Friday, September 27, 2019

The Curse of Buckout Road—Welcome to the Empire State

New York State is home to some pretty eerie locations, such as Sleepy Hollow Cemetery, the Amityville Horror house on Oceanside Avenue, and the Dakota Building. Granted, nothing is as terrifying as our congressional representatives, but Buckout Road takes the honors for the state’s creepiest place. The infamous albino cannibals are a major reason why (that’s a true urban legend). Yet, the infernal stretch of asphalt has several more sinister myths attached to it. All the major ones will work their way into Matthew Currie Holmes’ The Curse of Buckout Road, which opens today in Brooklyn.

Troubled Aaron Powell has just returned from military academy, but his grandfather leaves him hanging at the bus station. That is par for the course for their rocky relationship, but in this case, Dr. Lawrence Powell has a good excuse. The former minister turned head-shrinker has been consulting with the police on a hideous suicide. The location: a clearing off Buckout Road.

Sadly, Det. Roy Harris will soon be returning to that area, on related police business. Being a grown-up in a horror movie, he doesn’t want to hear about his daughter Cleo’s fear that she might be next. It turns out she and the sub-literate stoner Ganzer Brothers produced a class project video, supposedly debunking the myths of Buckout Road. So much for that. Clearly, there is a malevolent power out to get her—and she can only count on Aaron Powell to stand with her.

About halfway through Curse, the film turns on a dime, going from banally blah to off-its-rocker bonkers in a matter of seconds. Essentially, that is the moment when Holmes and co-screenwriter Shahin Chandrasoma go all in on Buckout urban legends. They also add some old-time religious elements (or rather the perils of the lack thereof) as well as some old school demonic paranoia. In the process, they develop some decent Buckout lore of their own.

Danny Glover is faultlessly professional as Dr. Powell. However, it is prolific character actors Henry Czerny and Colm Feore who really shine as Det. Harris and Rev. Mike Reagan, the new pastor at Powell’s old church, who never really had faith per se, in the first place.

Although not as well known, Evan Ross and Dominique Provost-Chalkley deserve credit for being considerably more engaging than most college student horror movie punching bags. Frankly, Aaron and Cleo do a lot of complaining, so it is rather impressive Ross and Provost-Chalkley prevent them from becoming gratingly annoying.

Frankly, this film probabaly is not substantial enough to justify theatrical ticket prices, but it will probably over-deliver on horror fans’ expectations when it streams on Shudder or wherever (which will presumably be soon). In the meantime, The Curse of Buckout Road opens tonight (9/27) in Brooklyn, at the Kent Theater.