The Road – Yam Laranas

I must agree with Brianne when she said that Filipino-made horror films are effective in bringing fear. Of course, she can be biased–being Filipino for that matter exhibits a wonderful sense of patriotism. But she was right all along. The decline of Hollywood in quality filmmaking are most evident in its popcorn entertainment. The incessant rehashing of tried-and-tested formula and at the same time, its unending reliance on computer-generated effects anchor the flimsiness of the creative ingenuity against potential profitability. And one thing that greatly hinges on the cohesiveness of writing is the horror genre.

Yam Laranas’ The Road (2011) manages the efficacy of writing in spite of all the perforations of plot. The film is divided into three interconnected episodes, each elucidating the events happening through an overused flow of narrative. The first part starts on a rather forbidding tone, the platitudinous element of a scary movie: a group of teenagers (Barbie Forteza, Lexi Fernandez and Derrick Monasterio) sneak out their mom’s car in the hope of learning to drive. They find themselves meandering circuitously along a dirt path where a strange red car chases them off. And where the mysterious appearance of a woman whose bloodied head is covered in a plastic bag incessantly torments them. The second and third episodes, chronologically set ten years apart tell of two sisters: Lara (Rhian Ramos) and Joy (Louise delos Reyes), whose car breaks down in the middle of nowhere and find themselves detained by a deranged individual (Alden Richards); and the final part, about a boy (Renz Valerio) living with his overbearing mother (Carmina Villaroel) and his scripture-quoting preacher father (Marvin Agustin). Expectedly, they all interconnect as it is evident, sacrificing plausibility for that knee-jerk trepidation.

This initial segment does not reveal much of the film, except that it basically constructs the foundation of a plot. Laranas makes precise use of the isolation of the road to bring about the inherent fear. He utilizes the shadows (plenty) and the light (or lack of) in composing the poeticism of horror however made logically impossible by the story’s punched-hole lapses. There, witness the The Road‘s glaring deficiencies–its stylistic evocation that only transcends into what makes a horror film helplessly banal–the cliched visual.

The second and third parts of the film is simply a revelation of truth. The spoonfeeding of the audience that results in the unanticipated twist. Moreover, that unintelligible process is, practically, a proactive attempt to patch the apparent quirks. Laranas’ employment of time to illustrate the shaping of the story may have been influenced by need to inform–more of a literary scheme than cinematic–as it slowly becomes a point for us to arrive at the crossroads to whichever direction the film is heading towards.

As with his previous horror film Sigaw (The Echo), Laranas, again dabbles on the dysfunctionality of authority as if the malignancy of their presence cause the intemperate foibles of society. Albeit much of the fear occurs on the platform of supernatural involvement, yet it accompanies the backdrop of menace and cruelty to bequeath the ultimate terror. For instance, Luis’ (TJ Trinidad) quiet demeanor is a quandary–as a person in law enforcement would not coax the obvious detachment from his own surroundings–that this intent suggests something is terribly amiss. Even the irascible posturing of the police chief (Jon Regala) implies the determined yet loose perception of their position–the internal jealousies notwithstanding–and perhaps critical of their abilities.

But The Road is an enjoyment in itself. Laranas is no stranger to bestowing the fear in us. The viciousness of human–the blatant disregard of life–is, I think, what Laranas tries to illustrate. And he accomplishes that through the superfluity of images. Despite the film’s shortcomings, what it also successfully portrays is the fragility of circumstances in the shaping of an individual. Whatever the perversion it brings, the horror of consequences and the eventual redemption always border on terrifying certainties.