Munger Road (2012)
Directed by Nicholas Smith
For a low-budget film (I believe it was filmed for approximately $200K), Munger Road possesses some style. It’s well-shot, and with the addition of veteran actor Bruce Davison as the chief of police, it gains a modicum of prestige rarely found in its brethren. Director Nicholas Smith clearly has the directing chops, but his ability to write anything that can be considered compelling or original horror is almost non-existent.
The film begins with two couples finalizing their plans to go out and document the legend of Munger Road. An urban legend states that a bus stalled on the tracks before a train comes barrelling into its side, killing everyone on board. As the legend goes, if you stop on the tracks, the presumed spirits of the dead passengers will push you off the tracks and to safety. Meanwhile, on the eve of the annual Scarecrow Festival in St. Charles, Illinois, local police chief Kirkhoven and his deputy receive word that a murderous priest has escaped from prison, prompting a manhunt before tourists descend upon the town.
As it jumps back and forth between the chief’s search and the stranded teenagers, the pieces that connect the two events begin to fall into place, yet keeping the film firmly planted in the realm of the supernatural. Are the ghosts terrorizing our young ghost hunters, or is our returned serial killer, who once had a home along Munger Road, stalking them?
Unfortunately, the ghosts are nothing more than a plot device meant to place the kids in a precarious situation, effectively eliminating the one thing that could have made the movie interesting. Munger Road is thus another in a long line of indie films that are instantly forgettable. One-dimensional characters devoid of personality making stupid decisions are the only things that drive the plot forward; it’s anything but organic, with Smith utilizing every cliche in the book to keep things suspenseful. While Davison, the only star power to be found in the film, adds a sense of wisdom to an aging police chief that makes you genuinely care about his efforts, the rest of the cast is near forgettable. Our principal protagonists, stranded in the middle of nowhere and subjected to whatever is lurking in the woods, fail to be anything more than your typical expendable teenagers.
The end result is an overlong film that lacks almost anything that can be considered true suspense. Attempts are made to keep things original, including an infrequent use of the found footage aesthetic and a scene involving a camera being picked up by an unseen hand, but none of this is enough to bring the film out of the bowels of mediocrity. Its PG-13 rating results in all gore and violence being alluded to offscreen, perhaps the most grievous offense as it would have been the one thing that could make this movie mildly interesting.
Then there’s the ending. Insulting, pompous, and a kick to the face of anyone who managed to sit through a film that is comprised of nothing more than two acts stretched into a feature, the ending pulls the rug out from under you and gives you the finger as you lay on your back. It’s the laziest type of filmmaking around, and any enjoyment to be gained from watching Munger Road quickly vanishes in the final five minutes of the film.
1 out of 5