BITS 2017: Buckout Road

buckout-road

Buckout Road is real, a stretch of road near the New York suburb of White Plains, and over the years a number of urban legends have grown around it. In colonial times, they say, women were burned at the stake as witches there. Others claim that the early nineteenth century, the Buckhout family held albino slaves captive there. The slaves’ descendants still prowl the area; if you drive to the abandoned Buckhout estate at night and honk your horn three times, they will set upon your and feast upon your flesh. Still others talk of Isaac Hammond (or Isaac Buckhout Hammond), who in 1870 shotgunned his wife and neighbor to death when he found out they were having an affair; he was the last man to be executed by hanging in White Plains.

Actor-turned-filmmaker Matthew Currie Holmes uses these legends as a springboard to examine the themes of belief and family in Buckout Road. Aaron Powell (Evan Ross), a young man with a troubled past, returns to his home town of Vallhalla, New York, from the military to stay with his uncle Lawrence (Danny Glover), a psychiatrist with dark secrets of his own. Aaron soon befriends one of Lawrence’s patients, a college student named Cleo (Dominique Provost-Chalkley), who, along with her classmates, has been suffering from strange experiences since starting a school project examining the urban legends of Buckout Road.

The film suffers somewhat from clichéd (and not always coherent) plotting and character development: if you go into the film guessing that Aaron’s experiences with Buckout Road will eventually lead to him gaining a better understanding of his strained relationship with his uncle, you’d be right. Similarly, Cleo’s relationship with her overprotective father comes straight out of the Big Book of Girl Tropes; and it’s easy to predict early on which supporting character will eventually reveal themselves as a baddie. And Currie pulls a crucial punch at the very end.

Holmes’s atmospheric direction and visual sense makes up for many of these flaws—I was particularly amused by the “faux-grindhouse” visual touches employed during the 1970s flashbacks—as does the fine supporting cast (sadly, Ross and Provost-Chalkley have little chemistry). Glover is excellent, as always; reliable character-actor Henry Czerny (RevengeQuantico) shines as Lawrence’s contact with the local police; Jim Watson and Kyle Mac provide comic relief as Derek and Erik, Cleo’s partners on the school project. I wish more had been done with Reverend Mike, a Buckout Road scholar played by Colm Feore, as I enjoyed both the character and the actor.

While I have numerous issues with Buckout Road and could suggest a multitude of ways it could have been done better, it does not entirely lack charm and might be worth a look, as long as you don’t set your expectations too high.

Screens:
Friday, November 24, 9:30 PM, The Royal Cinema


Full Blood in the Snow ticket information can be found at the festival website.