In conception, Toad Road feels like a cross between Ben Wheatleys mad drug hallucination film A Field in England (2013) and the cryptically fascinating YellowBrickRoad (2010) about a group of people traversing a trail where the ordinary rules of reality have started to disappear and the landscape itself seems to be affecting their sanity. All of this seems very promising territory for an indie film to be getting into in terms of premise.
Toad Road has a surprisingly short running time of 76 minutes. The disappointment in viewing it as a genre film is that nearly two-thirds seems to be little related to horror territory. These scenes consist of a group of people hanging out together, taking drugs and getting generally fucked up. If this is your type of film, then at least Jason Banker portrays this with a high degree of naturalism, something that is almost documentary, if not Found Footage, like. There are frequent times throughout where you are given cause to wonder if the scenes of drug taking are actually taking place and Jason Banker has simply aimed his camera at the participants or whether it is all very convincing acting on the part of the actors. The film also follows the convention of The Blair Witch Project (1999) in choosing an all-amateur cast and giving the characters the same names as the actors, which adds a double level of seeming authenticity to the exercise. Furthermore, the film has a bizarre real-life resonance where, in an uncanny parallel to the character she plays who disappears in mid-film, lead actress Sara Anne Jones died of a drug overdose only a few months after the films premiere. It is something where your first impression is to regard this with a certain cynicism and feel like the film could have fabricated such a tale to give itself a publicity boost (such does however appear to be genuine).
On the other hand, Toad Road is more promise than it ever is delivery. It seems to opens the door to a horror treatment and then closes it again without ever dealing with the fascinating premise it sets up. We see James Davidson and girlfriend Sara Anne Jones setting off into the woods and some of the strange things beginning to happen (although, as we never actually see anything happen, we cant also be sure these are not just them wandering around stoned either). He returns, she doesnt and he then spends some fifteen minutes dealing with the anguish of her going missing. It feels like another The Picnic at Hanging Rock (1975) where the exact nature of the disappearance is a narrative sleight of hand that is kept deliberately unexplained for us, where the whole point of the film is to leave us guessing about what happened. On the other hand, Toad Road is a film that is operating without the brilliance of Hanging Rocks enigma and only proves frustratingly elusive in terms of providing anything. The less high-profile Resolution (2012), which came out around the same time, was a far better variant on the cryptic backwoods mystery.
Jason Banker subsequently went on to make the horror film Felt (2014).