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October 4, 2012

Munger Road

by Franz Patrick

Munger Road (2011)
★ / ★★★★

Despite complaints from their girlfriends (Brooke Peoples, Lauren Storm), the guys (Trevor Morgan, Hallock Beals) thought it would be an excellent idea to go to Munger Road before midnight and document a paranormal activity so they could sell the footage and be on television. According to the local legend, a bus full of kids was once hit by a train. Since then, the tracks were haunted by the children’s restless spirits. Meanwhile, Chief Kirkhoven (Bruce Davison) and Deputy Hendricks (Randall Batinkoff) had a problem on their hands: a serial killer, Shea Gunther, escaped while being transported to a facility. It was up to them to capture the man before he could kill another person. Written and directed by Nicholas Smith, “Munger Road” was not without good ideas but its execution, especially the maddening way in which it ended, was haunted with tyro bravado, so desperate to stand out from typical slasher flicks, that it ended up as another interesting failure. I enjoyed the way a ghost hunting expedition ran parallel to the pursuing of a serial killer. We knew that the two strands would eventually reach a common knot but it almost didn’t matter because there was a curious energy behind whatever was unfolding. However, the adult characters were as effective as the young adults were ineffective. The four friends were just not smart enough for us to feel good about rooting for them all the way. For instance, when their car stopped working and none of them could get a signal for their phones, they eventually decided to run individually through the forest because it was supposedly a shorter distance in comparison to walking along the road. I found their decisions off-putting and unbelievable because, realistically, when a group of people are in an intense state of fear, its members have the tendency to cling onto one another. Personally, I wouldn’t have chosen to walk through the forest. But if I had to watch people take on a decision that I wouldn’t have selected for myself, at least have the situation rooted in realism so that I could still feel involved in what was happening. Furthermore, the scenes in and around the dead car were often too dark for us to be able to see anything. Coupled with putting us into the perspective of the camera that one of the characters carried around and out of it just as quickly, it wasn’t a pleasant experience. There seemed to be no technical mastery as to when we should see something through the videocamera in order to amplify the suspense. I would have loved to have seen more of the two cops as they visited various places where the serial killer might be found. With each new place they looked into, it felt like something more was at stake. First, they began to learn about the missing teens. Second, we couldn’t help but feel like it was only a matter of time until they had the right spot and it could all be over for them. I wondered if the film would have been better off as a procedural. Davison reminded me of Donald Pleasence’s performance as Dr. Sam Loomis in John Carpenter’s “Halloween” especially when expressing his character’s disappointment of constantly being in the wrong place. Yet, just as instantaneously, we felt his determination grow stronger. I wanted to like “Munger Road” because it featured smart and steadfast officers of the law who were doing everything they could to catch a bad guy–something that is sorely lacking in modern horror-thrillers. But with its aforementioned weaknesses and an ending that almost felt like a slap in the face, most people who decide to see it would probably feel like their time had been stolen.

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