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It was a dark and stormy night – it really was. I’m driving around with my sister hunting for the things you need and know you already own, but who knows where they’re packed.  She’s dressed like a smurf in blue sweats and bright white sneakers. We’re almost back to her new winter home by the shore when we realize we haven’t eaten since breakfast AND we both really feel like watching a horror movie but who knows where her DVDs are packed and Internet isn’t hooked up so streaming isn’t an option.

We stop at the grocery store and a Redbox glows beside the exit. Sweet relief. Now we know how it feels when a friend shows up to save the day just before revealing she’s the actual madman behind the mask. Spoiler alert: Redbox is not my friend.

It Follows was listed and since she hasn’t seen it yet and I LUV the movie it was like the angel of horror blowing us a kiss. But we didn’t catch the kiss; It Follows wasn’t there in the box to be rented. I’ve never rented a movie from Redbox before and didn’t realize copies are so limited. What kind of hell is this? (Maybe I was feeling a bit dramatic.)

Now we had our hearts set on a good horror and luckily there was nobody waiting behind us so we desperately, hungrily, tiredly browsed the tiny screen that offered a synopsis and no way (that I noticed) to tell if any of these unheard of titles were any good.

Expectations plummeted when I recognized a few recently seen titles, including Unfriended.

Unfriended (2014)

unfriended

Unfriended takes the found footage style, dead teenager movie to a new level of unwatchable. The audience stares at a computer screen for the ENTIRE movie. We go from Skype to emails to Youtube to chats. We’re expected to read the tiny font of chat and emails. We’re expected to not fall asleep as six friends blather through text and a video call about prom and the anonymous user who has somehow hacked into their group call and a dead friend’s other accounts.

The story takes place on the one year anniversary of a friend named Laura’s suicide. Very gradually we learn an embarrassing video of Laura and the resulting cyber bullying pushed her to it. After a few Google searches that we have the intense pleasure of sitting through, one of the girls on this endless Skype call finds an online forum warning people not to open online communications from the dead. Too late.

The movie’s one intriguing quality is that it takes place in real time. With the exception of taking their turn to die, the characters are stationary in front of their computers the entire time. The plot could’ve worked if the film were shot with some finesse, or if the characters were in any way compelling, or if there was some attempt at suspense or mood, or if it demonstrated any degree of a sense for what scares people. Hint: It’s not staring at a computer screen watching boring teens type, click, delete and type some more.

Completely lacking substance, this is the worst kind of horror movie. It’s right there with Hallow’s Eve (2013). I was thinking it felt like a student film, but that’s an insult to students.

unfriended

The horrors of Redbox continues! Never have I ever watched so many crappy horrors in such a short period of time.

The Lake on Clinton Road (2015)

clintonlake

We chose this movie because of the setting. A group of friends on a road trip to the Jersey Shore end up at a lake house on Clinton Road. Jersey Shore and Clinton Road! As in the famous haunted road. The creepy back road we grew up hearing stories about and later drove north way out of our way to drive on. The road with no lights or cell signals for a 6-mile stretch. Was the horror movie angel blowing us another kiss? The familiar setting and fact that my sister just moved back to the shore made this sound perfect. We were actually excited.

First red flag: The premise makes no sense. Clinton Road is nowhere near the Jersey Shore. Before leaving, one of the couples finds an online video of a woman who supposedly drowned her son in the lake on the same street their shore house is on. Yet somehow this couple misses the fact that their shore house is like 2 hours away from the ocean. Clearly the Jersey Shore fake out is just an excuse to insert we-so-crazy montages of MTV-inspired muscle-loving, fist pumping, butt smacking stereotypes into the booze-infused driving intro. Points off.

The rest of the movie is boring on boring with lots of ab shots thrown in. Don’t bother fast forwarding for creative kill scenes – all you see is people being dragged away. This is just a lazy reiteration of every half-naked-couples-partying-at-an-isolated-sortofcabin-until-bad-things-happen ever made. It fell so flat.

Stories about Clinton Road are fantastic fodder. I’m talking ghosts, KKK, where a killer dumped a frozen body, abandoned mini castle, and sadly a young boy who drowned and whose ghost is believed to haunt a bridge. Only the story of the boy is used here and it’s twisted to suit a contrived, predictably inconsequential story line. Clinton Road deserves a better movie. One that explores why so many dark events are drawn to one place. Or one that incorporates the other legends, a creature’s creature story. Or why so many people are drawn there and what happens when they find what they’re looking for.

I’m sad for all that wasted potential. And Redbox needs better curation.

If you go there drive slow because it’s curvy, dark and very hard to see the many people, mostly bored kids, who drive up there just to walk around.

Weird NJ: Clinton Road

NY Daily News: Clinton Road, New Jersey: The scariest and strangest road in the U.S.

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