Dir. Nicholas Smith 82 mins
UK Release: 29th July 2013
101 Films continue their impressive slate of releases this year with this so-so addition, The Wrong Road. Intriguingly, this carries a Roger Ebert stamp of approval on the cover. I’m serious! The late master of film criticism said “it does an efficient, skillful job of audience manipulation using the techniques of darkness and vulnerability”. How can a layperson such as I top a line like that? I very much doubt I can, although I will take the opportunity to tell you a little bit more about ‘Munger Road’ as it was originally called – and for good reason.
We begin with Joe (Brookes Peoples) and Corey (Trevor Morgan) who are just about to welcome their friends Rachael (Lauren Storm) and Scott (Hallock Beals) to the diner seats they’ve occupied. They’re all preparing to head to the train tracks on Munger Road to investigate the plausibility of a local legend. The story goes that a train once collided with a bus full of school children, and their ghosts now haunt the crossing where it happened. Legend has it that if you stop on the tracks, the spirits of the dead children will push you to safety.
Meanwhile, in the films other story arc, the local chief of police Kirkhoven (Bruce Davison) and his deputy (Randall Batinkoff) are informed that a murderous priest has escaped from the local prison, so they begin a manhunt to track him down. Back with our ‘double date’ , we find them nearing the scene of the legend and they’ve cranked up their camcorder for the purpose of recording any odd phenomena.
The old horror movie cliché soon comes in to play when the SUV they’re driving happens to break down. With seemingly no passing cars in the vicinity as well as no mobile phone signal, they’re pretty much all out of luck. Coupled with the appearance of a pair of mysterious hand prints on the bumper of the car, things are becoming increasingly eerie.
The police chief and deputy are drawing blanks in their apprehension of the escaped prisoner, and a trip back to his old home yields some noticeable tension, but no suspect. At this point they begin be informed of our missing foursome by some townsfolk, and we find our two stories beginning to merge into one.
Ebert was right in many respects about the films tension and the vulnerability of the characters. To me though , the clichéd way in which they met with such vulnerability didn’t sit too easily. We all know horror films are packed with clichés, Kevin Williamson wrote Scream based on the idea of their expected place within the genre. I’m not against them per se, as I feel that if a cliché is exercised well, the predictable nature of it is almost immaterial. Here though, I felt it was the triple-header of breakdown / phone signal / no passers-by coupled with the general lack of direction for the remainder of the film that proved to be its undoing.
This coupled with an ending that betrayed everything that went before it spelt disaster for me. I was determined to enjoy the film too as it started with a notable Halloween vibe, it was well shot, and some of the nocturnal scenes of tension were handled really well. Ultimately though it was a disappointment, albeit one that I may well take another look at on the Horror Channel in 12 months time for some re-evaluation.
4 out of 10