Off Ramp [Boston Underground Film Festival Review]

To those of us who are not part of it, the world of the Juggalos can seem strange, scary, and maybe even a bit intriguing. Fans of the rap group Insane Clown Posse are known for their face makeup, rowdy behavior, and love of Faygo soda. Off Ramp, which screened as part of the 2024 Boston Underground Film Festival, gives viewers a peek inside the mindset of the Juggalos, telling a story that’s part buddy comedy, part horror-thriller, part clown show. I’ve never seen anything quite like it.

Trey (Jon Oswald) is a Juggalo who has just gotten out of prison. All he wants to do is get his life on a normal path and attend the annual Gathering of the Juggalos festival in Ohio. He and longtime best friend Silas (Scott Turner Schofield) hop in a van and start driving. A series of misadventures awaits. They include a run-in with a shady conservative “family values” sheriff, a scuffle with a cop, and a detour to the home of old friend Scarecrow (Jared Bankens), a weirdo who forces his sister Eden (Ashley Smith) to pump breast milk for him to drink.

Universal

The wild antics are accompanied by Trey’s voiceover, wherein he unloads nuggets of Juggalo wisdom. Of the Gathering, he says it’s “like adult summer camp where all the counselors huff nitrous” and “all are invited to openly shit in garbage cans.” Material like that is very funny, as is the dynamic between Trey and Silas. As an onscreen duo, Oswald and Schofield play off each other naturally, building a friendship between their characters that’s weirdly charming.

For most of its running time, Off Ramp is quirky. Then it gets to the third act, where several very extreme things happen – things that would be offensive in any other context. I was shocked by some of the material. And yet, it’s okay here because Insane Clown Posse and their fans are, by nature, extreme. That’s part of the image. Boundaries of good taste are pushed as part of the bonding ritual. In that sense, the film is incredibly true to the spirit of the Juggalos, despite intermittent good-natured satire of them.

Director Nathan Tape gives Off Ramp energy and style, immersing viewers in the rundown houses, dingy convenience stores and restaurants, and trash-littered backyards where the story unfolds. Regardless of how you feel about the Juggalos, the movie offers an insightful portrait of a disaffected American subculture.


Off Ramp is unrated, but contains strong language, drug use, sexual content, and graphic violence. The running time is 1 hour and 31 minutes.


© 2024 Mike McGranaghan