A portrait of contemporary youth culture, where the lines between reality and fiction are blurred with often frightening results.
From out of the Artsploitation Films collective of releases arrives a somewhat hallucinary film titled” Toad Road”. The film was acquired by SpectreVision, an Elijah Wood company. While it seems that the release has had a pretty good response on the film circuit, it still is an acquired taste for today’s film viewers. Especially in the case of horror, which in the case of “Toad Road” is presented in a more abstract way than the usual fare of films these days. “Toad Road” in essence is about drug use, and the teen scene that has become so common in smaller urban circles.
Filmed in a very documentary style, “Toad Road” feels at first as if we are following the demise of today’s youth as they spend every waking moment partying, doing hard drugs and in most cases acting like complete fools. A few scenes even mirror the exploits we’d expect from a Jack-ass stunt, which in itself says something about TV’s influence on careless youths.
The first half of the film is set up on this foundation as we follow James (James Davidson) and his mix of friends who frequent collective drug binges, puking and nonsensical narratives about taking things farther and deeper within.
I’ve seen many of these fallen teen exploit films which always usually ends in some sort of overdose, demise, or depression. Writer/director Jason Banker took this all into consideration while mixing in a urban myth fantastical element that falls somewhere between surreal and allegorical. At one point, its even reinforced with a Youtube clip that drives its urban legend status into modern times.
As we follow the group from one location to the next, we begin to see newcomer Sara (Sara Anne Jones) fall into the group’s darker interests. Her fascination grows somewhere between the journey of excess and a mythical urban legend belief that a place exists called “Toad Road” that takes one thru the 7 gates of hell. This once bright model of innocence evolves into a demise that begins to pave its own way attaching symbolism to the surreal fictitious portions.
As explained several times in the film, “Toad Road” begins with a red gate that takes you into the forest presenting more gates as one makes their way deeper into its recesses. Each gate signifies a changed state of surrounding heightened by physical realizations that fall into hallucinary states of being.
The explanation sounds much like a drug trip itself which I am guessing was the metaphorical association here. Though as it is told, once past the 5th gate it becomes a point of no return. This fascination becomes a mission for Sara who invites James to test the waters and make their way into the forbidden zone.
Shot on hand cam, “Toad Road” does take on the modern film making elements that are pretty common in many productions today. Where it takes things deeper is its voyage into teen drug use and the inevitable final act of confronting the limits of where one can take it.
“Toad Road” is a haunting drama in how it plays out always leaving room for interpretation and expression (depending on your point of view). While the horror element is indeed injected, it is a more realism-based approach rather than pure and fantastical. If anything, it should provide a deep message to viewers about where drugs can take you and how lives are altered forever. In the case of “Toad Road” it becomes the mysterious disappearance of Sara which leaves a haunting feeling of dread lingering as to what happened and what is suggested to its viewers. The last act in that regard lends itself to a nightmarish interpretation of what really occurred.
“Toad Road” is darkly unique while still hinting at its more obvious film influences. I’ve seen its comparisons written about in other reviews though from my perspective its closer to a mix of “Blair Witch”, “YellowBrickRoad” and “Black Metal Veins“