Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Toad Road DVD Review

Reviewed by Allie Schembra
The hypnotic Toad Road, presented by Spectrevision, unfolds like a hallucinatory cross between the films of Harmony Korine and the Blair Witch Project. James kills time with his small town druggie friends until he meets new arrival Sara. But just as James wants to change his lifestyle, Sara wants him to take her further into mind-altering experimentation and introduce her to the local legend of Toad Road, a spot in the forest rumored to be home to the seven gates of hell. A unique fusion of documentary-like realism and otherworldly terror, Toad Road is a mesmerizing trip.

Film (1 out of 5 stars)

James (James Davidson) is a drug-addicted slacker who does nothing but drop acid, take ecstasy and get drunk. When Sara (Sara Anne Jones), a “city girl,” joins the group and begins to fall down the rabbit hole, James compares a bad drug experience to “Toad Road,” the local urban legend which leads believers through the seven gates of hell. As James tries to leave the life behind him, Sara pulls him deeper and deeper in.

Sara and James visit Toad Road and walk into the woods and “through the gates,” and, in their drug-addled state, James and Sara are separated. James soon wakes up in the middle of the woods, disoriented and confused. Sara is nowhere to be found. As James makes his way out of the woods, he starts walking back to town. Returning home, James realizes Sara is missing and six months have passed, with James having been the last one to see Sara, and what happened to her remains a mystery.

When I sat down to watch this movie, I expected a full on horror movie about the seven gates of hell. Every community has its own urban legend and I expected the story of this community’s. What I got was a bad trip down a drug-filled road. It was difficult to make sense of the movie and of the story line since it jumped all over the place. It took me a good 20 minutes to figure out who was who and where the story was supposed to be going. It felt like I was watching a bad episode of Intervention… you know, one where they forgot the intervention part.

The cast, all playing some version of themselves were annoying and I just couldn’t care about them. When the credits rolled and I saw the film had been dedicated to Sara Anne Jones, one of its stars, I looked up the reason for the dedication. It turns out that shortly after completing the filming of the movie, Ms. Jones died of a drug overdose. I couldn’t help to think that perhaps in this case, life did imitate art..
Video (3 out of 5 stars)

This transfer looks good especially considering that it was shot as a cross between a home movie and a documentary.  Because of that, the picture was shaky and choppy and some of the editing was obvious, because of that stylistic choice. The colors were good and the skin tones natural. Night and evening scenes were sharp and bright.
Audio (2 out of 5 stars)

Overall, the sound was good and I didn’t need to adjust the volume up or down to hear better. Some of the background music was a bit annoying and in one scene there was the ringing of what sounded like a doorbell. It was distracting and annoying since almost every time it rang in the movie, my dog, thinking someone was at the door, started barking.
Extras (2 out of 5 stars)

The extras could have been better but then again the movie could have been better too.

  • Audio Commentary with Jason Banker, James Davidson, Jamie Siebold, Scott Rader and Jorge Torres-Torres: A viewing of the movie with explanations and comments from the director and some of the actors.
  • Deleted Scenes: Deleted scenes grouped together in a play all format. I would have preferred the option to watch the scenes individually but none of the scenes were crucial to the film and it was a good choice to leave them out.
  • Behind the scenes: A look behind-the-scenes of the film, this extra shows the filmmakers and actors screwing around. It proves to me that everyone involved with this movie actually was on drugs the whole time.
  • DUI Story: The story of how two of the actors in the film were arrested for a DUI, yet continue drinking and driving.
  • James and Sara Audition: James and Sara’s audition for the film. It shows the two of them sitting on a porch chatting and Sara’s introduction to drugs.
  • Shotgun a Beer: Directions on how to drink a beer out of the side of the can – “Shotgunning.”
  • Trailer: The official trailer for the movie.
  • Artsploitation Trailers: Trailers for upcoming films by the production company: Animals, Clip, Hemel, and Vanishing Waves. All foreign-language films.

Summary (2 out of 5 stars)

If you are tripping on acid then perhaps you may enjoy this movie. I did not enjoy it and was disappointed this wasn’t actually a horror movie, rather a look into the lives of drug-addicted slackers. As I watched the film and the special features I disliked it more and more. Many times I enjoy the special features more than the movie, but in this case, it made me hate it more. Knowing that Elijah Wood was one of the executive producers really disappointed me as I expected much more from him. I found myself watching the counter on the DVD player just to figure out how many more minutes I was going to lose watching this movie.

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