It’s a pretty good premise for a horror movie and a quick Google search will back it up with lots of spooky details as to the dark happenings that have taken place on that lonely, wooded road. It’s the fourth title card, though – ‘inspired by real events’ – that gives co-directors Richard Grieco and Steve Stanulis and screenwriters Derek Ross Mackay and Noel Ashman the license to veer away from any actual investigation into the mystery and history of Clinton Road and, instead, deliver a more generic and by-the- numbers horror story with the infamous haunted carriageway as little more than a backdrop.
The story kicks off with a young woman fleeing through the woods, seemingly pursued by a slow-paced but relentless giant of a man with a bushy beard and welding goggles. We soon learn that the woman is Jessica (Sarah Pribis) and that this is her disappearance some time before we meet the real heroes of the story. It’s a pretty classic set up of characters, the kind that has you trying to work out the order in which they’ll get picked off when the inevitable horror starts to happen. We’ve got Jessica’s ex-boyfriend, Michael (Ace Young), and her grieving sister Isabella (Katie Morrison), along with Michael’s new girlfriend, the pouty and selfish Kayla (Lauren LaVera) as well as his blowhard mate Tyler (Cody Calafiore) and their friend Gianna (Erin O’Brien) who’s found a medium of sorts, the spooky one-eyed Begory (James DeBello) who believes he can use his paranormal sensitivities to locate the missing Jessica. So far so good.
But the story quickly gets diverted into a protracted scene in a nightclub owned by RJ (Ice-T) and his business partner (Sopranos alumnus Vincent Pastore) where we meet our intrepid band and establish the dynamics and
personalities that will play out in the woods. Ice T gets a nice little moment to relate his own frightening experience of being on Clinton Road that seems like it will become important later on, but never really does. Then there’s a lot of irrelevant storyline about the nightclub itself that involves a seemingly corrupt Mayor (Bo Dietl) and an odd little cameo from Eric Roberts (as himself) that seems to be more about celebrity cred than narrative. (check out IMDb and you’ll see his twenty second appearance somehow rates him top billing!?!)
Eventually, our seekers head out to the titular road itself and we finally get down to the spooky business. Begory performs a weird little ritual intended to locate Jessica but instead it seems to open a portal for all sorts of ghosty, deranged, phantasms and spirits to appear. There’s the obligatory argument that causes one character to stomp off alone into the woods and another character to ‘go after her’ and before you know it our band of six is split up and aimlessly wandering around the woods looking for... I’m not sure what.
The rich and eclectic abundance of horror stories associated with the real Clinton Road might seem to be a bonus for this kind of movie, but here it seems more like a curse. Without any direct focus on the how and why of the paranormal mysteries of this place the stories of lost children, phantom vehicles, a strange stone structure, a lonely house, a ghostly police officer and, of course, our bearded, goggle-wearing guy from the start of the film, all swirl around our characters who, as might be expected, start falling foul of their evil intentions. It’s all a bit loose and directionless and the part of the story that’s concerned with our band of six characters never really narratively connects with the part of the story that deals with the scary stuff in the woods. It’s more ‘guilt by association’ and that wears thin very quickly.
The six main actors do their best with the material they have. Calafiore as the belligerent and sceptical Tyler makes a good fist of it as does O’Brien as Gianna and DeBello as the ‘seer’ Begory but for the most part they’re all just a group of friends lost in the words falling victim to the horrors of the haunted road and seeming to be as confused about why all this is happening as we are.