Amber Road is a gruesome journey into the horrors of the dark web

by Ed Blackadder

In its marketing material the micro-budget movie Amber Road promises darkness, depravity, and deception, I couldn’t help wonder if it could possibly deliver.

And it does. Wow, does it deliver. For a movie made on a budget estimated around $60,000, it delivers at a pretty high level too. Does it reach Terrifier 2 levels of gore? No, not even close, but it does reach similar levels of cringe and look away moments.

Like most low budget and micro-budget movies, Amber Road has limitations, but with a speedy pace and a short runtime (clocking in at 87-minutes with credits), it is easy to look beyond the movie’s budgetary constraints and focus on the story and brutal violence before you.

There is a complex level of storytelling with two parallel timelines. First, we have Emma (Elissa Dowling) a deputy sheriff on bereavement, trying to work from the sidelines on her husband’s mysterious murder. Second, the story of a mortician named Pauline (Rachel Riley) who is torturing married couple James (William McNamara) and Mary (Janet Wang) at the bequest of dark web masterminds Pluto (Tom Sizemore), Hades (Robert LaSardo), and Atropos (Crystal J. Huang).

The familiar faces of Vernon Wells, Vincent M. Ward, and Mike Ferguson also make appearances. With its short runtime, the character list is a bit heavy to track, but this doesn’t interfere with the momentum as all the characters tie-in one way or another.

The story of Amber Road is complex but never feels convoluted. Furthermore, when the gore gets going it never truly lets up. There is plenty of tension whenever Pauline is on screen, so even if blood doesn’t spill, there is a looming threat that it could and that it will.

The acting is top-notch for an indie. The bigger names sike Sizemore and LaSardo, never feel like they are simply going through the motions and its nice to see them throughout the movie rather than one scene as so often happens with Sizemore in the indies. While Sizemore and LaSardo aren’t given the scenery to chew, both of the characters have a sinister feel and play important roles.

William McNamara is probably best known for his ominous role in Copycat opposite Sigourney Weaver. In Amber Road he plays alongside newcomer Janet Wang, as husband and wife James and Mary, who are tortured by the perfectly creepy Pauline (Rachel Riley).  McNamara and Wang give strong performances, especially considering that every single scene they are in has them tied and bound to wheelchairs, and often gagged. Both of them deliver performances that deliver the panicked desperation of their impossible situation.

Similar to movies like Hostel, Terrifier, and Saw, a movie with this much dismemberment and torture will have a limited, but specific audience. Amber Road has an intriguing mystery that holds the story together, yet splatters the screen with its fair share of gore that borders on torture-porn but lives in a world closer to Saw rather than Hostel and never journeys as far as Terrifier.

With that said, it should please the fans of all three. It builds a world with possibilities for more and if there were a sequel, well, I would watch it, and that should say enough.