Psychological horror films have always been a thing, but now they are more prevalent than ever. In 2020 alone, we had films like The Invisible Man, Antebellum, and Possessor. Now in 2021, we have another psychological horror movie in our hands: The Toll. I would love to say that it ranks among the best of the subgenre, and its central concept has a lot of potential. But for everything that works on paper, the final result fails to capitalize on most of it.
The film follows Cami (Jordan Hayes) and Spencer (Max Topplin). Cami has just landed back home in Michigan after a flight that was delayed immensely due to a storm, and Spencer is a very awkward Uber driver. Spencer is driving Cami to the house of her father Neil (James McGowan) deep in the middle of nowhere. Through a phone conversation with her mother Andrea (Sharon McFarlane), you find out Cami’s parents are divorced and so is she.
While on their way to Neil’s house, Spencer takes a detour he claims his Uber app gave him. Spencer’s car stops running, and all of their electronics die. After quite literally walking in circles, the two realize they are stuck in a twilight zone they can’t escape. After a bit of psychological torment, they see an old woman named Lorraine (Rosemary Dunsmore) and learn what the toll is. One or both must die to get away from the Toll Man.
The Toll at least has the benefit of nailing the aesthetics. The cinematography from Jordan Kennington is incredible and helps with the fear factor of the movie. This film doesn’t rely on jump scares, which is refreshing. The film genuinely reaches into your psyche and makes you question everything you see in the movie. From how the camera moves to how the Toll Man tries to feed into their fears is very interesting. The psychology of the film carries it in almost every way possible. The score from Torin Borrowdale also helped the fear factor of the film. It was extremely creepy and made your skin crawl a bit.
The acting performances from Hayes and Topplin also helped carry the film. The whole entire cabin in the woods scene is bone-chilling. It’s also going to be triggering for a lot of people, it’s deep and actually my favorite portion of the journey. It delves pretty deep into the psyche and makes you look at why the characters are the way they are.
Meanwhile, the film struggles when it comes to the script. It’s not enough that the dialogue is bad, they set up the film with minimal information. Sure, you find out more as they go through the Toll Man’s mental torture, and you see why Spencer is the way he is. The film’s potential is there though, and you see it all the way until the end. However, the ending of this movie retcons everything the movie built in the first hour. It’s disappointing, to say the least.
Overall, I appreciate this film for what it wanted to be. There was a beautiful effort to make a really good horror film, and it was actually very interesting. But none of that matters when you have an ending that makes you want to say “really?”. I feel like it was a lazy way to conclude the narrative, and it ruined everything that made this film different. I admire The Toll for how it looks and sounds, but I wish I didn’t have to pay such a toll to get all of that. – Rascal F. Kennedy
Have you seen The Toll? Did you enjoy it? Leave a comment below!
The Toll is now in theaters and streaming VOD!