Screen Rant's Kofi Outlaw Reviews The Road
The Road is a three-part tale of murder and ghostly revenge that begins with three teens sneaking out of the house and absconding with the family car for a night of joy riding. When they discover the main road is blocked by traffic, the teens opt for a detour down a remote access road that takes them into the heart of darkness. They soon find themselves lost and driving circles around some strange limbo .
If being lost in the dark wasn't bad enough, the teens begin to witness horrific supernatural phenomena - bloody figures who appear and vanish out of nowhere, etc. - and the unthinkable encounters quickly drive them to a mad panic. Meanwhile, as the three teens' absence is noticed by their families and the local authorities, the investigation into their whereabouts uncovers an entire history of murder and madness, which has long infected the cursed stretch of road.
The Road is a low-budget Philippines horror film (it's in Filipino with English subtitles) that starts very poorly but gets somewhat better as it goes on. Writer/Director Yam Laranas and his co-writer Aloy Adlawan structure the film as a three-act tale (each about 30 minutes) - chapter one being the story of the joy-riding teens. Chapters 2 and 3 jump back in time (a decade apiece) to reveal how the ghostly entities the teens encounter came to haunt the remote stretch of road - and then, reveal an even darker tale about the root origins of the evil that has infected the place. It's a simple structure, but one that allows for some interesting approaches to narrative arc and character development, while allowing audiences to enjoy "horror" of varying sorts and some nice twists, to boot. We saw something similar done in Takashi Shimizu's The Grudge, but The Road arguably has a much tighter and efficient narrative to tell.
The downside to the approach is that not all of the "chapters" are as strong as others, and this makes the film lag, quite noticeably, at several different points. "Chapter 1" with the three joy-riding teens is by far the weakest, and manages to turn a half-hour segment into what feels like an agonizingly slow hour-long movie - one which I was grateful to see come to an end, until I realized there was going to be more (much more) to the story. The teen actors in the first segment are not convincing, and the whole experience - from the direction to the scares - feels like a shoddier version of so many other ghost stories we've seen before. That weak beginning means that The Road is a hard movie to invest in - meaning that finicky viewers will likely be put off before they can even get to the latter (better) sections.
As we enter chapter 2 and 3 we get an upgrade in both performances and direction style. Chapter 2 involves two young girls and their encounter with a serial killer, and this makes for a compelling horror-thriller experience - a lane that Laranas seems far more comfortable in than haunted house (in this case haunted road) horror. Similarly, chapter 3 offers what is ostensibly a supernatural psycho-drama, exploring the serial killer's childhood traumas and the beginnings of the ghosts roaming the road. Laranas arguably handles this segment with the most confidence, displaying enough style to make that lackluster first segment almost seem like it was crafted by different hands. The young child actor in chapter 3 is a standout, and the story of his youth is both intriguing and twisted in the best sort of way. Once we know the full backstory, the movie ends with a twist that brings all of the storylines together quite nicely.
All in all, The Road would make for a good rental - where you have the option of fast-forwarding through the bad bits and focusing on the good parts. Laranas definitely has the mind and vision for good horror, but still has a bit to go before he can be called a "master of the genre."
The Road is currently playing in limited release in U.S. theaters. It is Rated R for violence, terror and some disturbing images.