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THE DARKNESS OF THE ROAD (2021)
Directed and written by Eduardo Rodriguez.
Starring Najarra Townsend, Gwyneth Glover, Leah Lauren, Johnny Whitworth, Paris Dylan
Siri (THE STYLIST’s Najarra Townsend) is a down and out single mother, traveling across country with her daughter to start a new life anywhere but where they were. When Siri stops at a gas station, she runs into a hitchhiker named Iris (Leah Lauren) who helps Siri get her piece of shit car started in exchange for a ride. But once the two get down the road a piece, Siri realizes her child in the backseat is gone. With a broken-down car and darkness surrounding them, Siri and Iris realize there is something truly terrifying circling their car, but that’s not going to stop Siri from finding her daughter.
THE DARKNESS OF THE ROAD is a decent enough movie. It’s got well timed scares, capable effects that are only hinted at through the thick darkness, and a capable lead in Townsend. There are numerous moments of tension and suspense that pay off, showing that director Eduardo Rodriquez has done his homework in how to make a decent horror movie. There are some great creepy scenes with a monster that looks like a skinwalker of some sort circling the broken down car, a gnarly looking old guy, and a doll with a face only a blind person could love. All of these prove to be fun elements of what felt like a cross between THE HITCHER by way of SOUTHBOUND.
But instead of keeping things visceral and grounded, the story begins to unravel into a nightmare realm for Siri and all logic seems to go out the window. The film becomes for like a waking nightmare, more interested in shocking the viewer with jarring transitions than telling an original, cohesive story. The problem with THE DARKNESS OF THE ROAD occurs right at the beginning as the opening quote basically reveals the ending of the film. Had the movie not begun with those words, I think this might have worked for me. But because the opening line, accompanied by a very telling image of a woman with a gun to her head, it’s pretty evident where the film is going. And when you figure out the hook of the film in the opening seconds, it makes for an arduous journey to make it to the end credits. Taking on a more JACOB’S LADDER approach really doesn’t do the story any favors and had the film simply started out without these ominous words and imagery, I think it would have made the end reveal surprising and shocking.
As is, this is a well-acted film. Najarra Townsend is a fascinating actress to watch, though she is ten times as good in CONTRACTED and THE STYLIST. The locale is nice and creepy, and when the monster is in the shadows, it works! I just wish the director had chosen to be a little less revealing about the ending in the opening moments. It doesn’t need that artsy quote that has been overused in too many movies. I think in polishing this film with a bit of sizzle at the beginning, it in actuality dulled the rest of THE DARKNESS OF THE ROAD.