If you can get past the shortcomings, The Road is a fun little horror movie that’s best seen late at night with a group of friends.
Location-based horror is the name of the game for Yam Laranas’ new feature The Road, the first ever Filipino film to get a commercial U.S. release in theatres (a fact that’s more sad than shocking). Laranas, who is probably known to some for his derivative J-horror film The Echo along with its American remake, shows a large amount of improvement here. While Laranas doesn’t live up to his full potential here, The Road is a good atmospheric horror film when it works and helps carry along the more amateur moments peppered throughout.
The film begins in 2008 with a police officer getting approached by a woman who has been looking for her two missing daughters over the last decade. The focus then changes to three teenagers who decide to take one of their parents’ cars out for a joyride. They eventually come across an abandoned road and decide to take it, but things take a dark turn quickly. The teens don’t end up making it off the road and, as the police investigate the crime scene, we flash back to 1998 and 1988 and see the dark history behind the road itself.
Laranas, who also did his own cinematography on the film, definitely has a good eye when it comes to setting scenes up. The movie was shot digitally (with what looks like a DSLR camera) and has a slick look to it that makes it stand out. It may seem like it would clash with the grungy setting of the abandoned dirt road but it ends up drawing more attention to the setting. The look stays consistent throughout, even as it goes back in time 20 years which, along with the parallels that each storyline shares, show how repetitive the cycle of death and tragedy is along the road.
The first two segments, involving the above-mentioned teenagers and the two missing daughters, are effective little horror films on their own. The first part in 2008 is actually where the movie lets loose the most, throwing out evil ghosts and other supernatural elements. While the undead show up all throughout The Road, the parts in 1998 and 1988 are unexpectedly restrained in comparison to the fun midnight-movie quality of the first part. It’s surprising that in a movie filled with ghouls the scariest moment comes when one person unexpectedly attacks another. The fact that Laranas films the scene with no real cinematic quality to it makes it more disturbing than anything else in the entire film.
While The Road has most of its strengths in the atmosphere Laranas maintains throughout, there are times when the amateur quality of the picture takes over. Some scenes have a clunky feeling to them, and the ending doesn’t bring things together too well but it feels unfair for me to nitpick. Laranas tends to succeed more often than not and seeing a horror film this focused on mood and story is becoming more of a rarity in the genre these days. If you can get past the shortcomings, The Road is a fun little horror movie that’s best seen late at night with a group of friends.