17 Sep Munger Road on Ain’t It Cool News
New on DVD this week!
MUNGER ROAD (2011)
Directed by Nicholas Smith
Written by Nicholas Smith
Starring Bruce Davison, Randall Batinkoff, Trevor Morgan, Brooke Peoples, Hallock Beals, Lauren Storm, Art Fox, Maggie Henry, Bill J. Stevens
Reviewed by Ambush Bug
Part found footager, part ghost story, part serial killer myth, part supernatural police procedural, MUNGER ROAD is one of those films that takes bits and pieces from many different subgenres of horror, but does so in a pretty seamless and fantastically executed manner. Most definitely low budget, MUNGER ROAD isn’t afraid to tell an expensive story and knows how to make it all work despite its shallow pockets.
MUNGER ROAD focuses on a specific road in Illinois which is said to be haunted. The story goes that if you go to a specific stop at a railroad crossing, turn out your car’s lights, and put the car in neutral, the car will be pushed across the tracks by the ghosts of children who were killed on the road long ago. Anyone who grew up in a small town has heard stories like this. Growing up in a small Ohio town, my high school buddies and me would drive out to Greely Chapel Road, which was said to be haunted. Though we never had any paranormal experiences, we had fun going out in the dark and getting scared with one another. MUNGER ROAD feeds off of that fear one has in high school, driver’s license still hot off the press and hormones raging, as a carful of teens drive off into the dark night.
Filmmaker Nicholas Smith captures these initial scenes well as a group of likable teens venture out to prove the existence of the paranormal by filming their Munger Road trip. The scenes in the car were palpably scary as the intensity of the paranormal seems to occur, but the story doesn’t stop there. Cut to a pair of police officers (Bruce Davison and Randall Batinkoff) tracking down an escaped killer who committed crimes years prior with ties to Munger Road. So instead of settling on being a found footage film about ghosts, real world scares are tossed in as a flesh and blood killer is wandering the woods. Smith juggles these subgenres well, and a lot of that has to do with Davison and Batinkoff giving it their all in their performances as the wizened older cop and the eager younger one, respectively. Without these two performances, I could have seen this film collapsing under itself.
And the film almost does as things get a bit confusing toward the end of MUNGER ROAD. The film is definitely ballsy in scope. With a small budget, Smith aims high in concept and even goes so far as to slap a to be continued tag on the end of the film and leave you with somewhat of a cliffhanger. In this day and age of big budgeters not living past a single film, I admire Smith’s passion to make this into a series. I can only wish him well and hope he goes forth and makes one. He can definitely handle the material, and with the promise of another film being even more expansive than the already pretty epically scoped original, MUNGER ROAD could be an interesting franchise to look out for.
As a single movie, this confidence that there will be another film takes a bit away from the impact of the ending and makes this film feel more like the first episode of a TV series rather than a film; still, MUNGER ROAD has a lot of imagination and chutzpah to have me rooting for it.