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Directed by Jason Banker
Written by Jason Banker
Starring James Davidson, Sara Anne Jones, Whitleigh Higuera, Jamie Siebold, Scott Rader
Release Date: December 17, 2013
Urban legend has it that on a long winding trail in the woods outside York, PA there are seven gates that will lead you to the doorway to Hell. As you pass through each gate, you hallucinate more and more, and time and reality supposedly become meaningless. The only problem is that no one has ever made it past the fifth gate.
For new-to-town Sara, who has fallen in with a rambunctious and directionless band of twenty-somethings focused only on the next drug high, this legend becomes all-consuming. Though her boyfriend James tries to get her mind off it, Sara becomes singularly focused on discovered just what happens on Toad Road. And with a dropper of acid at the ready, Sara begins her fateful trip down the road.
Meeting somewhere between a pseudo-documentary due to how the film is shot and student art film that desperately wants to look between-the-lines of reality and fantasy, Toad Road is a meandering journey through a group of kids’ lives as they try to have a good time and enjoy each others’ company as they bake their brain.
For most of the movie’s short 76-minute running time, we are flies on the wall watching this group of kids just bum around, who give little thought to the next day save for what drug they’ll take and whose pubic hair to set on fire. This extended series of scenes are like watching home videos of your friends just messing around and getting high. It is a bit of an endurance, and will make or break the overall enjoyment of the movie.
There is no moral judgment or consequences for these young adults they just do what they do. Were the film nothing more than that, it would have fit very nicely into early nineties indie slice-of-life cinema somewhere between Slacker and Kids.
The film’s ultimate purpose though is the lead up to and journey down the titular Toad Road. While the sequences is fairly short, the actual journey is unnerving and as the viewer we take the trip along with Sara and James not knowing if we are hallucinating along with the characters or witnessing something truly supernatural. Director and writer Jason Banker does very solid job in presenting “acid-vision” on the screen during this sequence and through the film. Both viewer and character are similarly left not knowing what was real and what was drug induced.
As the film draws to its end, it leaves many questions and an unsettling vagueness to what truly transpired. While the film is categorized as “horror,” it doesn’t provide any scares or prolonged suspense. There is a slight sense of dread, due to the viewer knowing that eventually these woefully unprepared main characters must meet their fate on the road. If anything, the horror comes from within the characters, in that they know something happened, they just can’t remember what. The question remains: what if this urban legend is actually true?
Toad Road is the first film presented by Spectrevision, a new horror-focused company that includes Elijah Wood as of the founders. The DVD, published by Artsploitation Films, provides an excellent package to accompany the film. The movie is accompanied by a feature-length audio commentary that includes the cast and crew. Additional features include behind-the-scenes footage, deleted scenes, audition footage and trailers. The DVD itself includes a reversible cover and comes with an 8-page booklet with notes from Wood and an essay by Michael Tully.