If I told you that a road trip movie opening with one Juggalo yelling for another to “show me your butthole” and then dosing a cop with LSD wasn’t just good but great, you would likely assume I was a) lying, or b) being the kind of smirking “ironic” dumbass who thinks movies like Amityville Toilet and Sharknado are clever, or c) suffering a stroke. I am none of those things, but Nathan Tape’s Off Ramp is more than good. More than great even. This movie is utterly fantastic. It’s funny, it’s compelling, it’s sweet, and it’s deeply touching in a way it has zero right to be at first glance.

            Off Ramp is a tale of two Juggalos: Trey, recently released from a year long stretch in prison for assault and battery, and Silas, his best friend who he was defending in said assault and battery. Silas wants nothing more than for the two of them to pick back up where they left off by attending the yearly Gathering Of The Juggalos, the one place they don’t feel like outsiders. Trey however is wary of attending; he’s on his third strike with jail time and the next offense will land him a life sentence. Silas’ charm ultimately wins out and the two set off on a road trip through the seedy underbelly of rural Louisiana, a southern fried odyssey of self-discovery and misadventure filled with corrupt cops, vindictive redneck crime bosses, tantalizing trailer park princesses, and copious amounts of dark magic and LSD. Think Detroit Rock City via Gummo and Cheech And Chong’s Up In Smoke.

            Trey and Silas (portrayed by Jon Oswald and Scott Turner Schofield respectively) form the emotional core of this film, and it is tremendously effective. Bonded through mutual tragedy, theirs is a friendship that is a brotherhood in all but blood. What makes this depiction of a deep friendship so convincing is a sense of always loving one another but not always liking one another that actors bring to the roles. Trey clearly loves Silas but spends much of the movie at his wits end with him, and Oswald imbues the character with a believable exasperation at Silas’ antics. You get the feeling that Silas gets a pass from Trey for a lot that others absolutely wouldn’t. Schofield, on the other hand, creates the perfect foil to the brooding and levelheaded Trey in Silas, a sweetly vulnerable knucklehead you can’t help but immediately adore, just shy of being too much to handle but still absolutely loveable. His wanton hedonism is the yin to Trey’s hesitant yang, and the resulting chemistry is what carries this film. When you add Ashley Smith’s sexy but sweet Eden and Jared Banken’s sinister Scarecrow to the mix, you have the perfect blend for a story about the importance of recognizing when the bonds of familial relations shouldn’t be viewed as unbreakable and how blood might be thicker than water, but you need water to survive. Or something.

            What makes this film so utterly successful in telling its story is the ease in which it goes from one about two idiots out on the open road getting high and rapping about the Dark Carnival to one about vulnerability, connection, and empathy. There’s a scene about halfway through between Silas and Eden that is so achingly tender I was honestly moved to tears, and this is after Silas jumps on a diner table and begins rapping from his demo. The revelation about why Trey attacked the frat boys threatening Silas is a gut punch in the best way, an emotional mic drop that at first seems wholly out of character for the story but when taken in context of Juggalos preaching love and acceptance makes perfect sense. And Tape does so seamlessly. This is a film that very easily could have come off as disjointed and unfocused, but instead it’s clearly a broad but thorough commentary on the importance of friendship and having each one another’s backs, especially when you’re part of a subculture that the whole world at best thinks is a joke and at worst openly despises.

            I cannot stress enough how much I enjoyed this film and how badly I implore you to see it if you get a chance. Don’t prejudge it as silly based on the premise. It’s not “so bad it’s good”, it’s not trying to be so over the top and shocking merely to get attention, and it’s not winking and nodding at the audience at all. It’s a powerfully moving story about how even though people might appear and sound ridiculous or goofy or unworthy of being taken seriously they still have very real emotions and are still worthy of respect and empathy. And while the film might be chanting “family” at the top of its lungs, it’s also mostly about the importance of love, be it familial, platonic, or romantic, and how we should embrace that love wherever we find it in the world. Woop woop indeed.