Jake Gray (Ackles) is having disturbing visions of murder and mutilation. Leave it to his buddies, Dakota (Swain) and Conrad (Grant), to turn him on to a computer game online as a means of stress release. Jake’s visions start taking place soon after, with consequences in stark reality. Jake turns to the goth chick, Marisol (Sossamon), to explain the occult and reveal the secrets behind the game and his mysterious past.
Jake’s issues are told through internal dialogue, converted to voiceover track. He’s introduced when he’s out hunting mountain cats. Then he heads off to the college campus where he quickly chats with the stoner, the black rapper jock and the hot chick.
Soon, Jake’s off at work, where a subpar bit of dialogue introduces Marisol and his jerk-of-a-boss. Marisol strolls in, dizzier than a carousel horse, and reveals that she does Tarot readings and burns wax. Jake, of course, has a premonition about her. At this point in the film, Jake’s premonitions only apply to characters who matter. That helps sort out the red shirts from the real characters.
In addition to introducing the characters, Act One teaches one important lesson: stoners can’t fight.
It’s not long before Jake steps into The Pathway, the online adventure that has him really seeing things quickly. He also develops his relationship with Marisol when he gets canned from work unfairly. As of turning 21, things are going straight to hell for Jake. He’s seeing demons, out of a job, stuck in a dead-end life and the perfect candidate for recruitment by the forces behind the pathway.
(As an aside, the coolest thing about Jake’s room is the Division poster he has on the wall.)
Within 24 hours, The Pathway gets Jake revenge on his jerk-of-a-boss, and laid by the hot blonde bimbo. Not a bad start for a guy who was scraping the bottom of the barrel. Through the experiences of Jake’s friends, viewers see just where the Pathway leads.
The lesson in Act Two is obvious: The Devil is a woman. Well, duh.
Lost between reality and his totally fucked up visions, Jake has to rely on every source imaginable to get out of the game he’s played since before he knew. In the end, the answers he seeks aren’t so far away after all. The conclusion is not exactly shocking, and leaves viewers asking how much of the film was reality, and how much was just Jake’s visions.
Ackles does a solid job of holding down his character and keeping the film grounded as his friends and family start disappearing. The moments of family interaction are the strongest, including a convincing conflict between Jake and his father. Stadler comes in over halfway through to amplify the talent level and provide insight into the dark arts. None of the other supporting cast is particularly challenged in their limited roles, and no one stands out as particularly spectacular or awful as a result.
Joseph LoDuca provides a smooth score to offset the grainy feel of much of the movie. The soundtrack also features Machines of Loving Grace, an often overlooked band whose biggest moment may have been their song, “Golgotha Tenement Blues” on the soundtrack to “The Crow”.
The DVD extras are previews and scene selection. Not much to offer on a 90 minute film. The audio track is Dolby 5.1 with the option for English or French subtitles.