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Movie Review: Munger Road

September 20, 2012
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When I see the words “based on true events” my interest is immediately piqued. Deep down, I know that term is used very, very loosely, but for some reason it amps up the fear factor on almost any horror film I watch. I can be watching the most mundane, run of the mill movie, but if it is preceded by that tantalizing phrase, my skin crawls just a little more than usual.

Munger Road (recently released on DVD and VOD) benefits from this phenomenon. It’s a fairly innocuous genre film that seems spookier than it should because of the urban legend behind it. People around the Chicago area are familiar with the tale. As legend has it, Munger Road (located in Elgin, 35 miles NW of Chicago) has a stretch of road featuring some railroad tracks, which are supposedly haunted.  Some say there is a “ghost train”; others claim a school bus was hit and the ghosts of children now push cars over the tracks to safety. Other variations include an escaped mental patient, a demon dog and a devil-worshipping family.

In the film, four teenagers decide to go check out the train track armed with a video camera, hoping to capture some sort of activity. When their car stalls on the tracks, the kids start realizing there may be something to the legend after all. Meanwhile, back in town, the police chief (Bruce Davison) finds out that a notorious local serial killer has escaped from prison. It’s imperative that they track him down, because the town’s fall festival starts the next day, and thousands of visitors will be descending on the town.

The kids are terrorized (everything slightly gory takes place off-screen), but it is unclear whether their tormentor is of the supernatural variety, or if it is the escaped killer. The film toggles back and forth between the police chief and his deputy searching for the killer, and the kids trying to survive the night on the tracks. The end result is a lack of continuity and jolting changes in momentum. Just when something gets interesting, the film switches to the other side of town.

The story is the real problem with the movie. If you are working with a small budget and minimal effects, you’d better bring something different to the table. This is just a rehash of clichés we have seen countless times before.  There is also a really aggravating ending. It’s kind of presumptuous for the filmmakers to deem their product worthy of a sequel, but that’s exactly what they do.

Writer and Director Nicholas Smith has managed to produce a nice looking film. It doesn’t look as low budget as it actually is. The actors are pretty serviceable for a B-film. Somehow Smith managed to snag Davison, and I must admit that he is one of the reasons I watched the film. It’s not Davison’s finest work, but it is always nice to see him on screen.

Although the premise is interesting, genre fans will be underwhelmed by the outcome. This is the type of movie you show to someone who always covers their eyes because they might be subjected to a little blood. No worries, there’s no chance of that happening during this viewing.

Rating 2/5

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