Toad Road and The Seven Gates of Hell refers to an urban legend originating in York, Pennsylvania. It speaks of deeply wooded area behind an abandoned mental institution. Along an overgrown road, brave or foolish adventures can pass through seven gates (visible only after dark). Anyone who makes it through the 7th Gate goes straight to hell. No one has ever made it past Gate #5.
Toad Road is an experimental art-house flick being touted as “the most unique Horror film to come out in years.” (LA Weekly)
Read my review after the jump.
Official Synopsis: The film follows a group of friends with few inhibitions and no boundaries perilously mixing drug use with self-discovery. In Toad Road, verité footage, drug use, drunken pranks, and personal issues comprise a disturbing portrait of contemporary youth culture where the lines between perception and reality are blurred with frightening results.
When I heard this film being compared to the works of Harmony Korine, I was afraid of seeing dead cats and cross-eyed hookers. Thankfully, Toad Road is more reminiscent of Kids than Gummo. Filmmaker Jason Banker gives us an unflinching window into the lives of apathetic young adults passing time with sex and drugs. Lots and lots of drugs.
In scenes too real to be fiction, we see young pranksters setting pubic hair on fire, snorting condoms, and discussing the benefits (and drawbacks) of taking ecstasy pills anally.
James (James Davidson) meets Sara (Sara Anne Jones), a city girl drawn to his drugstore cowboy persona. She implores him to take her into his world of hallucinogenic experimentation. While he might seem an amoral hedonist, James nonetheless takes this responsibility seriously. He doesn’t want to deny her access to potentially profound discoveries, but he wants Sara to benefit from his experience, and believe him when he warns her of very real dangers.
But once James opens Pandora’s Box, Sara jumps into the deep-end, pushing all boundaries with reckless abandon. She’s deaf to any words of advice or concern. Her use of hallucinogens begins to take on near religious significance.
Sara becomes obsessed with the legend of The Seven Gates and pressures James to take her to Toad Road, where they drop large amounts of LSD.
Toad Road is, obviously, a metaphor for drug addiction. The farther down the path you go, the more you lose yourself (or at least your mind). And eventually, you pass the point of no return, never to be seen again.
Toad Road will only appeal to a certain film-lovers, namely the brave and open-minded. Mainstream viewers will be unable to connect to the improve style of acting, the gritty cinematography, and the nonlinear approach to story-telling. Some aficionados may even take issue with Toad Road calling itself a Horror film in the first place. With hardly a drop of blood (save for a few split second frames) the most disturbing visual is a pile of vomit. The supernatural is never confirmed, denied, or even overtly discussed. The conclusion is difficult to process and ambiguous enough to challenge (or strain) the viewer’s intellect.
Aficionados and film lovers looking for a traditional movie viewing experience need not bother. But those willing to brave the dark woods by giving into Toad Road’s hypnotic, hallucinatory momentum, will indeed be affected. This film will also appeal to those with a genuine interest in the underbelly of drug culture. The trippy, spooky soundtrack is excellent and worth purchasing.
It’s also worth noting that Sara Anne Jones died shortly after Toad Road’s release. Cause of death: Overdose. It’s a tragic and fittingly morbid continuation of the themes and warnings presented in this serious piece of cinema.
3 out of 5 Skull Heads
|Release Date (Limited/VOD)||October 18 2013|
|Starring||Sara Anne Jones, James Davidson, Whitleigh Higuera|