I had a conversation earlier this morning with some fellow Modern Horrors staffers about the conveniences of modern filmmaking. Cameras, microphones, and post production software are all better and more affordable than they have ever been. I’m sure that’s why there is no shortage of micro budget horror films these days. A few thousand dollars and a trip to your local Best Buy is really all it takes before you can consider yourself a bonafide filmmaker. Or is it?  You can have the greatest gear in the world, but if you have no vision, or style, or passion – none  of that really matters. That’s what lead me to Expressway to Your Skull. Writer/Director Michael Okum’s budgetary constraints are often apparent in his feature film debut, but there’s no denying the man’s passion or vision.

The film follows a young couple that takes an impromptu trip to the forrest to “get back to nature”. It’s never really made clear why they’re going off the grid (other than some vague stuff happening with the boyfriend), but none of that matters. They’re there, and they have a backpack full of weed and mushrooms. What could possibly go wrong, right? As you may imagine, shit goes south for our nature-loving couple, but not in the ways you may think. There’s no local legend parading around in a goofy mask with a pitchfork, no native american creatures or werwolves stalking them through the trees, and no nearby haunted cemetery leaking paranormal entities into the woods. Just a man.

I’ve always been a fan of stories where real people do bad shit to other real people. Something about them always seem plausible no matter what backdrop they’re placed in front of. That’s (mostly) the case in Expressway to Your Skull. A great deal of the film’s marketing is directed towards this being a “trippy” film, and I’m not so sure that’s the case. Yes, there are some vibrant colored transition animations, and the main characters do go on the hunt for mushrooms once they find themselves disappointed with their own stash – but that’s far from the crutch of this film.

In my opinion, any time Expressway to Your Skull begins to lose its footing or direction, Mark Aaron (Charlie) firmly places it back on the track of horrifying realism. Not to discredit the other leads, but this would have been a drastically different experience if not for the performance turned in by Aaron. While the story may plod along from time to time – stick with it – the finale is truly tense. I found myself holding my breath, listening to every sound, and reading the lips of two people in desperate need of help. This one scene colored the lens in which I now see the film through.

This isn’t a standard horror movie, at least not by today’s standards. Expressway’s subject matter, film style, musical composition, and overall vibe would fit much better in the 1970’s; in a smoky video store next to Wes Craven’s Last House on the Left or Michael Winner’s The Sentinel. If you’re into that type of thing, then this one’s for you. If not – I say check it out for the final act alone.

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