It is rare for a movie that is being released in 2022 to be original or to execute something that hasn’t been done yet. However, when taking concepts that have been around and widely done for the past 20 or so years in horror, and meshing them slightly with a new take on the same genre while not doing anything new is an odd choice. Does Amber Road still have something to say? Not particularly, but does it mesh part Hostile and Terrifier with part Unfriended, Searching and Fear dot com, absolutely. If that description is something that, at the bare minimum, interests you, then Amber Road certainly delivers on some fronts. However, it is a lack of explanation and exploration of chaos that results in this interesting idea for a wide turn ending up on the shoulder of the highway.
The film focuses on a website, Amber Road, which is on the dark web where you can buy anything as nothing is off limits. There are a trio of lunatics who profit off of these morbid and terrifying acts on Amber Road, consisting of Hades (Robert LaSardo), Pluto (Tom Sizemore), and Atropos (Crystal J. Huang). They focus on fulfilling votes of how people are tortured and killed and profit off of the deaths, and seem quite proud of themselves for funding this venture.
Torture master Pauline (Rachel Riley) follows the orders of the trio and implements the purchased torture onto seeming normal people, like James (William McNamara) and Mary (Janet Wang), who find themselves tied to chairs as new “guests” of this sick twisted game.
The biggest issue with Amber Road comes from B. Luciano Barsuglia’s script as he also directs the film and it appears that he may have bitten off a little more than he can chew. There is nothing elementally wrong with the direction of the film as it is competently directed. It is the script where some questions come into play. There is a lot going on and there seem to be too many characters to keep track of throughout the rather short run time. While we have our main trio of evil; their executioner; and the newest set of victims; we also have a cop, Emma (Elissa Dowling), who’s trying to figure out how her husband’s murder is tied into some child killings; and a PI, Jonas (Hans Hernke), who’s hired by the FBI to investigate this as he seems to know more than he should. With the script having to juggle its myriad of characters, focusing less on the mystery of whose doing what and more why its being done, there is a lot of exposition and messiness that unfolds with it ultimately being a moral question. While I am not opposed to moral dilemmas in movies, ones of this nature are more eye-roll inducing that engaging. It’s a borderline torture porn film exploring the deepest natures of the dark web. It is not meant to be a deep thinker about which lengths are appropriate to go to in seeking the figurative eye for an eye. There are other facets of the dark web that could pose this question and do it more effectively, but creating snuff films for profit (which is essentially what the internet trio is doing) should not be the moral question being raised.
Amber Road tries to do the torture porn genre while not leaning too heavily into it, making it an ample film for audiences who are looking to get a bit squeamish while not crossing the line of absolute no- return. However, when it does lean into that torture genre, it yields some lukewarm results. Seeing where the practical effects are fake prosthetics with blood packs attached to them to create the gory results, does take the audience slightly out of the film even though we know, as a fact, these actors aren’t in reality being tortured.
As well, Robert LaSardo, Tom Sizemore, Crystal J. Huang, William McNamara, Janet Wang, Rachel Riley, Elissa Dowling and Hans Hernke, are all giving very mild performances throughout the movie. None of them stand out as over-the-top or career-defining performances, and not one stands out with everything performance-wise feeling very paint-by-the-numbers. While no one delivers anything memorable, it does appear they are having fun with the chaos evoked on screen and enjoyed themselves while film making, which is always a bonus.
Amber Road, written and directed by B. Luciano Barsuglia, has an identity crisis as it cannot figure out where it wants to land itself and does not pick a specific genre to identify with. However, with its capable directing and mix of the torture porn genre and mystery, it blends enough to captivate a wider audience. While the torture fans will surely be disappointed by the minimal amount of torture, there still is enough to make audiences a little squeamish. Amber Road is the more independent version of dark web thrillers, with a splash of Saw and Terrifier levels of blood and guts.
World Premiere December 3rd, 2022.
AlohaStream Exclusive December 25th, 2022.
Available Blu-ray and DVD January 10th, 2023.
Available on VOD January 30th, 2023.
For more information, head to Koa Aloha Media’s Amber Road webpage.
Final Score: 3 out of 5.