THE ROAD tells the story of a twelve-year-old cold case that is reopened when three teenagers vanish while traversing an infamous and abandoned road. As investigators try to find leads to the whereabouts of the missing teens, they also unearth the road's gruesome past that spans two decades - a history of abduction, crimes and murders.
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Foreign horror movies always have a different kind of spookiness than American films, like they're seemingly darker and creepier. The new film from Filipino director Yam Laranas (Patient X), simply called The Road, is no exception.
Ella (Barbie Forteza), her brother Brian (Derick Monasterio) and Brian's girlfriend Janine (Lexi Fernandez) steal their parents' car to go out for a joyride. They come across a police checkpoint and, since none of them have driver's licenses, Brian takes a quick right that leads them down an unfamiliar road. After driving for a while, the car sputters and dies. Before long, the three start to see apparitions and visions of young women that creep around them, stalk them and, just as suddenly as they appear, disappear into the night. When the three are finally found, the police also find a burnt out car with a body inside, and an inspector named Luis (TJ Trinidad) reopens a ten year old case involving two missing girls when he believes that the case may be related to the old car and the road. His investigation begins to open up a bigger can of worms than he is prepared for, and the story that he uncovers goes back much farther than just the missing people.
Yam Laranas is as close to an auteur as one is bound to find in filmmaking today. Not only did he write, direct and produce The Road, but he also was the director of photography and co-editor. The fact that Laranas wore so many hats during the making of The Road means that what's onscreen is pretty close to the director's vision for the film. Lucky for horror fans, Laranas' vision is compelling, engaging and, of course, scary.
The film's narrative moves backwards through time, a bit like Memento, but not as fast. The story is really three stories, told through flashbacks, intertwining through time and weaving together in the present. As more and more information is discovered about the past, more and more mysteries pop up, until, finally, everything clicks into place. Not only is the plot clever and inventive, it's very well written.
Without a huge bankroll behind him, Yam Laranas uses the camera to create the mood and feel for The Road. He is an experienced director of photography, and he knows exactly what he wants every shot to look like. The visual effects are all practical with no CGI whatsoever, so the film has a real retro look to it, but it does not come off as an old film. The ghostly images are created with a mixture of camera tricks and sly editing so that the effect is a scary now-you-see-it-now-you-don't that is reminiscent of some of the better ghost movies like The Haunting and Thirteen Ghosts. With The Road, Laranas has created a rare treat of a film: one that entertains, one that terrifies, and one that follows the viewer home and slips under their bed.
The fascinating thing about The Road is how scary it is without the benefit of a lot of post-production work. Laranas achieves his brand of horror the old fashioned way - through imaginative camera work and selective editing. Laranas has a great eye for what's scary, and he captures it well. The Road is dark, moody and melancholic, and it instills genuine, sleep-losing fear as opposed to cheap false shocks. The film works hard to create an underlying creepiness. The road itself is an archetypical place where one prays that their car doesn't stall, but where it always does. The ghosts that roam the road wander in and out of reality, making the viewer unsure of where they'll pop up next. Will the dead girl slowly wander into the frame from behind, will she pop up in a window or will she suddenly be inside the car? Watch and find out.
Horror, Thriller, Mystery
May 11, 2012