Halloween may be a memory, but the terror continued Tuesday at the Elk Grove Cinema, where about 130 Daily Herald Subscriber Total Access members saw a free screening of the locally produced horror tale "Munger Road."
The free event was part of "A Night at the Movies With Dann Gire," sponsored by the Daily Herald and featuring the newspaper's film critic, who introduced the movie.
Before the movie, Gire interviewed writer/director Nicholas Smith, a St. Charles native who last year shot the film during 16 nights in Bartlett, St. Charles, Elburn, Geneva and Sugar Grove.
"Smith understands how to the use the power of the unseen," Gire said. "Just like in 'The Exorcist,' Smith knows the scariest thing on the planet is a closed door."
Gire called "Munger Road," an "auspicious first movie" for the talented Smith and his cast and crew, many of whom came from Smith's alma mater, Chicago's Columbia College.
The movie follows four St. Charles students who want to test a local (sub) urban legend that the ghosts of children supposedly killed in a terrible bus/train accident will push their car to safety if left on the tracks.
Then their car won't start. Their cellphones won't work.
A ghostly handprint appears on the windshield. Oh, yeah, and a convicted St. Charles serial killer has escaped from a prison bus and is apparently headed home.
Gire praised "Munger Road" in a three-star review, saying that Smith eschewed violence for slowly building a suspenseful atmosphere.
Smith, 26, told Gire in an interview that he didn't want "Munger Road" to be a gruesome gory movie, but one that hearkened back to Steven Spielberg's 1975 classic "Jaws."
"The conflict in 'Jaws' isn't so much there's a shark in the water, but that there's a shark in the water and if the community people close the beaches, they'll be bankrupt for the winter," Smith said.
"If four kids go missing right before 6,000 people are coming in for the annual Scarecrow Festival in St. Charles, what do you do?"
So there's the "Jaws" connection.
That and the name of Smith's deputy, Hendricks, the same name as police Chief Roy Scheider's deputy in "Jaws."
Smith, a graduate of St. Charles North High School, tapped several fellow Columbia grads to help him make "Munger Road," among them cinematographer Westley Gathright (using new digital RED MX cameras) and producer Kyle Heller.
A major contributor to "Munger Road" is a Polish composer named Wojciech Golczewski, who created the film's nerve-jangling score while still in Poland. Smith and Golczewski have never met.
"Everything was done electronically," Smith said. "I don't think we could have done this 10 years ago."
A casting coup came for Smith when he hired actor Bruce Davison, star of "Willard" and an Oscar nominee for "Longtime Companion," to play the St. Charles police chief.
The actor took less than his usual compensation because he liked the script so much, Smith said.
"When we were casting, I didn't want Nicolas Cage running around St. Charles," he said. "I wouldn't believe that he or Ray Liotta would be the police chief in this town. We really wanted great actors to bring this story together, and Bruce really liked the script. That proves what I've said earlier."
"That if you want to get a movie made and you're 26 years old, write a really good script and you'll get a lot of help."