddle, author of Snow Day (affiliate, and below) and the rest of the Four Seasons children’s series (and the discoverer of Jennifer Lawrence), has succeeded in crafting a great looking nonlinear film that combines two of my favorite things, the first being urban exploration. There are some great books out there documenting abandoned places. One standout is Abandoned America: The Age of Consequences. It’s got a section dedicated to the Carrie Furnaces in Rankin, right outside of Pittsburgh. I’ve also dipped my toe into the waters of #urbex, and only had the cops called on me once!
Besides urban exploring, I love original movies. Sunset Edge is no different. When was the last time you saw a sexless, drugless, alcohol-less teen horror movie? But calling Sunset Edge a horror movie is too limiting. It’s a Southern Gothic thriller. A coming-of-age mystery. From the first scene of an elderly woman in wraithlike raiments to the final scene that makes you reconsider everything that came before it, Sunset Edge is a film that requires your attention. Granted, it’s not densely plotted; the dialogue is sparse and that last scene could be interpreted as a cheap cheat. However, if you prefer slow-builds to jump-scares you’ll enjoy the film. If it had even less plotting and dialogue, I’d say it was like a discount Terrence Malick film. The camera listlessly lingers on the beautiful North Carolinian landscapes in a dreamy, relaxed way.
While there may be no ginormous payoff for the 87 minutes the audience spends in Sunset Edge, I’ve been thinking about what Peddle – who’d only directed two documentaries prior to this – was possibly trying to say with this film. The teens are filled with potential but, being disaffected youths, they haven’t realized it yet. Sunset Edge was once filled with similar potential that was never realized. They’re as alone and abandoned as the park in which they hang out, products of a throwaway culture exploring a culture that has literally been thrown away. The trailers are empty, save for discarded detritus, and in a lot of ways so are the teens. One of them even waxes poetically (read: nihilistically) about how meaningless life is. That’s an accurate depiction of what teens do, right? I can’t be certain. I exiled myself to my room in my teen years after the batteries in my Giga Pet died.
Sunset Edge is a true hidden gem. How obscure is this film? On IMDb, a site that allegedly has 83 million registered users, only 104 users have rated this film. Do you realize how low 104 out of 83 million is? I put the equation into Google and the answer I got was: “Error 404: Friends not found :(“. It doesn’t even have a Wikipedia page! That’s about as far off the radar as it gets.
I can only hope that I’ve put it on yours.
Are you one of the 104 people who’ve seen Sunset Edge? Do you like urban exploration? Let me know in the comments below.
I was first bit by the urbex bug in high school exploring an abandoned farmhouse with my father on the backroads of my hometown. Abandoned by people, yes, but there were dozens of cats roaming about. Working for the 2010 census, I came across an abandoned home at least once a week. There’s no shortage of abandoned spots in Pittsburgh, and I’m sure there are some in your neighborhood. Just be careful. If I see bright yellow tape with CAUTION or DO NOT CROSS blazoned across, I usually find another spot. But if the wind happens to blow that old tape down, well, that’s another story…
Revisiting this post has reminded me of my dormant interest in urban exploration. In fact, there’s an abandoned house just down the road from where I’m staying that I’ve been itching to get into. It’s a nice enough day today. Maybe I’ll go check it out.
If I never post again, know I died doing what I loved.