I had heard a lot of good things about The Road, the Phillipine horror thriller from director Yam Laranas. The film had garnered accolades in its native Phillipines and the buzz here in the states was nothing short of astoundingly positive. It was with great tripdation that I started off on my own journey down The Road as, more often than not, too much early buzz can leave me looking at a film too criticially, spoiling my own surprise and wonder. It was amusing and refreshing to me then that not only did The Road leave me agreeing with the praises of its supporters, but left me wishing that more genre creatores and their supporters give this film a look.
To say that The Road is "haunting" is as underwhelming a description as saying a forest fire is bright, hot, and eventually grows on you. The Road haunts you from its opening credits and works its way under your skin only to fitfully squirm around beneath your epidermis until the last frame recedes from the flickering glow of the projector. Its imagery is frighteningly beautiful as well and captivates you, forcing you to drink in the morose hues that it paints, even in its most disturbing scenes.
The film itsef is broken into third acts, each taking place a decade apart. In 2008 we travel doen the road with three teens who unwittingly happen upon an eerie path that has witnessed untold of horrors that play like a looped record to those unfortunate enough to stuble upon it. In 1998 we witness the brutal kidnapping and toruture of two young sisters who ask the wrong resident of The Road for help, and in 1988 we see the birth of The Road's frightening legacy in the form of a violently disfunctionaly marraige that leaves a youg boy scarred beyond repair.
Each chapter resonates a little differently and that might be where the film surprised me most. While our 2008 chapter sees the imprints of murder and toruture upon the road and the ghosts that haunt it, our 1998 chapter is sadistic and frightening in its depravity. We are treated to an interwoven anthology where each story plays off of its own strengths and delivers scares that are separate yet play off of their familiariry in such a way that the histrionic narrative of the film takes on a very different meaning by the time the credits roll. In that, The Road is as effective as a psychological thriller as it is a tried and true horror film and a harrowing portrayl of abuse and sadism. The terrors the road has seen has imbued it with enough violence and loss that the very soil of the land seeks retribtion for its victims.
Yam Laranas' storytelling and cinematography show a mastery of the craft and every frame is lovingly shot and saturated with atmosphere. All of this works to envelop the richness of its terror within a world that is at times alien and isolated yet all too accessible. All of this, creates a luch backdrop for its players, actors who sell the horror of the The Road so convincingly that their fear becomes your own, and that is really where The Road exels past so many of its peers. The younger portion of its cast, including Barbi Forteza, Lexi Fernandez and others sell the movie's more intense moments with a zeal that leaves the film with some very memorable adolescent performances. Add Johan Soerqvist's subtle yet impresssive and eerie score and The Road hits all the right notes at all the right times.
Although The Road is an exit not many in the states have taken yet, its a sure shortcut to one of last year's more terrifying offerings.