A haunted road has been a stable within the horror genre for many years, but before I sat down to watch Clinton Road, a new horror by Richard Grieco (yes he of 21 Jump Street-not the films, the old TV Show-keep up), my mind was racing on what was the last film I enjoyed that had this premise? Most probably the quite brilliant 2003 offering Dead End, and just by thinking of that film, made me realise that its way overdue for a re-watch…(make a note!).
Clinton Road arrives on my lap with some acclaim and pretty good word of mouth. Films that sneak under the radar always get my juices flowing and has I sat down to watch, my heart was racing with excitement. Was I about to watch one of 2019’s most surprising horror’s?.
Its been a long time since Texas Chainsaw Massacre scared the world with its “Based on A True Story” intro crawl and after thousands of Found Footage films, any horror film that boasts that same tagline will now be met with a little sigh and a shake of the head by the viewer and Clinton Road is no different, even though for those who haven’t seen the countless videos on YouTube, we do get a little filler into why its one of America’s most talked about roads.
The opening minutes we get the obligatory “running girl” in the woods, but my horror senses did pick up when we see a Jason clone walking in the distance just behind her. Is this film going to pull a switch and rip off Friday the 13th? If they did, bring it on! but sadly for the next twenty minutes I found myself with a constant headache and a feeling of boredom.
To introduce the characters we have an extra long sequence of a very loud Nightclub in which the music drowns out the actual dialogue on screen. In what seems forever, we meet up with Michael (Ace Young) whose wife Jessica (Sarah Pribis) went missing on that road. Alongside him is his wife’s sister Isabella (Kate Morrison) and his new girlfriend Kayla (Lauren LaVera). Like most grieving husbands he manages to get over the disappearance of his wife, by bagging a new girl and also hire a Medium (James DeBello) to go to that place and help him find his wife. Makes sense right? The other two in for the ride are the Medium’s girlfriend Gianni (Erin o’Brien) and his best friend Tyler (Cody CalaFiore) who like the most of us watching, doesn’t believe in this shit, but I think he means the Medium and sadly not the plot.
They bicker and fight and talk about stuff which I really don’t know what about as the Music was TOO LOUD!!!! But just has I hoped we moved away from the scene, Ice T turns up (well he owns the place) and tells a story of how he picked up a ghost on that road, a story that you have heard sooooooo many times, that my mind raced back to the splendid Hitchhiker scene in Hell House LLC 2 to remind me of what a scare felt like.
Bizarrely a Soprano actor lurks in the background and a blink and you’ll miss it cameo from Eric Roberts until finally, yes finally we move away from the Nightclub and into some tiny more bickering between the gang before the required sex scene, until we finally…and yes finally we move into the horror.
Sadly any hope of the film picking up from here was lost on me as the film doesn’t quite play with the haunted road idea, instead the gang venture in the woods and its here every single horror cliche hits you in the face. The Medium loses his mind, just after a surreal sex scene that seems so out of place and unnecessary, that I thought for a moment that I accidentally switched over to another channel.
Its here that the film fails miserably because it simply doesn’t know what it wants to be. Freddy’s Dead and even the underrated Blair Witch sequel had a weird time loop plot, so the film introduces it here, which would have been a cool concept if the script didn’t throw everything else at us. Not content with that, we have some spooky kids, well I say spooky but they running around with dark makeup under their eyes, seriously I have seen more scary kids on Halloween Night and also that Jason clone spotted in the beginning is a bearded goggled psycho who kills for fun.
That’s three of horror’s most most used troupes all flung together, in what feels like a desperate attempt to get something right to make the horror fan happy. Oh and I forgot, we also have a Ghost house thrown into for good measure, now you can’t say you not a little bit tempted by it all? Its an offer you don’t see often, get three and they give you a fourth for free!! Followed by running in the woods, lame kills. terrible dialogue and an ending that had me looking around my dark room thinking “What!!!”
Maybe I’m a bit harsh. Clinton Road is a throwback to when horror was dumb and well, a kind of shit! If this was a homage to that era then to be fair they have pulled it off and fans who love this stuff will no doubt get a kick from what they are seeing as you do get the feeling that is a lost film from the late 80’s.
If that was their intention, then Clinton Road deserves all the acclaim it has got and I have no doubt that it will find some fans out there, but for some odd reason, I personally found the film nothing but a complete waste of 77 odd minutes that felt like I was trapped in a never ending loop, listening to that Nightclub music over and over…… that idea alone, scares me….well done guys! Perhaps I won’t sleep tonight after all…..
1 Hatchet Out Of 5