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Tuesday, April 6, 2021

Review: The Toll


Director: Michael Nader

Screenplay: Michael Nader

Year: 2021

All of us who have used some ride-sharing service at least a few times have had the experience of coinciding with a strange driver that makes us think the worst about our own security. You can also argue that my constant exposure to horror cinema exacerbates the paranoia levels, clearly unfounded (I’m still alive, everyone). What can’t be denied is that it must be terrifying to lay stranded in a solitary forest with a driver that doesn’t inspire trust and that on top of everything, supernatural stuff starts happening around you.

Cami requests a ride to get from the airport to her father’s house. The diver is a young, socially awkward guy who raises all of Cami’s alarms. The driver attempts to get Cmi to her destination when the car malfunctions in the middle of a forest. Soon they discover that there is a supernatural force stalking them and to escape they must pay the toll.

From the initial scenes, the director Michael Nader (“Head Count”) leads us to suspect about the strange driver as he chooses a passenger to pick up. While we get to know Spencer and his dynamic with Cami, we see that he is socially awkward and effectively takes us to the ambiguous scenario where we are not sure if there is something strange with Spencer or if Cami is overreacting. It doesn’t matter; soon, the attention is moved to a greater danger.

Once Spencer and Cami are stranded in the middle of the forest, they start experiencing supernatural events, like being unable to escape the area where the car broke down, seeing apparitions, and being attacked. In this stretch, the movie feels like a weird mashup between “Slender Man” and “The Strangers”, this last one which is referenced, with a paranormal scenario that seems to have come from an episode of “The Twilight Zone”. Without being all that original, the jump scares, and other horror elements effectively provide some scary moments and keep the viewer’s attention.

The plot develops in a good rhythm, and the acting from Jordan Hayes (“House at the End of the Street”) and Max Topplin (“Carrie”), along with Nader’s direction, create realistic chemistry that makes you interested in the protagonists. The mystery surrounding them is undoubtedly intriguing, but the viewer’s main motivation is to discover how they both will escape this situation. To close with a bang, the final stretch holds a few unexpected surprises.

“The Toll” makes the most out of the fear many people have about running into a serial killer while sharing a ride and combines it with a supernatural aspect that ends up as an entertaining horror movie. Although the story is not that original, it is well constructed, and both the plot and the horror are effective. If you have ever considered what it will be like to be trapped in an Uber with a strange driver in a situation that seems to have come out of a “The Twilight Zone” episode, “The Toll” is the movie for you.

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