04 December 2011

+JMJ+

Twelve Things about The Road

12. One of the first things my friends and I discussed after seeing this was whether the title fits the film. They didn't think so, but I do. =P

For there is a road in the movie. A haunted road. A haunted road with thematic significance inasmuch as the characters' cars are tied to the imagery of escape and the ghosts in the movie are trapped.

11. In general, "Road Horror" has a lot going for it. The only thing scarier than a haunted house is the haunted great outdoors. You can run out of a building, but where can you go if the way to safety is itself unsafe? Ghosts are more frightening when they can follow you.

As roads are more frightening when
they just lead back to the beginning
. . . over and over and over again.

10. The story itself is all about going back to the beginning. No matter how far forward the viewer goes, he finds himself further back than he expected. (Yeah, that's just my fancy way of saying that the story is told backwards, through several flashbacks, and is constantly looping.)

9. Slashers may be tiresomely formulaic, but if they have taught me anything, it is that you can never have too much justice. All the awfulness that happens to Horror characters can be traced back to some sin.


This is certainly true for the three teenagers who steal a car and go joyriding late at night. They literally have two roads before them: one that is well-lit and leads to a police checkpoint and another which is dark and blocked by a gate they have to force open. The turn they make seals their fate. It's all par for the morality play course.

8. But the same is not true for two other characters, who took the same road ten years earlier. Their car simply broke down in the wrong place, at the wrong time, and their decision to trust someone who seemed to be offering them aid was certainly no sin. They remind us that Horror is at its most horrifying when it happens to the innocent as well.


Or I may be reading too much into what is merely the natural overlap between Horror and a closely related but distinct genre.

7. In Thrillers, terrible things happen to innocent people all the time--and they are certainly not the work of some impersonal, quasi-karmic force that is trying to restore moral balance to the universe. Thrillers call them crimes, recognise them as the imbalance, and send detectives into the mess to clean up what they can.

A hybrid of Horror and Thriller, The Road layers the threat of the trapped ghosts with a mystery that police have been unable to solve for over a decade. It has the best of both worlds: ghosts and a psycho. But now I feel I've said too much . . .

6. Something else my friends and I discussed was the difference between "Hollywood Horror" and "Philippine Horror".

In Hollywood Horror, the threat often lunges at the characters out of nowhere, so that they (and the viewers) feel a scare that is roughly 50% startle.

In Philippine Horror, the threat doesn't make itself conspicuous at all, and only when the characters notice that something is amiss do they realise, like one of the characters, "I'm not alone in this room!" The scare is 50% uncertainty . . . and I seriously just got scared writing that.

Of course, we'd have to watch more movies (of both types)
in order to make a more intelligent case.

5. Another great thing about "Philippine Horror" is that you can always expect a couple of big stars in the cast. (Just bragging. =P) It seems that too many established Hollywood actors avoid this glorious genre, even if it was what gave them their breakout roles.

4. Surprisingly, this film isn't religious--which is to say, it isn't superstitious. Yes, the usual "Catholic clutter" is there, but it's as much a part of the local landscape as the tropical flora and none of it is fetishised. The only character who brings any explicit Christian spirituality is one of those "Born Again" pastors, but even this seems like a cheap shortcut to explain why he is too weak to stand up to his domineering wife.

3. I don't want to say that you will never see the twist coming, because then you might try to get clever and thus manage to see the twist coming . . . but YOU'LL NEVER SEE THE TWIST COMING!!! =P

2. For a Horror movie, it has a surprisingly sympathetic ending. (Hey, this is the genre that just won't let evil die.) I actually kind of like this. The message is that there will always be darkness and shadows in the world . . . but that there will also always be light.

1. The Road is not flawless, by far, but it was a great movie to watch on my birthday. =P

Image Sources: a) The Road poster, b) The Road screen cap 1, c) The Road screen cap 2

4 comments:

The Mike said...

I haven't seen this, but I'm so excited by a new 12 Things on a horror movie that I had to comment. :)

I watched a "road horror" movie the other night - an Australian thing called Road Kill about a possessed semi and some kids on a road trip - and it was really awful.

On the better side of Road Horror, you could check out Dead End, which has a supernatural twist and is better than it should be thanks to good acting from Ray Wise and Lin Shaye. If I'm not mistaken, Nicki covered it in a guest post during my Christmas marathon last year.

Oh, and "ghosts are more frightening when they can follow you"? YES. The Haunted House/trapped with a ghost formula works, but it's also awesome when the haunting is personal. Part of why I dig the Paranormal Activity series so much.

Enbrethiliel said...

+JMJ+

If this excites you, wait until my next Twelve Things post (also about a Horror movie!) comes up. ;-)

Oh, another one I saw recently was Insidious. It's another sort of personal haunting that reminded me of Paranormal Activity. Have you ever seen it?

The Mike said...

Yeah, Insidious and I had some issues. It's really hard to explain why. I just didn't like the tone of it. The filmmakers pushed every scare at us and I never really felt there was much build, just lots of jumps. There's a moment where the two ghost girls appear and then there's like a slideshow effect and then they smile creepily, and I'm sitting there like..."why not just show their mouths curl into a creepy smile?" Why cut out the good parts and just jump to the scare? I don't know.

And I've spent a lot of time this year trying to explain what I didn't like about Insidious to people, and I'm still struggling with it. There are good parts to it. I just...I'm confused! :)

Enbrethiliel said...

+JMJ+

Insidious and I have issues, too! But until you chimed in, I thought I was the only one! After seeing it with my friends, I said, "I can't believe it spooked me so much even if it wasn't that good"--and they all jumped all over me, shocked looks on their faces, saying, "What do you mean it wasn't good? It was great!" =/

I should probably get around to blogging about it, to give both of us a chance to rant properly, aye? ;-)