By Don R. Lewis | April 11, 2006

In the wake of successes by self-taught filmmakers like Kevin Smith, Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez, independent film has made it’s way to the masses. People have taken their cue from these D.I.Y./no film school pedigree superstars and jumped into the world of film. Sometimes that’s good, and sometimes that’s bad. Such is the case with Ray Arthur Wang’s debut feature “Carma.” At once unique and original, the film gets a little bit contrived and tough to follow.

“Carma” utilizes the flip floppy timeline of “Reservoir Dogs” with a nice dash of spooky horror and gore thrown in. The film centers (somewhat) on a haunted Honda Accord named Kate, which is voiced by Karen Black. Black’s voice work is outstanding and she really helps bring the basically inanimate car to life. Her voice is both eerie and soothing at the same time and I’d love to see her get some work in the animation world. A bevy of car owners end up taking Kate for a spin and they usually end up dead one way or the other. As the story progresses we discover the ghost in the machine is really the mother of serial killer Norm Burns who chopped up his parents and placed their body parts in different compartments of the car. Now Kate strives to find her murderous son and reunite the family, so to speak.

There’s also drug deals gone awry, car jackings and shootings and a pretty heavy dose of violence running throughout the film. While there are some interesting moments, it often feels like “Carma” gets off on too many tangents. Couple this habit with the intentionally jumbled storyline, and it can be hard to keep up. That being said, Wang is a director to watch. What he might lack in story structure, he makes up for tenfold with a great eye for shot composition and terrific camera placement. While this film is clearly low budget, it doesn’t seem low budget. “Carma” is at times silly, at times scary and at times frustrating, but it looks great and is a solid first effort.

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