Yam Laranas Interview
Conducted by Ted McCarthy
Yam Laranas is the writer and director of the upcoming film The Road. He took some time before its premiere to answer a few questions for HorrorTalk.
Ted McCarthy: Where did the story of The Road come from? Was it an original one?
Yam Laranas: I conceptualized this one around 2005. I wrote the first story, which was about the teens. I thought it would be interesting to make a film that’s a bit fun, that’s a bit claustrophobic, you know, creepy and scary, and I didn’t want to do it in an apartment or a haunted house or something. And what could be better than a back road, and an abandoned road? And I started writing and writing and writing so that I technically finished the story…and I thought ‘It’s not a complete film.’ So I sort of left it in a drawer or something and just forgot about it. That was 2005.
Three years after, I thought of another story, which is about sisters randomly abducted and killed, which was inspired by a real crime that happened in the Philippines. And it affected me somehow, you know…how people can do crazy things. It was a random act, and it sort of affected me, and I wrote a story about the sisters and their journey and what happened to them. I didn’t want it to be a crime story, but I was just interested in that story. I was writing it and couldn’t really finish it because there was something, you know, lacking. I told my writing partner, ‘You gotta help me out here, because I can’t really focus on which story I have to make.’ We were throwing ideas about the sisters, we were throwing ideas about the road trip. Then I said, ‘What if we combine it? What if they’re connected somehow?’ And then, it was sort of a Eureka! moment.
I started writing it, but the end of the story didn’t work again because something was missing. I said, ‘What if I tell the story backwards? What if they’re separated, ten years apart? What happens in the road? What if a ghost in the past becomes a ghost in the present? What if the ghost in the past also haunts people in the present? What if a crime in the past haunts people who thought they’d escaped from that crime?’ So that’s what happened, it went and gelled, and I sort of tweaked the first part to make it more straightforward – more, should I say, predictable. I wanted it to be very clear so that the audience would expect things that are happening in The Road. Like when we tell the story about the teens, I want the audience to know that, ‘Hey, I’ve sort of seen this film before, where there’s a road and a car,’ and I want them to expect the events that are happening. And with that they are involved unconsciously. I made it so it became sort of a smoke screen for me, a smoke screen for the second act. And you’ve got questions in the second act that are sort of not detected in the first act, but they are answered in the third act. So that’s why it’s sort of a concentric circle. It goes from the middle to the side and so on, but it goes back, where the story in the first act is actually the story in the third act. It goes around, from event to event, from decade to decade. So that sort of intrigued me, and I thought there is something here that could be new, that could be something different – something different from highly regarded Asian horror films, which I admire a lot. But I wanted to do something different and this, to me, is an attempt.
With the reactions that I’m getting right now, I’m pretty happy with how people react. I thought that they reacted as I expected – a lot of them liked the first act, then they don’t like the second or third. But a lot of them also loved the second act and hated the first. So it’s thought provoking for me as a filmmaker. As a filmmaker, I feel good about it because I sort of brought to the table topics to be discussed, something that they would be interested in, something they would be talking about.
For the hardcore slasher gore fans – they won’t like this. This is not for them. But if you’re into storytelling, and different kinds of supernatural ghost stories, I think the movie’s for you. You would like the film if you are into really creepy, strange ghost stories.
Click images to enlarge.
TM: About the actual location of the road, was it something you had in mind during the story’s creation, or did it get scouted out after the film was written?
YL: It’s hard to find a perfect location. I had to have my team find a location for me, and they presented me with more than ten. When I saw this one, it was like, I knew it in my mind right away: this would be the one. They said, ‘Well we’re not sure if we’re allowed to shoot on the road, blah blah blah,’ and I said, ‘No, we’re shooting this road. I can’t find another one. This is the best one.’
I went there right away, the day after, and said, ‘I want to go there and stay there, just sit there on the road. I just want to see it.’ I fell in love with it, and I thought it was really beautiful in daylight and very, very creepy in the evening. It was just perfect.
TM: You mentioned wanting to do something a little different from J-Horror. Are you a horror fan? Are there any films that influenced you when you were making the film, or just as a filmmaker in general?
YL: I have a lot of influences. I’m film schooled. I’m into acting. I teach film. My influences range from Woody Allen to Kurosawa to Kubrick. I have an eclectic taste as far as the arts. The visualization of the ghost and other scenes [in The Road] was inspired by Rene Magritte, a Belgian Surrealist painter. I was particularly influenced by the strangeness of one of his famous paintings called Les Amants, or The Lovers.
In terms of filmmakers, I’m very influenced and inspired by the works of Friedkin, and also of course by Polanski. I love Rosemary’s Baby, and not just Rosemary’s Baby, but a lot of his films. But Kubrick is a big influence because I’m also the cinematographer on my movies. I like to talk less and show more in terms of visuals rather than dialogue.
Click images to enlarge.
TM: We don’t hear a whole lot about Filipino horror. Do you think since this movie is getting a lot of buzz, we can expect to see more Filipino filmmakers gravitate towards horror?
YL: There are a lot of very talented Filipino filmmakers out there, and a lot of them also do horror. But other equally talented filmmakers in the Philippines are also coming out and working in other genres.
TM: What’s next for you as a director? Do you have plans to make another horror film or are you going to another genre for your next project?
YL: My next film will be…not a ghost type of horror. I want it to be more thought provoking, and I want it to be a bit disturbing, but not blood and gore. There is a story I’m working on right now, and hopefully it will start production by the end of the year.
We'd like to thank Yam Laranas for taking time to sit down with HorrorTalk and discuss his film.
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