Not to be confused with the 2009 Viggo Mortensen vehicle. This time around, THE ROAD is a Filipino thriller granted a limited Stateside release thanks to strong word of mouth.
We start with "Part One: 2008" and the introduction of one Officer Medina, who, despite his rookie status and his "non-protocol" approach, receives a medal of valor which his superiors aren't quite convinced he actually deserves (none of this is adequately explained). Immediately upon receiving the medal, he's approached by a despondent middle-aged woman who implores him to close the case of her two missing daughters.
Medina isn't the only one immediately affected by this case. Just as this transpires, three reckless youngsters take off on an unlicensed automobile excursion: to escape the notice of the local police, they break down the barrier to a long-closed and abandoned road. In what is by far the creepiest segment of the entire film, they soon find themselves terrorized by a driverless "ghost car," the apparent disappearance of any and all exits, and a mutilated phantom wrapped in plastic. Yes, it's pretty much J-Horror through a Philippine filter, but it works.
Okay--a confusing set of English subtitles suggests that the cold case is twelve years old, but the second segment, which details the fate of the original missing youngsters, is clearly labeled "Part 2: 1998." Okay. I approached THE ROAD thinking "I hope this isn't one of those WOLF CREEK deals all about a psycho abducting and torturing youngsters," and I was quite pleased to see the unquestionable supernatural elements that started the film off. "Part 2," however? Well, it's about a psycho abducting and abusing a couple of young women, and you already know where it's going to go. Or do you? There's definitely some time distortion and other phantasmic business going on, and at least director Yam Laranas doesn't push things into extreme sadism and torture (um, please don't take that to mean that terrible things don't happen).
Our contemporary characters briefly regroup, and then it's time for "Part 3: 1988," the latest throughly depressing tutorial on how to turn your young son into a serial killer. Yes, it's well-acted. Yes, it's technically impressive (particularly the slow rack-focus shot that reveals the source of some frantic movement in the background). But we're scarcely dealing with a character as mesmerizing as Norman Bates, Buffalo Bill or Hannibal Lecter here, and you've seen this ugly child-trauma business more than enough on its own.
Naturally, I won't spoil any details regarding how it all pans out, but the supernatural elements don't gel with the serial killer elements in a satisfying fashion (no explanations are offered, and the ends scarcely justify the means)--basically, it's a GRUDGE thing and that's that.
THE ROAD is competent, professional, and almost completely uninspired. If you get the choice but can only catch ONE arthouse film this week, make it SOUND OF MY VOICE.
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