Amber Road (2022) Review
Amber Road, like Silk Road before is a site on the Dark Web where you can buy anything. As if to prove that the film opens with a man being tortured and killed for a paying audience. The trio who organized that show, Hades (Robert LaSardo, Night of the Tommyknockers, Section 8), Pluto (Tom Sizemore, Project Skyquake, Hustle Down), and Atropos (Crystal J. Huang, Latin Hitman, Demons at Dawn) are happy with the money they made off of it, and have something special planned for the next one.
Those plans may have something to do with the couple, James (William McNamara, Surviving the Game, Rottentail) and Mary (Janet Wang, Homewrecker, Bermuda Island), who find themselves strapped down and under Pauline’s (Rachel Riley, The Black Room, The Electric Man) knife, and other instruments of torture.
When writer/director B. Luciano Barsuglia (Impact Event, Social Distance) offered me the screener for Amber Road I was a little hesitant. The film’s Hostel on the Dark web plot gave off serious torture porn vibes, and that’s far from my favourite genre. However he’s added other layers to the plot and giving Amber Road a crime thriller edge as well.
Much of this involves Emma (Elissa Dowling, Girl on the Third Floor, We Are Still Here), a cop conducting her own investigation into the murder of her husband. And into a string of child killings that seem to be connected to his death. Interestingly the script quickly reveals several elements a film like this would normaly keep under wraps. The mystery comes not from figuring out who is behind things as much as how they all are related.
There’s also a private investigater (Hans Hernke, Werewolves in Heat, Nest of Vampires) who seems to know a lot more than he should, hackers, the FBI, etc. It gets a bit hard to keep track of everyone at times. I was waiting for somebody to either reveal a hidden agenda or make a big discovery so there could be some killing and the cast get thinned out a bit. The film might have been a bit better off if a couple of the lesser characters had been dropped in favour of developing the others a bit more.
Much of Amber Road’s publicity has revovolved around its allegedly brutal and intense scenes of violence. There are quite a few painful looking scenes of torture, including several amputations and some dental damage that really got a response from me. Apart from a short bit towards the end, they’re all very well realized with practical effects. While it may not live up to the hype, it’s enough that most viewers will find themselves reacting more than once before it’s all over.
Surprisingly, Amber Road also left me with a few questions to ponder about the nature of good and evil, or maybe greater and lesser evil. There are a few interesting ideas a serious amount of moral ambiguity running through the film. It’s certainly not elevated horror, but it does have more depth than I expected. If there’s a followup it’ll be interesting to see where these issues lead.
While not particularly frightening, Amber Road is bloody and disturbing, there should be enough torture and gore to keep the Saw fans happy but with enough of an actual plot to satisfy others. There are also several twists along the way to help keep things interesting. As long as you don’t have a weak stomach you should find it a pleasantly unpleasant surprise.
Koa Aloha Media will premiere Amber Road on December 25th as an AlohaStream Exclusive. It will be available on Blu-ray and DVD on January 10th and on VOD and Digital platforms on January 30th. You can check their website and the film’s Facebook page for details.