Most of us have heard something or another about the Dark Web. If you haven’t it’s probably a good thing. It is the part of the internet that lurks beneath the surface with no regulation and total anarchy. Much like the fictional market Amber Road (2022), the Dark Web supports trading-posts that push illicit items anonymously and for lots of money, including the most depraved and explicit material. Life is cheap… really cheap. Put simply it’s a giant black market that even the most advanced law enforcement struggles to keep in check.
Amber Road – Koa Aloha Media
This leads me into the latest movie I had the opportunity of viewing, Amber Road produced by Koa Aloha Media, from Huntington Beach, California. At Malevolent Dark, it’s our first time reviewing stuff from this studio. We appreciate them reaching out with this opportunity as they have a pretty compelling pipeline of material. Koa Aloha, if you are listening, sign us up for Herbert West: Reanimator!
This movie takes on a slightly different angle of the use of the Dark Web plot device. To date many overleverage the cringe factor of torture to drive the narrative. The term “Torture Porn” springs to mind. Movies like Red Room, Hostel and Deep Web XXX are prime examples of these. Amber Road does its best to bring much more to the table. It relies more on plot development than most and strikes a good balance between the narrative and the extreme violence that it portrays. Amber Road crosses real world Silk Road drama with a bucket of blood.
Amber Road is a hidden place in the digital universe where anything can be bought, sold and traded. Anything.
It is a place where a person can fulfill their darkest desire or unleash their deepest depravity. And once you travel down that path, there comes a point where you can never return.
— Amber Road tagline
A tangled web of revenge and deception
Directed by B. Luciano Barsuglia, Amber Road displays the complexity of relationships in the shady underground enterprise of Dark Web business. We see not only the shady side of the business that provides these nefarious services, but the so-called principled people that ignore the real world costs as they consume them. As the film unravels this deceptive web, the audience quickly learns that not all is what it seems. Barsuglia asks the question, is anyone in this game really a victim?
The film plot involves a the wife of a police officer, a police officer herself. Recently, criminals kidnapped and tortured her husband to death. Distraught, she stays in touch with the case through periodic updates with the investigation team. On another thread, a masked female tortures a couple while the whole affair is streamed online. Amber Road, an underground marketplace run by Hades (Robert LaSardo), Pluto (Tom Sizemore) and Atropos (Crystal Huang), learns that the masked torturer is stealing money from them.
Like an unholy onion, Amber Road peels back layer by layer revealing new relationships, characters and motives. Ultimately Barsuglia unveils a interwoven cycle of revenge that should resonate well with fans of the Saw franchise.
So yeah, the plot of Amber Road runs deep, but in the gore and violence department, it’s no walk in the park. Films of this type confront violence up close, personal and painstakingly slow. These images can be so powerful that even off screen, the crunching of bone, the “snikt” of hedge shears and the bellows of pain cause the audience to squirm. Amber Road high-steps into this hyper-realistic and violent territory. Long-story short, this film delivers the goods for those that came for the splatter.
From a pure cinematography perspective, the film does put off a boxy soap opera vibe. It tends to suffer a from a stark digital presentation that robs some of the scenes of depth. Quite frankly, it’s something we have been seeing a lot of. We did however notice that this quality creates a bit of oppressive claustrophobia, especially in the torture scenes. Whether driven by artistic vision or budget, it does feel a bit fatiguing over the 87 minute runtime. It’s important to add that between Barsuglia and his Assistant Director, Andrew Roberts do make effective use of intensely colored frames to add a bit of flair.
For second time in short succession we get a look at Tom Sizemore. He plays a small role, but it’s still great to see him flourishing in the horror world. Anyone familiar with our recent reviews recognize that name Robert LaSardo. Again, LaSardo plays a small role, but his versatility and penchant for tough guy comedy have quickly escalated him on our list of horror/action favorites. Another flash to the past comes in the form of Vernon Wells, famous for starring across Arnold Schwarzenegger in Commando (1985) as the mustachioed villain, Bennet. This time Vernon Wells plays a slightly less menacing Sheriff in Amber Road.
Bigger roles in this film include Emma (Elissa Dowling) and Pauline (Rachel Riley). Both are seasoned actors that take charge lead the movie. The supporting cast does a great job supporting the story. Among those names, we have been seeing a lot of BJ Mezek lately. He recently starred in Night of the Tommyknockers (2022) and Death Count (2022). Janet Wang performs admirably as the center-piece of a drawn out gorefest.
Overall this is one of the better Dark Web thrillers. In support of independent horror studios, this one deserves a look. The producers deserve praise for taking the time to develop the complicated underworld politics of the Dark Web. This extra plot development provides a backbone to what could have easily descended into to cheap torture porn. To be perfectly clear, if you dig the unfettered violence of torture porn, Amber Road contains scenes that make the squeamish crumble, but the plot is broader and the story has depth, and for that it’s a better movie.
According to Koa Aloha media, horror fans should look to the following dates for the North American release: