I don’t take joy in telling people the fruits of their labor are terrible. In fact, my threshold for cinematic suck is so high that I routinely hand out scores of 6s and 7s to movies the hoi polloi would give 3s and 2s. For me, to give a movie a bad review — a really bad review — you’ve got to go above and beyond just being inept or inane or incompetent — you’ve got to make a movie that makes me hate myself for wasting an hour-and-a-half watching it. Regrettably, Clinton Road is just such a film.
There’s no way to sugarcoat this one, folks — this movie fails in just about every conceivable category of filmmaking you can think of. The acting, the directing, the story, the editing, the music, the special effects — all of it fluctuates from ho-hum to atrocious, and by the time this one-hour-and-17-minute long cinematic debacle is over, you’ll likely feel as if you’ve just witnessed a sure-fire candidate for worst movie of the year, regardless of the genre.
The promotional materials for the movie suggest that Ice-T and Vincent “Big Pussy from The Sopranos” Pastore play prominent roles in the movie. Well, in this case, it’s more like they have an extended cameo throughout the first 20 minutes of Clinton Road, which also includes a less-publicized cameo from Eric Roberts — who is literally in the movie just long enough to say “I’m Eric Roberts” and then promptly leave. And no, I am not joking about that either — that pretty much is the extent of his dialogue.
Rather, Clinton Road focuses on a gaggle of one-dimensional 30-somethings who trek to the haunted wilderness of New Jersey for some sort of seance. You see, our leading man Michael — played by, if you can believe it, ex-American Idol contestant Ace Young — has a wife that mysteriously went missing a year earlier, and this supposed necromancer with a glass eye named Begory (played by James DeBello, a.k.a. Trip from Detroit Rock City) convinces him and his cannon fodder buddies that nothing bad at all will happen to them if they join him in the woods for some supernatural tomfoolery.
Well, after 45 minutes of jerking us around, the directors finally decide to start throwing the monsters at us, and when they do, the results are — underwhelming — to say the least. The big bad in this one, you might be asking? Well, it’s this bald guy who looks like Dr. Robotnik from the Sonic the Hedgehog video games, who runs around bonking people over the head with a really small mallet. Oh, but he’s not alone, because also stalking the cast in woods is … an eight-year-old girl who literally looks like they only covered one side of her face in zombie makeup? And if you think that’s bad, just wait until they try to do the whole Jacob’s Ladder vibrating face effect with her — I genuinely think I could’ve created something more professional looking with the default video editing tools on YouTube.
Oh, and speaking of the directors, I was absolutely floored when I found out who was behind the camera on this one. Helming the picture alongside longtime character actor Steve Stanulis is none other than Richard Freaking Grieco, better known as early ‘90s TV heartthrob Dennis Booker from 21 Jump Street. And pending his next film isn’t a literal sex crime captured on camera, I think it’s safe to say that Grieco can only improve as an auteur from here.
If I had to sum up Clinton Road with one word, it would have to be “inconsistency.” Hardly anything in this movie seems to maintain a sense of diegetic continuity, so you’re never really sure if what’s happening onscreen is a nightmare or an illusion or meant to be taken as “real.” Hell, I’m not even sure I can remember which characters got killed off, since the editing and narrative framework is so choppy — but then again, considering this is the kind of movie where at least one character trips over a tree limb (which is still connected to the tree, I might add), I suppose you really shouldn’t expect much in the way of celluloid cohesion anywhere else.
Factor in the subpar acting, the lame gore effects and your requisite genre “anti-ending” and you have all the makings of a can’t-see, bottom of the barrel horror flick destined to wind up in the purgatory of Amazon Prime. And just when you think this movie can’t possibly get any worse, they turn around and hit you with one of the most annoying (and thematically inappropriate) end credits themes in recent memory — it literally sounds like a reggaeton song mumbled by a guy who runs an all-you-can-eat buffet that keeps getting failing food scores.
And if given the choice? I’d still opt for the moldy saag paneer over having to rewatch this one, any day. Clinton Road is now available on VOD and in select theaters.
WICKED RATING: 3/10
Director(s): Steve Stanulis, Richard Grieco
Writer(s): Derek Ross Mackay, Noel Ashman, Steve Stanulis
Starring: Ace Young, Erin O’Brien, James DeBello, Katie Morrison
Studio/Production Co: Growing Tree Productions, Noel Ashman Entertainment, Stanulis Productions
Run Time: 77 minutes