May 11, 2012

Filthy Review - The Road

The Road (2011)

Review by Jude Felton

It is a sad state of affairs when all you see if the bemoaning of another horror flick being remade, not the fact there is another remake but instead the amount of page space being dedicated to giving it exposure, and the inevitable crying that will follow. Instead of this I much rather prefer to actively seek out and spread the word about original horror. Sure, I might write about a remake but you won’t see me lying on the floor quivering as if it is the end of the world.

Original horror is out there and, when it is done well, it is a joy to behold. Point in case is this creepy and cleverly plotted film from the Philippines. Yes, you read that correctly, it’s a horror film from the Philippines. I can honestly say that I am no expert on the horror output from that country, but on the strength of this movie I can only hope for more.

The basic plot of the film concerns the reopening of the case of some missing children and unsolved murders, all connected by the titular road. What makes this film stand out from other films of similar content is the manner in which the story unfolds. There is the central theme of the newly promoted police officer investigating the case, and within this story there are three chapters from different periods in time; each one older than the previous. As these stories unfold, pieces of the bigger picture slowly come together to reveal not only what happened, but also why it happened.

I am being deliberately vague, as is my norm, as The Road really does benefit from not knowing too much about specific details surrounding the plot. Suffice to say that is quite original in its execution, and does reward the patient viewer. I say this because The Road is more akin to a marathon road race rather than a drag race. The story unfolds slowly, and atmospherically, making full use of great lighting and sound to heighten the tension.

The Road does feature several young teenagers in key roles, and each of them put in superb performances, in fact the entire cast is quite excellent. You aren’t getting stereotypical horror fodder here; these are believable characters in an often surreal situation. At times The Road is genuinely chilling, it does not rely on jump scares, although you may well jump at times, instead there is a sense of dread and foreboding that prevails throughout.

The pacing may put off some viewers, as it is deliberately slow in moving and runs to just shy of two hours. It is worth your patience though, even with a slightly disappointing ending. However, watching The Road gave me the same kind of thrill I got when I was first introduced to the new wave of Japanese horror 10 or 15 years back, which in turn led me to check out other Asian horror films. Horror should surprise you, and those films did take me by surprise; they didn’t bludgeon you with the obvious, they took horror in a new direction and the manner in which the story was told. The Road had a similar effect on me. A familiar theme, yet the style of the film and the way the plot unfolds kept my attention and impressed me no end.

Don’t get me wrong, director Yam Laranas is not reinventing the wheel here, but he is giving us a horror film that isn’t predictable, that does focus on scares rather than the visceral (even though there are a few gruesome scenes) and tells a good solid story.

So forget about moaning about remakes, and focusing on the negatives in the world of horror, and instead embrace the original and give The Road a chance. It is a good solid horror film that deserves your attention.

The Road hits theaters today (May 11th) and is also available to watch on iTunes.

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