by Glenn Lovell
Pity the poor horror fanatic. He’s so hungry for anything that promises to raise grade-A gooseflesh, he’s always susceptible to false advertising and genre “experts” who rush to proclaim the latest horror show the next “Hostel” or “Texas Chainsaw Massacre.”
A case in point is “The Road,” not to be confused with the Cormac McCarthy adaptation of the same title. This low-budget, subtitled entry is from the Philippines. Which, in itself, sounds promising. After all, some of the most shocking films of recent vintage ‒ I’m thinking “Frontier(s),” “Them,” “REC,” Miike’s “Audition” ‒ have come from aboard.
The lobby standee of what appears a mummified corpse certainly reeled in more than a few fright fans this weekend.
Unfortunately, this import by the do-it-all Yam Laranas (credited as photog, editor, co-writer, director) was greeted by more yawns than screams.
“The Road” proves a bumpy ride, slow-going, monotonous and, the most unforgivable sin of all, not in the least scary. Like every genre specialist from Gaspar Noé to Quentin Tarantino, Laranas starts at the end and flashes further and further back in time to explain why a harmless-looking shut-in kidnaps and tortures young wayfarers who, for reasons known only to themselves, keep heading down a country road, even after driver-less cars and blood-splattered pedestrians appear out of the dark.
The answers, when they come, have something to do with child abuse, Christian fundamentalism and, I kid you not, butterflies.
Laranas’s premise ‒ which fuses Japanese ghost stories, “Psycho” and the Brothers Grimm ‒ is fine. He also has an eye for spooky backdrops. His directing and editing, however, border on the inept, rendering the big shock moments both confusing and risible.
But who needs finesse when you have easily conned fright fans, drawn to the promise of new creep-outs just as curious carnival-goers once were to midway freak shows?
THE ROAD 1/2 With T.J. Trinidad, Carmina Villarroel, Renz Valerio, Alden Richards, Barbie Forteza. Directed by Yam Laranas from a script by Laranas and Aloy Adlawan. 110 min. Rated R (for violence, grisly makeup effects)