Every town has an urban legend. In my hometown, there was the Goatman, hills where your car would get pushed uphill by ghosts, crybaby bridge, and much more. For director Matthew Currie Holmes, his hometown legend is Buckout Road, located in Westchester County of upstate New York State. It is rumored to be the most haunted road in the U.S., so of course, Holmes had to make a horror movie about it. His debut feature film, The Curse of Buckout Road, takes a few of the tales associated with the haunted road and weaves them into a horror movie perfect for lovers of urban legend.
Aaron Powell (Evan Ross) has traveled back to his small hometown to visit his grandfather and local psychiatrist, Dr. Lawrence Powell (Danny Glover). While trying to get back into a routine, Aaron realizes something horrible is happening around town and it seems to be linked to the cursed Buckout Road. Three college students, Cleo (Dominique Provost-Chalkley) and twins Derek (Jim Watson) and Erik (Kyle Mac), did a class project on the road and how its stories are just stories. But, after being plagued by horrific nightmares that center on Buckout Road, they fear they’ve been cursed by whatever haunts their town. They must all band together to figure out if they can defeat whatever forces lurk on Buckout Road.
One of the most effective parts of Buckout Road is its ability to interpret multiple legends into one film. Buckout Road is known for rabid albinos, witches, curses, and more, so how do you fit all of those stories into one film? Make each of them a nightmare. Each character has a nightmare about a different story associated with the haunted location. Twins Derek and Erik dream of honking a car horn three times and summoning evil albinos. Cleo dreams of being burned at the stake as a witch. Aaron dreams of being killed for having an affair with a white woman. Holmes doesn’t have to pick just one story and instead can create a tale about a place that thrives on so many tales.
Aaron, who is able to travel between nightmares, is Buckout Road’s most interesting character. He is an outsider with a traumatic past that makes him even more of an outcast in this small town. This is also a rare instance of a horror film with a black protagonist. While his race is never really a focus of the film, it is hard to ignore the way he is treated by law enforcement. He is seen as a pariah, someone who will corrupt the police chief’s daughter and only bring violence to the town. While his treatment is credited to his past experience with arson, Aaron and his grandfather are the only black characters. No matter the backstory given to each of them, there’s no doubting the racial tension and narratives that flow underneath this horror tale.
The problem the film falls into, though, is too many ideas. Holmes wishes to create both an emotional and scary tale, but focuses too often on creating interpersonal relationships that never reach their potential. Its best moments are its dream sequences, which the most entertaining and ambitious, with each nightmare having its own aesthetic, whether it be grainy 1970s style or a dark and tinted with blue hues.
Holmes’ The Curse of Buckout Road marries trauma and myth in an ambitious tale that speaks the prevalence and strength of urban legends. Belief runs deep and Holmes gets the core of just how powerful belief can be. While the story and tone can be uneven, and scares don’t really come until the film’s last act, Buckout Road boasts a unique story that serves as the lovechild between A Nightmare On Film Street and your local horror tales.
The Curse of Buckout Road is now available on digital streaming platforms.