Munger Road (2011)

This year I’ve been too busy to watch much football, which has severely damaged my fantasy football performance. I play in three or four leagues every year and I usually finish near the top of all of them. Right now I’m 3-3 in all my leagues, and really I shouldn’t even be doing that well. Not watching my customary fifteen hours of football a week leaves me completely clueless about who to start or pick up on waivers. Example: the two weeks I benched Chris Johnson, he rushed for 230 yards. The other four weeks I started him he totaled 70. Also, I drafted Chris Johnson.

I’ve discovered something. While winning is obviously the best outcome, losing after exerting no effort is almost as good. There’s no pressure to do well and no consequence if you don’t. It even eliminates the ability of others to trash talk you. The worst thing is trying your best and still losing. Trying your best is for suckers.

The Munger Games.

The story: Munger Road! Like Thunder Road but funny sounding! It’s apparently a real place in the small town where first-time writer-director Nicholas Smith grew up. It’s home to an urban legend about a kid who died there years ago. The story goes, if you park your car on the train tracks where they cross Munger Road, sprinkle baby powder on the bumper and wait, little hand prints will appear as the dead kid tries to push you to safety. That is the sweetest ghost I’ve ever heard of.

In the movie, four likely teens fire up the video camera and put the legend to the test. They apply the baby powder well in advance and completely miss out on the first obvious sign of supernatural activity as it stays on the bumper over ten miles of bumpy road. But when they reach their destination, adorable, civic-minded ghosts are the least of their worries. Unbeknownst to them a notorious serial killer has just finished reenacting The Fugitive (complete with an overturned prison bus outside Chicago) and he’s headed straight for their sleeping town.

Good thing our next stop is the haunted car wash.

Biggest letdown: TO BE CONTINUED? ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME? What is this, Back to the Future, you presumptuous little shits? (I was six when I saw that “To Be Continued” at the end of Back to the Future. I called our local video store once a month to ask if the sequel had come out yet. It wouldn’t be released for another four years. I also used to call to ask if Captain EO was available on VHS. I was a weird kid.) Munger Road‘s distributors probably added that obnoxious TBC graphic for home video after the movie generated surprising buzz from its limited theatrical run but it still really rubbed me the wrong way. 

We could finish this conversation now but I prefer to leave it…TO BE CONTINUED.

The most egregious rookie mistake is in the script though, wherein, one at a time, all four main characters go off somewhere by themselves. First the car won’t start so one guy leaves to get help. (No cell service, obvi.) Time goes by, the kids get antsy and another one decides to set off in search of the first. BRILLIANT. The remaining two eventually realize the car is not a safe place to be. One of them formulates a plan without clearing it with the other, resulting in those two getting separated. Their aggressor probably wasn’t expecting such an easy paycheck but some days the sun shines just for you.

Great idea, let’s split up. And then we can jam razor blades up our assholes.

And here’s the kicker: even THAT little plotty foul isn’t the worst thing about Munger Road. That honor goes to Brooke Peoples, who plays high school girl number one. While the other three are varying degrees of tolerable, she is offensively bad. She’s supposed to be this fearless, unflappable beauty with model looks and tomboy toughness, the basic strong female lead I keep hearing so much about. But when she does things like look under the hood of the car and pronounce “I think it’s the ignition coil!” it is abundantly clear she doesn’t know what a coil is, much less an ignition coil.

Durrrr my agent says I’m like a young Sigourney Weaver.

Before you argue Munger Road didn’t have much of a budget and probably had to cast locally or hit up the director’s improv class for warm bodies, bear in mind this movie could afford Golden Globe winner and Academy Award nominee Bruce Davison, who fucking owns as the tireless town sheriff. Ms. Peoples is quite pretty and I’m sure she’s a very nice person and she’s kind to small animals and calls her parents every day. But her acting is a plague on humanity that needs to be scoured from the earth. At least she’s trying her best.

I never should have introduced that anti-mutant legislation.

Why you should watch: For all that, I really did enjoy this movie. Bruce Davison is fucking awesome. I need to put him and Barry Bostwick in a room together so I can decide which one I want to be my uncle more. (Hint: it’s a tie!) The kids-in-danger storyline is supposed to be the meat of the movie, but the sheriff and his deputy are far more interesting as they track the killer through the rain-slick streets of their deserted town. In defense of Mr. To-Be-Continued, I’m impressed with how his script elegantly kept costs down by requiring almost no extras outside the main cast, and being set entirely in the dead of night so they could film on the street without rerouting traffic. A little streamlining could have given the movie a proper third act, alleviating the need for a sequel without eliminating the opportunity for one, but all in all it’s an enjoyable, good-looking film. But Smith is like 25 years old so the aging, bitter part of me still hopes he turns out to be the next Troy Duffy.

I’m not saying we let him kill ALL the kids, but, you know, maybe just one of them…?

Memorable Moment: The teens are pretty annoying doing their cool kid routines, with their wise cracks and their high fives and their pretend smoking and whatnot. But all that goes out the window when their car stalls and they realize they’re no longer in control. In the midst of a tense discussion on the controversial stick together/split up issue, one of them quiets the others with the classic, “Shh! I think I hear something.” A protracted silence weighs them all down until….something happens.

Choice quote: “Why are you whispering?” “People whisper when they’re scared.”

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3 Responses to “Munger Road (2011)”

  1. […] A terrifying movie terror-thon of terror « Munger Road (2011) […]

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