Interview: The Road’s Yam Laranas

I’m a notoriously hard horror fan to please, so it’s always nice when something comes down the proverbial pipeline that genuinely gives me the creeps. Yam Laranas’ superb supernatural genre effort “The Road” is one of the spookiest horror flicks I’ve seen in quite some time, which is why it was one of my favorite movies of 2011. Mr. Laranas has taken some time out of his insanely busy schedule to answer some of this giddy fan’s questions.

Todd Rigney: What inspired “The Road”? Is this story based on any local urban legends?

Yam Laranas: Ghost stories happening on roads are somewhat universal, but the motivation for me to write the story is more or less a composite of different events I’ve read in the news or seen on television: two sisters randomly abducted, raped, and murdered; neglected children turning into criminals, etc.

Originally, the “chapters” in the film are independent stories. But, individually, they didn’t leap off the pages. The story about the teens on a practice driving adventure was the very first one written, but it called for more motivation to keep the story moving forward so the “history” part needed to be told.

TR: How long did it take to put this film together?

YL: I started writing the story around 2005 and finished the screenplay with my writing partner – Aloy Adlawan – in November of 2010. I pitched it to GMA Films’ Annette Gozon-Abrogar and Joey Abacan and it was green-lit almost immediately.

We prepped starting February of 2011 and shot from June to late August. It was released in Manila on November 30.

TR: Some of the special effects in the flick are truly impressive. Who handled FX duties?

YL: I believe that we had a very good team working for us. The prosthetics and character design/make-up were by Mackoy Alabado. I got the inspiration from several paintings by Rene Magritte. VFX, color correction, and post productions were by Underground Logic headed by Adrian Tecson and Jose Ticsay.

TR: Tell me a little bit about the cast.

YL: Except for TJ Trinidad (as Luis the Policeman), it was my first time to work with everyone in the cast. Carmina Villarroel who played the mother and Rhian Ramos who played the older sister were my first choices. We had to audition several kids but picked Renz Valerio who was perfect as the younger Alden Richards (the teen killer). Marvin Agustin who played the father is one of Philippine’s multi-awarded actors. I am also very lucky to be able to work with the equally very good younger cast: Barbie Forteza, Lexi Fernandez, Derrick Monasterio, Louise De Los Reyes and Ynna Asistio. All of them have never been in a horror film before. I believe they all did a fantastic job.

The Road (2011) Movie Image

TR: The film features quite a few strong performances. How easy was it to evoke fear in your actors?

YL: I only tell them one thing: be honest in your performances. I know I am working with really good actors so motivating them is the least of my problems. I always give them a free hand in terms of creating their characters. I am very open but I know exactly what I don’t like in acting.

TR: Have you been happy with the film’s reception?

YL: I am very pleased with how the audiences’ and critics’ reactions. I believe that “The Road” is not your typical horror film and majority of the people who has seen it agree with me and I I a very thankful.

TR: Any hopes for a theatrical and/or home video release on an international level?

YL: Yes. We are right now working on that. Hopefully horror fans from the around the world will be able to see it soon.

TR: Do you personally enjoy horror movies? What are some of your favorites?

YL: I love the psychological, moody and atmospheric kind. I don’t like blood and gore. The Shining, Rosemary’s Baby (I made a little homage to Polanski in the teens’ t-shirt) and of course Psycho.

TR: How did you first get into film? Who are your influences?

YL: I’ve always liked photography. But I was also into writing poetry and one-act plays back in the days. I went to film school and fell in love with cinematography instantly. Then I saw the world of Kurosawa, Kubrick, and Woody Allen, and decided that filmmaking could be my future.

TR: Are horror movies popular in the Philippines?

YL: We are predominantly horror fans. We have a ton of scary myths and legends. The Philippines is a small country but very rich in supernatural beliefs and traditions.

TR: Do you have any desire to work outside of the genre?

YL: Of course. Horror is my comfort zone now. But, I originally wrote the road as a thriller and it just naturally evolved into a supernatural-horror story. Right now easily I gravitate towards the genre. There’s a very glum thriller spec that I’m holding on to now and a couple of murder-suspense concepts.

TR: Finally, what project do you have lined up for the future?

YL: I am set to do another horror film for GMA Films and we are in development for a drama with an independent producer from LA.

Curious to read my thoughts regarding “The Road”? You can do so by clicking right here. Huge thanks to Mr. Laranas for taking the time to answer my questions.