Written and directed by lead actor Riley Cusick, twin brothers running a haunted house and an aspiring actress are all affected by the disappearance of a young girl. Also starring: Lorelei Linklater, Justin Meeks, Lar Park-Lincoln, George Welder, Maddy-Lea Hendrix, Ranger Lerway and Jonas Lerway.
The idea of twin brothers who run a haunted house, have a dark past and unusual personalities, sounds like catnip for horror fans, especially adding in that one of them has a penchant for wearing an owl mask. It’s a great concept which holds huge potential for something twisted and violent but unfortunately, it doesn’t make the most of that. It stays within fairly simplistic lines and there’s a lot of avenues that it doesn’t even attempt to go down. One of the big problems is that it doesn’t have a grip on the darkness which its story holds, primarily that it revolves around Vincent (Cusick) who doesn’t feel fully committed to his sinister side. The writing mixes his taste for violence with a protective, loving nature and creates a balance that doesn’t quite work. It does also stumble in places, with a few clumsy additions and huge layers of emotion which are entirely glossed over.
Cusick’s direction, along with Carson Bailie’s cinematography, struggles to build a more menacing atmosphere. The colour palette is surprisingly bright, everything is too clear cut, capturing an everyday feel and missing out on bridging the gaps where the story falls short. There are a few nice nods here and there to iconic horror, one to Final Destination is particularly satisfying but that love for horror doesn’t permeate the rest of the film. The simplicity of it doesn’t allow for building a suspense or tension.
On the other hand Riley Cusick’s performance is solid throughout, it’s fairly toned down but he separates his two characters well. They each have different qualities and he creates distinct personas, as well as a convincing brother relationship, which he definitely gets a lot of credit for having done when playing both brothers himself. Lorelei Linklater gives a great performance too, she creates a character who’s easy to follow and sympathetic, and also has a good personality. It would have been great to see the story framed more from her perspective to feed into that outsider in a small town theme.
Autumn Road is unfortunately a case of great concept but lacking execution. The story has a lot of potential but it feels as though they just couldn’t quite get to grips with the darkness and violence to really bring it out of its shell. The acting is consistent and easy to watch but it can’t hold up against the holes in the story and its reluctance to explore the different layers of emotion and desires at work. It also visually played things much too safe and missed out on bringing some edge and tension to the experience.