May 29, 2019 Clinton Road (Movie Review)
Clinton Road winds through the town of West Milford in Passaic County, New Jersey. A nearly 10-mile stretch that dead ends at Upper Greenwood Lake, the road has become infamous for its plentiful tales of ghosts and ghouls, nightmarish creatures (the New Jersey Devil, anyone?), witches and Satanists—even that real-life horror the Ku Klux Klan.
Culling together these stories, Clinton Road, the movie, blends paranormal activity with urban legend—along with cameos from the likes of Ice-T, Eric Roberts, Vincent Pastore, and Richard Grieco—to craft a truly authentic Horror experience. Midnight Releasing delivers this romp in the woods to a select 10-cities, as well as PVOD, as of Friday, June 14, 2019.
In the film—which was directed by Steve Stanulis (Legends of Freestyle documentary 2016, The Fifth Boro 2019) and Richard Grieco (If Looks Could Kill 1991, 21 Jump Street series), and written by Derek Ross Mackay—we meet Michael (Ace Young: Sing It! Series, Bones series). A firefighter whose wife Jess (Sarah Pribis: The Bold and the Beautiful series, FML series) went missing on the titular road a year ago, he is currently trying to rebuild his life with his new love interest, Kayla (Lauren LaVera: Iron Fist series, Wetlands 2017).
While out at the club one night, he is introduced to a clairvoyant from Ohio named Begory (James DeBello: Detroit Rock City 1999, Cabin Fever 2002). Able to perceive events from the past and to communicate with the dead, Begory offers Michael an opportunity to finally understand what happened to his wife and to solve the mystery of her haunting disappearance. Understandably, Jess’ devoted sister Isabella (Katie Morrison: Imagine I’m Beautiful 2014, Ovum 2015) is also intrigued.
So, what’s the best way to find information on your wife’s disappearance? Head to Clinton Road with said psychic medium and roam the woods at night, of course. However, it seems that not everyone is on board with the plan: the obnoxious skeptic Tyler (Cody Calafiore: The Bold and the Beautiful series, Set It Up 2018) and jealous Kayla are having trouble standing still, while Begory’s girlfriend Gianna (Erin O’Brien: What Death Leaves Behind 2018, Tremors 2018) is simply hoping for an amorous romp in the woods.
As the group slowly drift apart, Michael and Isabella become lost in the woods, while Kayla and Tyler end up sharing confessions beside a stream. Add to this mix a drowning boy, nightmarish screams emanating from a little girl, one truly pissed off ironworker, a mysterious black truck, an unlocked mansion, and one awkward forest ranger. With the situation escalating and the group seemingly trapped, will the spirits allow them to leave Clinton Road?
Somewhere in that synopsis you can also add the acting talents of Ice-T (New Jack City 1991, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit series); Vincent Pastore (The Sopranos series, Revolver 2005); Eric Roberts (The Dark Knight 2008, Grey’s Anatomy series); Carlos Leon (The Big Lebowski 1998, The Woodsman 2004); Bo Dietl (Goodfellas 1990, Carlito’s Way 1993); Jodi Hussey in her acting debut; co-director Grieco; writer Derek Ross Mackay; and many, many more.
With a runtime of 77 minutes, Clinton Road culls together some of the most popular legends of its namesake and makes a somewhat cohesive tale while bringing these stories to life. From the unexplained disappearance of a woman in the woods to the little boy whose spirit tosses coins, time-travelling hitchhikers and a mysterious black truck, they are all represented herein. Even the Clinton Furnace makes an appearance in the film.
Here’s the thing: if you are a stickler for minor details and a flawless backstory that inspires you to invest yourself wholly into a plot, then Clinton Road is not the movie for you. Let’s face it, it’s hard to truly feel sympathy for a man who is doing edibles at the club while his wife is missing and presumed dead. But there is a self-mockery to the film that also reminds us to not take anything too seriously: afterall, it’s just a Horror movie. In the case of this particular film, a successful viewing presupposes that you’re looking for fun and not much else.
The true stars of Clinton Road only make short cameos, but each of these men are accomplished, exceptional actors who need no introduction. As RJ, Ice-T is, as always, a dapper pimp daddy-type, ironically an ex-cop (get it?), who happens to co-own a sleek new NYC club with Vincent Pastore. Together, the pair provide some perfectly-timed deliveries, along with great sarcasm and humor. Also getting in on the fun is Eric Roberts, who makes a hilarious cameo as himself.
The cast who make up the bulk of the film, our six lead actors—Young (Michael), LaVera (Kayla), DeBello (Begory), O’Brien (Gianna), Morrison (Isabella), and Calafiore (Tyler)—are all solid in their roles. Young is given the most backstory to work with, though his character never feels quite like the grieving widower that he probably should be. Although his new love interest, firefighter groupie Kayla, allows LaVera to shine in her role as an annoyingly self-centered woman who only cares about herself. We come to loathe Kayla and that is a complement to LaVera’s talents. Calafiore’s Tyler is quite similar: he’s downright obnoxious and completely unlikable.
There are comedic highlights throughout the film, such as an early scene in the club bathroom between a curiously perplexed Isabella (Morrison) and dippy Kayla (LaVera). Here the exchange is amusing and a good example of the sarcastic commentary that the film often employs. Though there are also moments where it’s hard to tell if the fumbles are intentional bids for cheese (Tyler and Michael’s romps in the water, for example). Additionally, the film’s few visual effects are cheaply-done, but that might have been intended—it’s hard to say.
Intentionally snarky, Clinton Road places a group of friends into the woods on an infamous haunted road and lets them run for their lives. While it’s obviously low-budget and there are never any real thrills or chills, the film never overstays its welcome. Of course, it’s never exactly engaging or thrilling, either, but it does offer a fun respite from the doldrums of daily life—and a whole lotta Jersey. Go into it looking for some laughs and you can’t go wrong! For these reasons, Cryptic Rock give Clinton Road 3 of 5 stars. Hint: stay to the very end!