The Road Movie Review
Written by Ted McCarthy
Written and directed by Yam Laranas
2011, 110 minutes, Rated R
Movie released on May 9th, 2012
The Road is an interesting supernatural horror film that unfortunately falls a little shy of greatness. After a beautiful opening with some fun and inventive credits followed by a startling act of violence, we jump into the first of three stories spanning as many decades.
Taking place in the present (well, 2008), the catalytic first story is hands down the fright highlight of the entire movie. Three teens sneak out of the house one night, “borrowing” Mom’s car for a ride down the titular long, narrow dirt road to teach one of them how to drive. Such transgressions can never go unpunished in a movie of this type, and soon enough the kids are terrorized by appearances of bloody bag-headed figures and a ghostly red jalopy with no driver. They vanish without a trace, and a young hotshot police officer gets assigned to the case.
The narrative jumps back ten years to a new story set in 1998. Two young sisters are driving along the same deserted road when their car (a familiar-looking red one) overheats and breaks down. They ask a meek, clean-cut passerby for help, and he takes them back to his family’s dilapidated house where he proceeds to knock them both out cold and chain them up inside.
We then jump back another ten years to 1988 to show how the young psychotic from the ’98 story got that way. Turns out he lived as a child under the thumb of a (surprise!) cold, abusive and domineering mother who forbade all outdoor activity and told him all women were “filthy.” She carries on affairs with younger men while her soft-spoken husband is off trying to spread religion to the masses. Upon his return he confronts her and, well, she pushes him just a little too far.
The film briefly comes full circle back to the present and ends with a “twist” that’s neither satisfying nor particularly shocking, and I was let down all the more after what I thought was such a wonderful and promising first act.
Filipino director Yam Laranas is a very competent filmmaker and master of atmosphere, enough that his use of some tired genre tropes (the kids getting out of the broken down car when they know ghosts are out there, the abused son-turned-pretty boy psycho) is forgivable. He has crafted three stories that are interesting enough on their own, but sadly don’t mesh together. Thus what’s supposed to be a thinking person’s ghost film in reverse, Memento-style, comes off as somewhat disjointed and gets progressively more boring. Laranas does show relative restraint in terms of on screen violence, but what’s there is pretty damn disturbing, including some slow suffocations and child beatings.
The Road offers enough genuine chills in its first half to make it an above-average ghost story. If only it had been able to sustain that tension and creep factor for the rest of its run time, it may have ranked in the annals of foreign horror with films like The Devil’s Backbone and A Tale of Two Sisters (which I admittedly didn’t care for, but still recognize as a classic). It’s worth seeing once if you’re into supernatural films, but you may be left a tad disappointed in the end.
Video, Audio and Special Features:
Video, audio and special features will not be graded as this was a screening.