Urban legends are modern fairy tales and every country has them. Kuchisake-Onna from Japan, La Llorona from Mexico, Elisa Day in England. Even Australia, the land born of convicts and Huntsman Spiders has its share. Lemon Tree Passage is born from a relatively recent tragedy and is a variation the warning ghost legends. When drivers travel east on Lemon Tree Passage (the actual road) at a high rate of speed, the lights of a passenger car or motorcycle appear in the distance behind them and flash a warning to slow them down. As an urban legend it encourages tourism. As a potentially stupid stunt for drunk or reckless teenagers, it invites accidents.
The only thing this cinematic variation serves is a warning to novice filmmakers to start what you finish, preferably in one linear movie.
The problem with Lemon Tree Passage, much like the car/cycle accident of its origins, is it doesn’t know what movie it wants to tell. It begins with three American backpackers (Jessica Tovey, Pippa Black, Tim Pocock) who, after hooking up with some locals (Andrew Ryan, Tim Phillipps) for fun and “lodging”, experience the phenomenon of the urban legend. Shortly after one of the backpackers succumbs to nightmares and hallucinations, they make a second attempt to scare up the ghost, only this time experience catastrophic car trouble and they’re forced to wander the woods in search of help ending in terrifying consequences.
Meanwhile, another man, we come to find his name is Sam (Nicholas Gunn), is having paranormal experiences of his own, sort of attached to the fabled road but having nothing to do with an accident. When not looking terrified, he appears suspicious and guilty, which is how we know Something Is Up. Maya (Jessica Tovey) experiences nightmares that are connected to Sam looking guilty, and we discover the first 2/3 of the movie a pointless red herring and the last 1/3 a cringe-worthy revenge film that operates by the tenant of kill them all and let God sort it.
It’s essentially the beginning of one movie and the ending of another, and mashing them together does not make them one cohesive movie. Maybe that’s how Australians like their films, I dunno, but while two incomplete thoughts might grammatically make a sentence, it usually only works if the thoughts are somehow related. The only two things tying this movie together are some people and a ghost – not quite enough to make them one story. Add to that the collateral damage of everyone not involved with either ghost story, and it feels like a student film project where the least amount of emphasis was directed to story and more to paying an actress to take her top off. Yay, if that’s your thing, but this movie wasn’t called Jubbly Tree Passage, so I expected a little more.
The scares and effects are practical (but without direction) and the hook that it’s based on actual events may be enough to draw some viewers in, however neither are enough to keep the movie interesting. The resolution of the movie I actually wanted to see would have made this movie more than watchable.
Lemon Tree Passage is available in in Region A/B/C on Blu-ray and DVD, and is released in the UK as The Passage.