Movie In Focus: The Road (Filipino Film)

Allow me to start things off by saying that ‘The Road’ is not scary. It is beyond scary.

Cinema Poster for The Road

The Road cinema poster layout

Before I start verbalizing my profound infatuation with this film, I only find it appropriate to give the readers a brief synopsis. But if you so desire to skip my preliminaries, be my guest.

 The Road is a story about a twelve-year-old cold case, which is reopened when three teenagers go missing while traversing an infamous and abandoned road… Oh, wait. Scratch that. I’ve seen that same words through various blogs and I feel it’s improper to just duplicate the same here. So, let me start again, using my own words now.

The Synopsis

The Road, written and directed by internationally recognized Yam Laranas, is a tripartite  tale told in reverse. The film gradually coursed through the twenty-year old mystery that envelopes the dark and sinister road. The first fragment, which happened in 2008, showed the revival of a neglected and hopeless case of two missing persons. Meanwhile, as the newborn investigation transpires, three teenagers mindlessly took the route of a barricaded road and later found themselves unable to find an exit road. In their efforts to search for an escape, the existence of a recurring apparition of a driver-less car and a horrifying image of a woman revealed itself to them. It only took a moment before they realize that escaping in not even a choice. The second part that dates back to 1998 and which is to my belief the keystone in this three-segment story, is a narration of the  that weaves the link between the three fragments of the story. This part is a disclosure to the ill-fated event that happened to the missing persons being referred to in the first part.  The third part, which occurred in 1988, is to be considered the soul and core layer of this film. It is in this third chunk that the viewers gets to take a look at the young and innocent life of the killer. What happened to him is most presumably the reason of his psychotic state. By the end of this portion, the underlying query is this: Who and where is the killer now in the film? Watch The Road, and find out.

Here’s the movie’s official trailer to satisfy your curiosity:

The Judgement

Cinematography.

A lot of critics and viewers applaud the way Laranas captured each frame of the film. And that judgement, I do not dishonor. Indeed, the cinematography is a masterpiece. The graphic mastery is one of the dimensions of the film that I fell in love with. Yam Laranas’ expertise in artfully playing around the shot’s composition was exhibited through the entire stretch of the film. He is a professional cinematographer after all. Each  image projected to the big screen is an exquisite visual feast, producing an effect that magnifies the scene’s emotion and action.  The miss-en-scene of each screen image manifested a thoroughly planned arrangement of the elements, from actors to the lighting to set location. And in the end, the film achieves a balance of light, shadow, hue, and movement in every screen. The technique intensified the already spine-chilling atmosphere of the location. In effect, it introduced the scenes with a certain level of depth, which embarks a departure from the plain and superficial exterior visage. It leaves you engrossed within the picture.

Overall, The Road maintained a hair-raising feel from beginning to end, yet somehow, it was able to maintain a balance between spooky and picturesque imagery. And although this kind of cinematic quality was something I would expect from Laranas, I can’t help but be amazed at his innate ability to skillfully recreate the scene with underlying emotion and life.

Score.

 Johan Söderqvist. He is the guy beneath the unnerving symphonies used in the film. It was not the nationality that brought him a high regard with his work, but his apparent recherché aptitude for weaving ethereal themes and phantasmal melodies. He is, therefore, the perfect musical scorer for The Road.

Every scene filled with ghoulish and spectral images is coupled with an accompanying music which, not only sets the mood for the moment, but also, by itself, proffers the viewers with mild horripilation and cold shivers down their spine. The filmmakers of this movie did not halt at having high quality sounds at their hands. They also made certain the appropriateness of each sound into every picture. And in that, they succeeded. The marriage of the bloodcurdling score and the beautifully shot ghastly cinematography procreated a suspenseful horror-thriller tale.

Plot.

But taking the musical score and the cinematography aside, what really captured me and left me glued at the edge of my seat is the film’s story line. I am one of those moviegoers who reject those highly decorated films that only uses the actor’s fame rather than the plot itself to lure the people in watching the movie. And I believe the generation of today are beginning to smarten up and choose to be a more critical-thinking viewer. This is most probably the reason why a lot of people prefer to watch The Road. It’s a heart-pounding three-layer flick that is cliché evasive, depth-oriented, and content-filled.

In modern-day horror movies, we usually see how shallow they tackle the plot. The viewers see decapitated heads, pools of blood and unearthly creatures swarming over the earth for the most hollow reasons. Although The Road used ghostly apparitions, lifeless bodies and a car moving on its own which I’ve already seen from several motion pictures of the same theme, the usage of such was to a limited extent and a different purpose, and was, in actuality, more focused on digging up the mystery behind these appearances.

The movie lets you think.  It effectively introduces a twist in the whodunit genre. There is an early revelation of the identity of the mentally disturbed killer. But the thing is, the viewers only gained access to the killer’s identity in the latter’s teenage and childhood years. The audience were withheld of a few significant clues that would reveal to them where and who he is at the present time in the film. Evidently, not knowing is the most terrifying thing that scares us, which is that one thing that makes this technique work.

The sinister silence and the gracefully laid down of each of the layer in the story are the two things that gives the film its laudable storytelling. The longer the film goes on, the deeper we are immersed into the multiple-layer chronicle. Once submerged, the only way out is to let yourself in.

(In an attempt to avoid excessive disclosure of information, I am purposefully withholding several plot information. Believe me, it’s for your own good. Though I may have given a little more than I should have.)

Stillshot

Rhian Ramos, still shot from The Road

Casting.

Having a well-written plot is great, but being able to harness that with well-played characters is amazing. And The Road definitely falls under the ‘amazing’ category.

Movies will always have its own selection small roles and huge roles. But what I like about this film is that, no matter how tiny the role is, they still produce an influence in the story. The actors and actresses that took each of the roles were able to convey what their roles need to feel — grief, tension, wrath, or fright. Each of these emotions were exceptionally acted at the right scene and at the right moment. With lines or without lines, the performers in this film achieved a bona fide form of acting. The audience will believe it, if the actors themselves believe it. And each of them did. All of them are believable, and as Staci Wilson noted: “The cast is perfection.” I couldn’t agree more.

Their individual airtime, albeit varying, was not a hindrance for each of the characters to be equally highlighted. Duration, in its simplest form, is only but a matter of time. The Road made sure that the importance of a character is not heavily reliant on its length of exposure. Every character in the film is a salient part of a giant thread weaving the entire story that only waits to be unfolded. One character is just as homologous as the other, multiplying the perplexity of the viewer’s mental charade.

The Verdict

The Road is a film that is crafted masterfully. The magnificent interplay of cinematography, musical score, plot and casting yielded a most satisfying tale. Each frame is a tasteful and flavorful bite, inviting you to devour a torrent of luscious ocular banquet. There is never a dead space in this motion picture. Each moment in the film is a story of its own. Each shot is a savory chunk in the story’s unsolved puzzle.

The first time I watched the trailer, the movie instantly made it to my bucket list, and watching the entire film reassured its spot in that list. This is a film that, even days after watching, will continue to haunt you, as its story was engraved in your very skin without you knowing it.

In the end, The Road did not disappoint me. It even exceeded my expectation. Every review I read beforehand were very truthful as this film was really a sumptuous meal served with utmost freshness. It is a unique touch to the Philippine horror genre. It is a revolution from what is highly profane in the Philippine cinema. It is an explosion of newborn ideas which needs to be showered to other film writers and directors.

This film deserves 5 stars out of 5.

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    • Rachel
    • December 5th, 2011

    This is one of the best reviews I’ve read about this movie so far. A lot of things in here I totally agree with. It’s a very truthful blog! Hands up for this blogger!

    • Lauren P.
    • December 6th, 2011

    Yam Laranas is really one of the best directors Philippines have. Congrats sa The Road! Ang ganda nya pramis!

    • James Tremulo
    • December 6th, 2011

    Napanood ko na yung movie and nagandahan ko. Nagustuhan ko yung pagka-unique nung story. May sense. Iba to sa lahat ng horror movie na napanood to. Malalim siya at mapapaisip ka.. Agree ako sa lahat ng sinabi ng blogger na to. Nasabi niya lahat ng gusto kong sabihin..

    • kathy
    • December 8th, 2011

    Great blog, great review, great movie! Awesome! The writer has already written the things I want to say. I love this movie! Thanks Yam Laranas for bringing us a film that is worthwhile to watch.

    • jhaxy
    • December 22nd, 2011

    so true.. everything that the blogger has written is true. This movie is unique and it made sense compared to other horror-suspense movie. The cast are simply outstanding!

  1. Very nice review. it makes me all the more excited for the US release. Thanks!

    • Thank you! Let me know what you think about the movie after you watch it. I’ll be looking forward to your blog about it(if you will.)

    • rendersketcher
    • August 15th, 2012

    The way the plot was presented was good. But was a bit predictable after watching the 2nd part of the whole plot. The scenes and Laranas’s shots were great. This film is visually capturing. Even Rhian Ramos’s scene gaining her consciousness after passing out, was visually appealing. Laranas and his cinematographer did well on this part. Chills? I would say not much. The only thing that gives me chills in this film was the scene where the kids were driving at the dark road that seemed to be endless. I wasn’t scared coz of the acting but what the shots and the camera’s giving me on screen.
    I don’t know but I think, Laranas did better in his ‘Sigaw’ & its remake ‘The Echo’.
    This isn’t a bad film but doesn’t give you the same scare as his first blockbuster.

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