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The thing that I loved the most about “The Echo” director Yam Laranas’ latest supernatural chiller “The Road” is that it’s quiet. Very quiet. Oh-so quiet, even. When the characters have nothing to say, they keep their mouths shut. No idiotic one-liners, no pointless pop culture references — just silence, plain and simple. And while that may sound more than a little silly to some, it’s actually quite refreshing. Sometimes it’s these eerie silences and the extended dialogue-free moments that add some weight to the atmosphere, particularly when the filmmakers are trying their best to generate a heaping helping of nail-chewing suspense. Not that Laranas and company have any problems causing the hairs on the back of your neck to stand straight up, mind you.
The story unfolds over three interlocking chapters, each of which draw you deeper into Laranas’ impossibly unnerving universe. After opening with what appears to be a suicide on stretch of land in the middle of nowhere, the film immediately jumps to a seemingly unrelated yarn involving three naive teenagers and their misguided adventure down a dark, dreary, an exceptionally haunted roadway. What begins as an innocent driving lesson soon spirals into an increasingly violent series of ghostly encounters. The trio are quickly overcome by the malevolent forces that call the road home, forcing the local police to launch an investigation spearheaded by the department’s highly decorated golden boy. Before too long, blood-soaked secrets are brought to light.
If you can, go into “The Road” knowing as little about the story as possible. I feel I may have revealed too much as it is. The mystery surrounding this foreboding bi-way is immensely engrossing, especially if you’re completely unaware of its destination. Laranas plays his hand in much the same way Takashi Shimizu did with “Ju-on”: each separate storyline is a piece of a much larger puzzle, one that builds to a heart-stopping, nerve-jangling climax. However, instead of saving the best stuff for the final act, Laranas and crew keep the scares flowing freely throughout. In fact, one of the picture’s scariest moments — a short bit involving a shadowy figure running towards our heroes at full speed — arrives fairly early in the film. It’s a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it kind of scene, and the entire movie is littered with them. The end result is nothing short of terrifying.
Naturally, the movie’s impact would have been lessened considerably had the filmmakers not filled their spooky little endeavor with an abundance of able-bodied actors. Thankfully, the entire cast is spot-on, and there’s not a single rotten egg in the entire bunch. The majority of the performers are fairly young, and, from what I can gather, have a very strong and extremely loyal fan base in their native country. The cast’s unwavering dedication to the picture’s numerous blood-soaked set pieces is certainly commendable, and should earn them even more adoring fans in the process. Instead of waiting impatiently for the kids to bite the proverbial dust, you want them to live, to escape the clutches of this sinister stretch of pavement. That, my friends, is a rarity in this day and age, especially in movies where teenagers are your central characters.
“The Road” is a fantastic horror film, a well-written, sharply directed ghost story that boldly assumes that its audience has a brain and knows how to use it. The film is dead serious in its presentation, which is precisely why it works so well. Yam Laranas knows how to get under the skin of even the most jaded of viewers, and he does so on a fairly consistent basis. The icing on the proverbial cake is the film’s cast, a savvy group of talented youngsters who effortlessly hit their marks, even during the picture’s more demanding scenarios. I honestly can’t recommend it enough, especially if you’re a discerning fan who demands a bit of substance from the genre you love. If you have the chance to see “The Road”, do not let the opportunity pass you by.
Yam Laranas (director) / Yam Laranas (screenplay)
CAST: Carmina Villaroel
Louise de los Reyes