The Road (2011) Freestyle Releasing/Horror RT: 110 minutes Rated R (language, violence, gruesome and disturbing images, intense scenes of terror) Director: Yam Laranas Screenplay: Aloy Adlawan and Yam Laranas Music: Johan Soderqvist Cinematography: Yam Laranas Release date: May 11, 2012 (US) Starring: TJ Trinidad, Carmina Villaroel, Marvin Agustin, Rhian Ramos, Barbie Forteza, Alden Richards, Lexi Fernandez, Louise delos Reyes, Derick Monasterio, Ynna Asistio, Renz Valerio, Jacklyn Jose, John Regala, Allan Paule. Spoken in Filipino w/English subtitles
Here's a review that's going to present a real challenge, I have no idea how much I should reveal about The Road, a new psychological horror film from the Philippines. I don't want to ruin any of the movie's surprises, but at the same time I do have to describe the plot and in order to do so effectively, I'll have to talk about the narrative structure. Okay, how about this, what if I provide a basic overview of the movie then implore you not to read the rest of the paragraph? Or I could simply say that this article might contain plot spoilers, so proceed at your own risk. That being said, The Road opens with a woman approaching the chief of police and asking for new information about her two daughters who went missing about 12 years earlier. Luis (Trinidad), a newly decorated policeman, promises that he will look into the matter. That night, a trio of teenagers- Ella (Forteza), her boyfriend Brian (Monasterio) and her cousin Janine (Fernandez)- sneak out to practice for the girls' upcoming driver's test. They find themselves on a dark, abandoned road and keep seeing the same red car that doesn't appear to have a driver. The kids start to panic when they can't find their way off the road, they keep driving around in a circle. That's when they make a horrifying discovery that might provide a clue as to the disappearance of the aforementioned girls. Okay, that's the overview, now I'm obligated to say PLOT SPOILER ALERT!
The Road employs a backward narrative structure not unlike the 1983 drama Betrayal as the action shifts to 1998 and we meet the soon-to-be-missing sisters, Lara (Ramos) and Joy (Reyes). We learn what happened to the girls, but we also learn that there's more to the story. Once again, the action shifts back in time, this time to 1988 when we ...... okay, I'm stopping here! I have absolutely no intention of revealing any more information about this movie, but I will say that it's something pretty damn creepy. I'll also tell you that Luis continues to investigate the case and we see his progress in between time shifts. Obviously, I love the narrative structure utilized by the filmmakers, it helps set the movie apart from the more conventional psychological thrillers that one might see at the local multiplex. Most filmmakers would employ a more traditional straightforward narrative structure in the telling of this disturbing tale and frankly, I don't see how that could possibly work. It would diminish the overall impact of the movie, much like if some jackass restructured the narrative of 2001's Memento and told that story in chronological order. As you have probably surmised by now, you really have to pay attention to The Road in order to follow the story. I'll say this .... pay attention to the details.
It would be almost impossible to single out individual performances in The Road without revealing key plot points, but I'll say that Carmina Villaroel delivers a chilling performance as a very malevolent and evil figure. Director/co-writer/cinematographer Yam Laranas maintains a creepy atmosphere throughout the movie, it keeps the viewer on the edge of his/her seat in anticipation of what will happen next. Lately, I've reviewed several junky slasher flicks from the 80s and I want you all to know that I also appreciate finely crafted horror movies like this, especially ones that play with your mind and suggest a distorted view of reality. Instead of running the risk of dropping any more plot spoilers, I'm taking this review in a slightly different direction. I'm hoping that The Road signals a bold new trend when it comes to releasing genre flicks from other countries in the US. Earlier this year, the Indonesian actioner The Raid: Redemption received a comparatively wider release than most foreign films. I actually saw it in a mainstream theater and it's an excellent kick-ass action movie. With a gross of approximately $4 million, it hasn't done too badly. Such a release strategy allows a wider audience to discover the movie. Freestyle Releasing opened The Road in 50 mainstream theaters around the US and while it only managed to bring in $89,675, it's cool that regular audiences (as opposed to the arthouse crowd) had a chance to discover it. I would love to see more movies like this playing in multiplexes, it's about time American audiences have an alternate choice in cinematic entertainment as opposed to the usual major studio garbage like The Devil Within and Silent House. If you can find it, I highly recommend checking out The Road, it's a trip worth taking.