A socially awkward driver and a weary passenger try to make it to their destination while being haunted by a supernatural threat.
Starring: Jordan Hayes, Max Topplin, and James McGowan
Directed and written by: Michael Nader
No matter what “The Toll” is people don't want to pay it, and there's no expectation to that here. Cami (Jordan Hayes) has just landed after a long trip, and gets into a ridesharing car driven by Spencer (Max Topplin). She tells him to head to her father’s place, which seems to be in the middle of nowhere. As they drive, Spencer continues to try and make conversation while Cami would prefer to just rest. She does actually snooze off for a short time, but wakes just in time to see Spencer take a suspicious turn. She questions him about it, but the GPS seems to say that’s the way to go.
As the two travel down a very dark road, a little tension grows between the two. It doesn’t help that Spencer stops the car thinking he hit something, but finding nothing on the road. When he tries to start the car again it won’t start leaving them stranded in the middle of nowhere. Not totally trusting Spencer, Cami decides to take her luggage and head down the road. Before she knows it she oddly ends up back at the car. Now the two end up stuck in the car together, not really trusting the other, and certain that someone is watching them.
At one point in the film “The Strangers” is mentioned, and just like that movie, this one has so much to like about it. The set up is great because it puts the audience in a situation many can relate to. It tackles the fear that many have getting in a rideshare vehicle, and ups it by making it just two people driving off in the middle of the night to nowhere but darkness. Some might expect the passenger to be the only scared one, but the driver has some concerns as well. Without knowing it, the two give each other reasons to mistrust the other, even having conversations about being a serial killer.
Enter the Toll Man (Daniel Harroch), who feasts on the fear they’ve created. Through the entire film, he helps push the mistrust between the two back and forth. The Toll Man actually becomes a bit creative in trying to separate the two the longer the film goes and more of the supernatural takes place. He also preys on their past life experiences, and takes them back visually to haunt the pair. This just ups the fear in each of them, especially when they find it hard to escape without paying the toll.
No spoilers as to who, if anyone, actually pays the toll. Instead lets continue with more of the great stuff this film offers. It’s dark and the two are facing a supernatural entity in its territory so of course there are going to be some scares. Being sort of trapped in the car creates some early chances to scare. Then when they decide to explore the forest the Toll Man plays with their minds. As mentioned above, he brings back people and memories of their past. There’s a good mix of creepiness and a few scares here as well. It hits the mark when they’re confronted by a bunch of hooded figures. This leads the way to a pretty dramatic, yet maybe not totally surprising ending.
Horror fans sometimes can expect a lot out of their films, and “The Toll” tries to give them as much as it can. It starts with a familiar premise of ridesharing, and takes aim at the fear this situation creates. It gives the audience two characters who don’t trust each other, and the audience might not trust them either. The Toll Man plays on this fear, and past experiences bringing in some good scares and plenty of creepiness. The film is going to go at its own pace to draw in a sense of doom, and give the audience an uneasy atmosphere the entire time. The ending might not be a total shocker, but there’s enough good built in by this point that it doesn’t take anything away from the film. Also, Jordan and Max are great at keeping these characters on edge, and handling everything that’s happening to them. With that, I give it 4 pools of blood, and would happily pay a toll to see a prequel to the Toll Man’s story!