Sunday, July 29, 2012

The Road (2011): Filipino Terror Comes To America

 Review by Marie Robinson

Greetings, multos! That would be the Filipino word for “ghost”; I use it because today I shall be reviewing a Filipino horror film called The Road. This film is directed by Yam Laranas, who has directed two other horror films called The Echo (2004) and Patient X (2009), neither of which I have ever heard of because The Road was the first Filipino movie I had ever seen. In fact, it is the first Filipino film to ever have a commercial release in U.S. theaters. Although it didn’t hit the screens in my town, I was thrilled to pick it up at the local video rental store.

Our film starts out with Luis (played by TJ Trinidad), a police officer at an award ceremony in his honor. At the ceremony, a woman approaches Luis, asking about the case of her two missing daughters. This particular case is news to Luis, so he asks for her daughters’ names—Joy and Lara—and then proceeds to reopen the twelve-year-old case…

This film is split up into three parts, and each takes place in a different point in time, each exactly ten years apart from the last. The first part is set in 2008 where a teenage girl named Ella (Barbie Forteza) is convinced by her cousin, Janine (Lexi Fernandez), and Janine’s boyfriend, Brian (Derrick Monasterio), to sneak out and take her aunt’s car for a joy ride. Ella is hesitant, because it is clear that she is not fond of Brian (or at least pretends to be), and none of them have a license. She changes her mind, however, not wanting to leave the two alone to do what teenagers will do in their parent’s cars.

With Brian driving, the three begin cruising down the highway, until Brian spots a cop, causing him to panic and turn off onto a street. Ella pleads that they turn around and go home, but Brian gets out of the car and opens a gate, leading to a concealed darkened road.

Ella sits nervously in the backseat, the country road is lined with only thick trees; the only light they have is given by their headlights. A red car drives up behind them, and passes. Ella tells them that she didn’t see a driver in the car. Brian scoffs at her until the same red car passes them again, and it becomes clear that there indeed is no one driving the car, but there is someone in the backseat.

The car begins to chase them, trying to run them off the road, until their pursuer swerves and crashes into the trees. They stop, getting out of the car to look at the wreck, but when they approach the car it has become ancient, as if it had been abandoned there for years, and then it bursts into flames.

The three get back into the car, driving on, but it seems they are trapped in an endless loop. When the car stalls, Janine and Brian get out to walk, but Ella insists on staying in the car, too afraid to face to open road. Cousin of the Year Janine leaves Ella behind to walk to dark road with Brian, but it isn’t long they are paying for it, as they are tormented by a ghost—a woman, with a bloody plastic bag over her head.

Part one was my favorite by far in the film. It had the feel of an urban legend and I was really diggin’ it. The other two parts take place in 1998 and 1988. In fear of running this article to long I shan’t be summarizing them to you, but at the same time it will give you all a reason to go out and see it!

The Road had beautiful cinematography, with clever angles that induce tension, suspense, and fear. The film is very emotionally charged, and successfully so. The soundtrack is understated but effective, and although it is sometimes a little difficulty to judge when it comes to foreign language films, I believe that all the actors did a wonderful job.

For my first Filipino film, I am very pleased! I was reading user comments on the film on Get Glue, and a few people were saying that the ending was predictable, but I didn’t see it coming! Maybe I’m dumb, but I think you should see this one for yourself. I hope my fellow Americans and I get to see more Filipino films as time progresses. The Road was also released in Belgium and Singapore, as well as the Philippines (duh).

The Balete tree is thought to be favored by spirits...
I came across an urban legend surrounding a road in the Philippines called Balete Drive. The road is surrounded by huge, beautiful trees called balete trees, which are thought to be haunted themselves. This particular type of tree is believed to be very adored by spirits, and are often inhabited or surrounded by them. There is also a ghost, called the White Lady, who haunts Balete Drive. Because of her, locals strongly advise not to travel the road at night, and if you do to have the backseat fully occupied, and not to look back in the mirrors. She wears a long white gown, with long hair around her shoulders, but her face cannot ever be seen, as it is usually covered in blood.

I wonder if the filmmakers were inspired by this tale when they made the movie?


Yam Laranas said...

Thank you Christine for watching my film! I truly appreciate your thoughts and your kind words.

The Road was not inspired by the White Lady or Balete Drive. Truth is, those were stuff I stayed away from :-)

I see that you loved Let The Right One In too. It would interest you to know that Johan Soderqvist scored both The Road and Let The Right One In.


Yam Laranas said...

My comment should be "Dear Marie..."

Marie said...

I must say, Mr. Laranas, I never expected you to read my article but I am so so glad you did! I am also glad that us Americans were able to see your film, and I can't wait to see what you do next. Hope it is horror ;)