Toad Road (2012)

toad road reviewOk. I am slightly obsessed with this movie. Maybe it’s because I wasn’t expecting much with its low budget, but don’t let the mediocre exterior and low IMDb rating fool you. This is a polished and restrained horror film that feels so real that it sinks into your bones.

toad road sceneTo me, this feels like a movie Larry Clark would do if he did horror. Larry Clark is one of my favorite directors and is well-known for his controversial films like Kids (1995), Ken Park (2002), Bully (2001), and Wassup Rockers (2005). Both Bully and Kids are in my top favorite films. He is notorious for using actors who really aren’t actors. Usually this is a bad thing and emanates amateurism but Clark has a knack for choosing individuals who have a natural ability for acting that ends up coming across as candid instead of staged. Toad Road is a film that follows suit with acute perceptiveness by director Jason Banker.

toad road james davidsonThe main characters, James (played by James Davidson) and Sara (played by Sara Ann Jones) are exploring a new relationship with each other. James is a lost soul on a downward slope, sliding ever deeper down the rabbit hole of drugs. Sara is new to the drug scene and eager to try everything. The first half of the film doesn’t really feel like a horror movie but a journey into drug use. Acid, shrooms, weed, whatever these perpetual fuck-ups can get their hands on. I was hooked right away with these scenes that felt so organic and unforced.

toad-road-imageThe horror part comes in when Toad Road is brought up. It is an urban legend about a wooded area behind an old mental institution. Supposedly you can cross through these red gates that represent the seven levels of Hell – each realm becoming more and more fucked up, like a bad acid trip. Newbie Sara wants to explore this unknown territory and James is her experienced guide. The entire film has a melancholy feel to it where you just know that this can’t end well. James and Sara have already gone down this dark path, literally and figuratively, that they can’t escape. Some people view psychedelic drugs as a religious experience – reaching a frame of mind that can’t normally be accessed, like straddling two worlds at once. Is it Hell? Is it drugs? You will have to watch the film to find out.

toad road saraThis feels like an existential horror film, if there is such a thing. It is one of the most authentic films I have seen in a long time. And the fact that the “actress” who played Sara died of a drug overdose in real life shortly after shooting this film gives me goosebumps. Her death tying into the film is so surreal and unsettling, especially since the director used all the actors’ real names in the film, like they aren’t acting at all. Thinking about it too much makes me feel really uncomfortable. It is a truly haunting coincidence and disturbs me on a deep level. True life is stranger than fiction. I think Toad Road surpasses a lot of traditional indie horror films with its nouveau approach and is a contender with the best of them.


Also, a big thanks @ToadRoadMovie on Twitter:Capture

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Toad Road (2012) on IMDb

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