Wednesday, May 09, 2012

Horror in the Philippines: The Road

It is a familiar horror movie convention—one wrong turn can lead to a grisly death, so get yourself some GPS and join triple A.  Alas, the misdirected teens who wander onto this stretch of pavement will become permanently lost in Yam Laranas’ Filipino horror film The Road (trailer here), which opens this Friday in New York.

This has been going on for a while.  In 1998, two sisters vanished without a trace on the road to nowhere.  Ten years later, their grieving mother approaches a decorated rookie officer specializing in making everyone else look bad, convincing him to re-investigate the case.  Yet, it quickly becomes apparent the circumstances of their disappearance parallel an active high priority investigation involving two cousins and their slacker guy friend.

As if two time frames were not sufficient, Laranas then flashes even further back, showing the audience how the tragic childhood of the thus far unseen psychopath destroyed his innocence and set in motion a chain reaction of bad karma.  It turns out his father’s hyper-Christianity was a contributing factor.  To be fair, dear old dad is really not a bad guy at heart, but the future killer’s shrewish mother enthusiastically adopted his strict rules governing the boy, simply out of meanness.

Laranas actually sets the creepy scene quite well, hinting at the supernatural, but never quite delivering on it.  Still, he palpably evokes the ominous dread of grudge-like remnants haunting the proceedings.  His big twist also comes as something of a surprise, if only because it creates huge logical problems for the film in retrospect.

More fundamentally, it is just not a lot of fun to see the Roadie tormenting the young girls who fall into his web.  These are not E.C. Comics characters that more or less have it coming.  Frankly, horror movies like The Road would be much more entertaining if Laranas and his colleagues would pick on people more their size.

As the cop with chain-of-command issues, TJ Trinidad is intense screen presence who sells the third act bedlam rather well.  Unfortunately, the onerously slow pace becomes downright mind-numbing over time.  Serving as his own cinematographer, Lanaras gives the film an interesting look and the dramatic work of his ensemble cast is considerably better than the genre standard, but that is about as far as The Road goes.  A joyless and exhausting film, The Road is not recommended for horror movie fans.  For those intrigued nonetheless, it opens this Friday (5/11) in New York at the AMC Empire.  It also has its Hollywood premiere tonight, with a special post-screening party hosted by boxing champ and Filipino congressman Manny Pacquiao, so if you go, pretend you liked it.