The Toll follows a rideshare driver and his passenger as they get lost on a back road. When the car breaks down, the passenger begins to question her driver's motives as the driver questions strange happenings around the car. Soon they come under attack from an entity seeking a "toll".
The Toll Review
The Toll is another perfect example of an unfortunate divide between concept and execution. I have long been a proponent of the perspective that the quality of a film can waver if the originality is there in the story. And while I still hold to that point, I have felt a bit of frustration begin to emerge with this film through the simple term of "wasted opportunity".
The Toll created a very interesting entity to me. (I am going to attempt to reveal nothing that isn't mentioned in the trailer, but a slight spoiler warning is worth noting.) It's essentially a supernatural being that senses coming death and it attempts to intercept the person before death to take the death for itself. And while I think that is an engrossing concept, the execution is scatterbrained, directionless, and visually weak.
It was hard to narrow down exactly the means by which the entity operates to achieve its end goal. With the advantage of hindsight following the climax, much of the entity's use of interactive hallucinations are inevitably pointless. The film seemed committed to making some parallels to trauma following an assault, but instead of feeling intertwined with the plot, it becomes senseless and disconnected. The twist ends up dismantling everything that was built rather than bringing it all together. The film, from my perspective, would have been better off wrapping up without a twist at all.
Sadly, even the journey to get to the (to me) controversial conclusion is weak. The visuals are rarely unsettling and often feel like cheap knockoffs of better films (the movie it primarily reminded me of was The Windmill). The entity's design isn't approached with much freshness or ingenuity. It wasn't particularly scary (because it was too familiar) and it felt like an example of a production staff struggling to come up with something inventive with a limited budget.
There is something inevitably inconsequential about the whole thing, which feels like such a waste of an interesting idea. The performances aren't to blame, as I think the two leads (Jordan Hayes and Max Topplin) do a great job of building this weird dynamic between trust and suspicion that ebbs and flows throughout the runtime. It wasn't enough to keep me from disappointment, as I couldn't help but feel like The Toll took too many wrong turns on its unpaved road.
Horror Rating System
Horror Qualifier: 9/10
Horror Quality: 5/10
Film Quality: 4/10