Fantasia Review: Toad Road

 

In the tradition of mashing sub-genres together to get something entirely new and interesting, full credit goes to micro-indie avant garde chiller Toad Road for merging the wasted youth drug drama with the urban-legend horror flick. The experience of watching this quite vérité experiment is akin to taking essence of Drugstore Cowboy and infusing it into the broth of The Blair Witch Project whilst dropping a mint-leaf of Picnic at Hanging Rock on the side for garnish. Using the syntax of losing oneself of those campfire wilderness spook stories as a metaphor for ever increasing drug use is wonderful in both concept and execution.

Sara is the bright young thing, ripe as a peach and innocent to a degree who is played by Sara Anne Jones, a NYC model with real acting chops. She starts hanging out romantically with James (James Davison) and thus, incidentally, with his circle of druggie pals. Initially she abstains from using, content to watch them horse around with each other when they are high which consists, I suppose, of the usual stuff. You know, they make out, puke, fall down stairs, pull a condom through their nostrils out of their mouth and light each others pubic hair on fire for kicks. The suggestion of drug use and sex is palpable. Slowly, Sara’s curiosity gets the better of her and she uses some light substances, the so-called ‘gateway drugs’; albeit with all the excessive drinking going on, perhaps at 17 or whatever, all of us are through the first ‘gate’ anyway. In the mean time, during daylight hours, her relationship with Jason continues to develop in the dreamy but fun sort of way that many fantasize first love might be. The contrast between jackass level group mayhem on the drug binges and the casual and positive intimacy with their alone-ness is the first hook the film film as to offer. Even if you think these characters are initially vapid or douchey (one of James’ friends attempt to emotionally guilt Sara into a sexual encounter is nevertheless particularly well achieved) or find the few instances of exposition a tad clunky, you can tell there is some serious filmmaking happening by the intentional contrast of tone and aesthetic.

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What is “Cropsey?”

Urban legends are nothing new. Almost every town has one to call their own. But sometimes a legend has roots in reality. Maybe that’s the case with Cropsey?

Growing up on Staten Island, children had often heard the legend of ‘Cropsey.’ For the kids in their neighborhood, Cropsey was the escaped mental patient who lived in the old abandoned Willowbrook Mental Institution, who would come out late at night and snatch children off the streets. Sometimes Cropsey had a hook for a hand, other times he wielded a bloody axe. Cropsey was always out there waiting to get them.

Later as teenagers, filmmakers Joshua and Barbara assumed Cropsey was just an urban legend: a cautionary tale used to keep them out of those abandoned buildings. That all changed in the summer of 1987 when a 13-year-old girl with Down syndrome, named Jennifer Schweiger, disappeared from their community. That was the summer all the kids from Staten Island discovered that their urban legend was real.

Now as adults Joshua and Barbara have returned to Staten Island to create Cropsey, a feature documentary that delves into the mystery behind Jennifer and four additional missing children. The film also investigates Andre Rand, the real-life boogeyman linked to their disappearances. Embarking on a mysterious journey into the underbelly of their forgotten borough, these filmmakers uncover a reality that is more terrifying than any urban legend.

Without digging too deeply into the subject, there doesn’t seem to be much information on the net regarding the subject of Cropsey, but there is plenty of stuff on convicted killer, Andre Rand. The trailer tries to play on the audience’s consciousness of fear and ends up looking like a bad episode of “Ghost Hunters.” The details of the case and what really happened on those streets in the late 80’s is more interesting to me than investigating something that is obviously no more than an urban legend. So if it sticks with that and doesn’t try to give us too much “Blair Witchiness”, I think this could be a potentially interesting a worthwhile look at a (serial?) killer and the grip of panic he held on the area.

We’ve stuck the trailer beneath the seats here; plus, the Official site has all sorts of crazy and highly detailed information on the subject if you’re interested further.
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