“The Darkness of the Road” Scares and Surprises Off the Beaten Path

Everyone likes a good road movie. They tend to be character-driven with a tighter focus on emotional, intimate situations, drifting moment to moment at times and less tied to the mechanics of a point-by-point plot structure. A good road flick also gives us a glimpse into the types of personalities we’ve encountered before but at the specific vulnerable point of transit between whatever they’re leaving behind and their destination, whether predetermined or into parts unknown.

Eduardo Rodriguez’s Darkness of the Road is of the latter as we meet a woman, Siri (Najarra Townsend), as she drives along a road at night with her daughter Eve (Gwyneth Glover) asleep in the back seat. They’re heading somewhere better than the place they left. Siri stops at an old gas station to refuel and encounters a hitchhiker (Leah Lauren) who then asks for a ride. Later that night, Eve disappears from the car. Siri has to find out where she went and how she vanished. A storm creeps towards them as the seemingly endless twilight colors the sky with darkness, and she notices that she’s not alone, as shapes move in the darkness around her threatening her and her daughter’s safety.

Darkness isn’t perfect by any means whatsoever, but the atmosphere of it all is quite potent. It knows when to move on and how to keep its audience engaged. It uses its small cast (which you can count on one hand) wisely and its limited, claustrophobic setting amplifies the personal terror on display. Almost every facet of production is firing on all cylinders. Rodriguez tends to throw more than he needs from his bag of tricks into his scripts but something in Darkness of the Road’s makeup suggests tasteful restraint; I found myself cheering at a certain point then, in quick turnaround preparing to groan, but the film pulled itself back. It was a pleasant and surprising experience to say the least, but the film is not without its own personal trauma.

Some viewers might find the content of this trauma triggering or upsetting. There is a moderate level of visual depictions of self-harm on display, but the nature of the film is such that these moments are well telegraphed in advance, sometimes in clever ways. The treatment of said fragile content therein points to a certain understanding and sensitivity that lots of alike genre filmmakers should take note of. The depiction of the film’s traumatic events manage to carry the appropriate dramatic weight without transferring its inherently harrowing nature directly to the viewer. It successfully illustrates its inconceivably frightening implications at just the right distance that it remains an entertaining and overall enjoyable experience for those who come to see it.

The Darkness of the Road premieres on DVD and digital video platforms Tuesday, December 14 from Uncork’d Entertainment.

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90s kid raised by cartoon movie wolves. Twitter: @demonidisco letterboxd.com/HamburgerHarry

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90s kid raised by cartoon movie wolves. Twitter: @demonidisco letterboxd.com/HamburgerHarry

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