Down the Road (2011)
Directed by Jason Christopher
In writer/director Jason Christopher's Down the Road we meet loving father Hunter Isth (Gallagher), who tragically witnesses his daughter viciously run down by a drunken teenager who doesn't even see the girl because his beer goggles are so thick. Haunted by the devastating events, Isth takes off, only to become the subject of local legend as teenagers for years speculate Isth haunts the woods near his home looking for young victims to inflict his rage upon.
We then fast-forward to present day in Down the Road, where we meet Jenn (Dance), a troubled girl who has just been released from an extensive stay at what we are led to believe is a mental hospital (through references made by Howard, who portrays Jenn's doctor). As soon as she gets home, she's immediately dragged out for a weekend camping trip with friends, which turns out to be a bad idea (in horror movies, that's pretty much par for the course) when Isth shows up to put an end to their fun... permanently.
In his feature film debut Christopher does an admirable job of creating a compelling, straightforward look at the torment of one man and how it manifests through his murderous acts in Down the Road. Gallagher as Isth delivers a strong performance as the film's villain although the ultimate showdown between him and one of the survivors left me a little underwhelmed. Christopher, though, managed to work through the downplaying of the final showdown between good and evil by giving a great twist ending that definitely felt like an homage to some of the great slasher films of the 70s and 80s.
Most of the victims Christopher assembled for Down the Road were pretty much what you'd expect on the independent level of cinema. As our lead, Dance does a decent enough job carrying the film, and the rest of the group of teenagers deliver serviceable performances, but I think I would have enjoyed the overall film more had there been some stronger actors put into the key roles (Gallagher being exempt from that- he's great here).
The cinematography work by Joseph Hennigan in Down the Road is some really great stuff as he found a way to make even the serenest of setting crawl underneath your skin, and the score by Gene Micofsky was definitely refreshing work as well. The editing, though, by Christopher and Matthew Lauyer could have used a little more work as a lot of the transitions felt a bit choppy and jarring to the story. But overall for a micro-budget indie horror flick, Down the Road is definitely one of the stronger films I've seen this year.
And while Down the Road doesn't necessarily bring anything new to the table within the context of the horror genre, Christopher proves here as a storyteller that he is someone to keep an eye on in the future because once he gets a decent budget and really gets a grasp on filmmaking, he's going to be someone who should no doubt leave a mark on the independent horror scene. Minor flaws aside, Down the Road is a rather admirable feature film debut from Christopher, and I look forward to seeing what's 'down the road' for the filmmaker and this story alike (pun absolutely intended!).
3 out of 5