Streaming Releases: Clinton Road (2019) - Reviewed

The tagline for Clinton Road – the new horror film from directors Richard Grieco and Steve Stanulis – is “No one ever comes back,” which is a fitting description of how it felt watching this movie from beginning to end. I can never un-see what transpired before my eyes and I will never be able to get back the roughly eighty minutes I spent trying not to turn off this slog of a film. (That’s me being more kind than I should be.) 

The plot involves a group of friends who visit a supposed haunted stretch of New Jersey road (giving the film its title) to communicate with Mike’s (Ace Young) deceased wife, who went missing in that same area some time before the film begins. For some reason, Ice-T, Vincent Pastore and Eric Roberts make cameo appearances at a club that serves as the film’s opening setting and introduction (if you can call it that) to all the ill-fated characters. I guess the marketing folks felt that giving those three well-known actors top billing would help sell an otherwise dreadful movie. After ignoring a warning from Ice-T about Clinton Road’s supposed spookiness, the characters find themselves lost, falling prey to supernatural forces in the woods just a few yards away from the road itself. 

If you remember Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2,  Clinton Road is very much in the same league, without the meta commentary that Book of Shadows offered at the time. Neither film is good, yet somehow watching Clinton Road, I longed for the slightly better viewing experience that Book of Shadows offered, which says a lot about this film’s quality. 

The soundtrack and score, if you can call it that, is overbearing and seems to come out of nowhere. To call it “on the nose” would be a kindness. Rather, it overcompensates for the lack of story and intelligence that other, better films might offer. The cinematography is poorly lit, making it difficult to even see what is going on, and the acting is, to borrow a quote from Mad Men, “Not great, Bob.” 

In recent years, I’ve noticed the horror genre having more of a resurgence. It never left and its overall quality has remained pretty much normal from beginning to end. However, it seems like critics and mainstream audiences have embraced the genre more, adding what seems like an agreed upon idea that horror deserves more respect than it previously had. For the record, I agree in most cases. Yet for every good to great horror film out there, there are dozens of other movies like Clinton Road out there. They become an unfortunate example of what the genre has often been criticized for, namely, jump scares, paper-thin plots and dimwitted characters. Clinton Road has all of these and more, which is unfortunate given where the film could have gone. 

Much like the opportunity the characters have at the beginning of the film, I’m giving you the same warning that Ice-T gives them: Do not watch Clinton Road. You will be a better person for having chosen to live your life and forget this trash film ever existed. You’re welcome. 

-- Matt Giles