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redeyechicago.com

'Munger Road' sequel foiled by financing snags

Luis Gomez

About Last Night

5:55 PM CDT, October 27, 2013

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Forget “Who done it?” The real mystery surrounding the sequel to the indie horror flick “Munger Road” — which revolved around a killer on the loose in the St. Charles area and ended with one of more abrupt cliffhangers you’ll see in a movie — has been “Where is it?”

Writer and director Nicholas Smith told The Courier-News last year that the sequel to his suspenseful 2011 film would hit theaters this month, but little else had been reported on part two of the once buzzed-about movie since then.

That’s because the sequel has yet to go into production.

According to “Munger Road” producer Kyle Heller — like Smith, a Columbia College Chicago alum — the search for financial backing has taken longer than expected. The 29-year-old Smith and the producers want to increase the budget to around $1 million, which is five times the original’s $200,000 budget. He claimed they are having ongoing talks with potential investors and are also considering a crowdfunding campaign on indiegogo.com.

“We were ready to jump right into it, but unfortunately never connected with the right person to take the ride with us,” said Heller, 27, adding that the sequel’s script calls for “ambitious set pieces and car chases and explosions. Things like that require more resources and funding. ... We actually wrote the sequel first, but decided to make a smaller feature in our first attempt, which was ‘Munger Road.’”

Smith said the delay is also due to the fact the movie is still in the process of recouping some of the money it made. The St. Charles native admitted that the process is more complicated than he anticipated. He also pointed out that it’s not easy getting the investors from the original film on board for the sequel when they still haven’t made all their money back from the first film.

In “Munger Road,” four teens drive to a railroad crossing in Bartlett said to be haunted by ghosts on the same night a notorious serial killer escapes from a prison bus. Because the Scarecrow Festival is the next day, the mayor wants to keep things under wraps to avoid scaring tourists. The ghost story in the film is inspired by an actual Munger Road urban legend, and the Scarecrow Festival is a real celebration held annually in St. Charles.

“Munger Road” featured a relatively unknown cast, other than Oscar-nominated actor Bruce Davison (“X-Men”), and was filmed in 16 days in St. Charles, Bartlett, Elburn, Geneva and Sugar Grove. The movie premiered at Charlestowne 18 theater in St. Charles in September 2011 and reportedly earned the highest per screen average in the country that weekend. Boxofficemojo.com reports that the film played a total of 32 theaters in the Chicago-area and made $266,689 at the box office by the end of its theatrical run. It is streaming on Netflix.

Smith said Freestyle Digital Media, the distributor of “Munger Road,” was in talks with Universal Pictures for a national theatrical release, but nothing ever came of those conversations. As for its Chicago release, he can’t help but wonder what could have been.

“The movie didn’t get a proper release in Chicago theaters,” Smith said. “The trailer hadn’t been playing in theaters, and there were barely any movie posters up. We were flying by the seat of our pants. Our marketing budget could only get us so far. The thing that impresses us most about the theatrical release is that all the revenue you see is from word of mouth.”

It also likely helped that the film had local ties and received a three-star review from late film critic Roger Ebert. Not all of the buzz, however, was positive. The film’s “To be continued ...” ending proved to be polarizing among audiences.

“People either love it or hate it,” Heller said of the cliffhanger.

lgomez@tribune.com | Twitter @TribLuis

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