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Wide World of Horror: ‘The Road’ – a road that should have stayed straight

The Roadthe_road_yam_laranas_poster_2012_0


Written by Yam Laranas
Directed by Yam Laranas
Philippines, 2011

Movies can be different, but they can also be very similar. There’s nothing wrong with being similar, but sometimes a trend develops within film that is not a positive. Twists are such a trend, a trope of the horror genre that has been running amok in the genre for years now. That’s not to say that all twists are inherently negative. However, when the twist overtakes the film and works against what came before the twist, well, that’s a problem.

Such is the case with The Road, a film that is completely dependent on its twist when it never needs to be. When the actual twist happens most cinephiles will roll their eyes, and they are completely justified in doing so. The twist in The Road is obvious and serves no purpose other than to say, “Hey, lookie, lookie here, we have a twist, horror fans love twists, right?” No, creative forces behind The Road, horror fans do not love twists without reason. Especially not when the twist acts as the one in The Road does and rips away the atmosphere previously built.

The Road starts out well, establishing a creepy and melodic atmosphere. There’s not much in the way of tension or suspense, rather unease settles over the film. As the characters act stupid the atmosphere hides their stupidity. After all, most people would probably drive erratically were a ghost to show up in the passenger seat of their car. The atmosphere in The Road is palpable, the sort of atmosphere that lends itself to the “you can cut it with a knife,” phrase.

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The fractured narrative serves the atmosphere well. It’s hard to get a sense of time, place, and reality on the stretch of road that makes up the title of the film. The film bounces around in time, but it never drops the sullenly creepy atmosphere it establishes in the beginning. However, as the twist nears the script very clearly cannot properly set up what is to come. Essentially, the longer the film goes the more convoluted the story gets and the more diluted the atmosphere becomes.

Yam Laranas had the makings of a decent horror film at his fingertips. He was steering this Filipino ghost tale admirably, but then the wind was taken out of the sails and The Road slowly crashed through the peer. This is what happens when a film is built to a twist instead of being built around a story. That story can contain a twist, but when the twist is the central core of the story risks are being taken in the storytelling. Perhaps Ginoo Laranas wasn’t aware of the risks he was taking with the twist he added to his story. Regardless, the risk was taken, and in this case the risk did not pay off. The Road could have been a worthwhile horror film; instead it’s but one more mediocre film with a badly implemented twist.

-Bill Thompson


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