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December 17, 2013

Toad Road

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Jason Banker - 2012
Artsploitation Films All Region DVD

Even reading about Toad Road after seeing the film has not made it easier to process. What we have is really an unclassifiable hybrid. To call this a horror movie sets things up for unmet genre expectations. This is not like Abel Ferrara's The Addiction which clearly made the connections between drug dependency and vampirism. And an abundance of drugs are consumed in Toad Road. On a personal note, I have had, in a past long gone, had my own experiences that have some resemblance to the gatherings of the kids in Toad Road. An incident that I found amusing is that I had a friend who was strict about keeping kosher, but had no problem purchasing LSD from a stranger in New York City's Central Park.

The story is about a group of college aged friends who get together at a house for the sole purpose of not simply getting high, but totally wasted. Two of the friends, James and Sara, go for a walk in the woods, exploring for themselves what is suppose to be an urban legend, a path that leads to the seven gates of Hell. The path is Toad Road, somewhere near York, Pennsylvania. The gates may or may not really be there. The two share some kind of hallucinatory substance passed from Sara's tongue to James. At a certain point, Sara seems to have wandered away. James wakes up in the snow, unaware of how much time has passed.

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Getting lost seems to be the operative metaphor here. James talks about having a normal life, although we, and probably he, don't have any specifics other than vague talk about going to college. Even when James is found wandering in a nearby town, he is completely unmoored. His friends have all left, and without any place to go. There is a suggestion of what happened during James' missing time in the woods, but Banker keeps the viewer guessing.

The opening and closing scenes bookend a scrambled chronology of events that may or may not have happened. There is a beautiful shot taken of a young woman's reflection on water, in a lake in the woods. There is also some gorgeous gamelan music. But also there are static sounds, and extremely brief flashes of abstract images. That the actors play characters with their own names also blurs the lines between fictional narrative and a staged documentary. An early scene is of the kids getting high, playing around, with James so fucked up to even keep his pants on. The scene runs too long, but could well be deliberate. James is last seen lashing out destructively. There are questions but no answers. As such, Toad Road might serve as a denial of William Blake's notice that, "The road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom."

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Posted by peter at December 17, 2013 06:36 AM