Saturday, June 30, 2012


The second of dueling “Snow White” adaptations that have hit the cinema screens this year, “Snow White and the Huntsman” has been getting quite negative reviews.  When the two films were originally announced, I was immediately more interested in Tarsem’s version “Mirror Mirror”, but by the time both films had trailers released it appeared that “Mirror Mirror” was destined to be an absolute train wreck, while “Snow White and the Huntsman” looked the more interesting of the two.  One thing was certain, the two films looked decidedly different, with “Mirror Mirror” taking a comedic approach with the material, while “Snow White and the Huntsman” appeared to be more action orientated.  History shows that “Mirror Mirror” didn’t turn out to be the disaster it looked to be, so how did “Snow White and the Huntsman” fare?

I think most people know the story of “Snow White” pretty well by now, but here is a brief rundown of this version.  Daughter of the former King, Snow White was orphaned at an early age and left in the care of her wicked step mother (and now Queen) Ravenna, who keeps her locked in a room at the top of a tower located in the castle, a prisoner in the place she once called home.  Ravenna rules the land with an iron fist, wasting all the natural resources around her and destroying anything of beauty, as she takes pride in knowing that she is the most beautiful and fairest of them all.  Anything that may challenge this she destroys, as the Queen is all powerful and forever young.  She achieves this feat by draining the lifeforce of her younger victims and stealing their youth.  One day whilst in conversation with her magic mirror, Ravenna is made aware to the fact that a certain person has come of age that could not only challenge her title of beauty but may also be able to destroy her forever, the person in question is none other than her imprisoned step daughter Snow White.  The mirror continues explaining that if she was able to kill Snow White and devour her heart, she will become immortal.  Upon hearing this news, the Queen immediately summons her brother, Finn, to fetch Snow White.  Realizing something is amiss, Snow White uses this opportunity to escape the castle, running straight into the dangers of the dark forest for protection.  Knowing her powers do not extend into the forest, the Queen sets about hiring a local drunkard to hunt the young girl down and to bring back her heart.  She ends up convincing a young widower to take up the job by promising him to return his deceased wife to life once he succeeds in his task.  After finding out the true identity of Snow White, The Huntsman decides to go against the Queen’s wishes and instead sets about protecting her.  Witnessing first hand the purity and kindness Snow White possesses, both The Huntsman and the dwarves (with whom the duo met up and befriended on their journey) understand that this young girl has the ability to unite the broken kingdom and to raise its armies in an attempt to fight and defeat the Queen, and to reclaim the land that once flourished and was full of happiness back when her father was in power.

As I mentioned earlier, “Snow White and the Huntsman” has been getting rather poor reviews and in this case I believe they are unwarranted as I found this film to be a very entertaining romp.  I am not sure if it is to do with the casting of Kristen Stewart and her association with the “Twilight” franchise that so many critics felt the need to knock this film, but whatever the reasons I do not feel they are justified here.  Sure the film is not perfect and it actually has a number of flaws, but for the most part it is actually pretty great.  In fact Kristen Stewart is a large part of why this film works so well, she is a fantastic Snow White.  I mentioned in my “Mirror Mirror” review how much I adored Lily Collins as Snow White, I thought she was perfect in that film, but the two characters while the same are completely different.  It is no secret that I am not a fan of the “Twilight” series and I think that Stewart’s performances as Bella in these films are incredibly bland and extremely boring.  She never smiles in them and just comes across very flat.  Her portrayal of Snow White is the complete opposite of Bella, she is so charismatic and she comes across as an utterly charming creature.  She appears so innocent and Stewart looks like she is enjoying herself here.  Even at the end when she is charging into battle on horseback made up in chainmail looking like Joan Of Arc, she is utterly delightful.  I must admit that I loved the slow motion shots of her riding on the horse.  The only off note in her performance was during her big speech that inspires the soldiers into battle, I just did not believe this moment at all as I felt she did not carry the right amount of weight in this scene.  The only thing I would have liked from a visual standpoint was to make Snow White’s skin paler, her hair blacker and to really make her lips a blood red.  I suppose this is a cliché, and may not have fit with the seriousness of this adaptation but I missed these elements. 

Chris Hemsworth also impresses greatly in the role of the Huntsman.  He delivers his lines in a thick Scottish accent that to my ear sounded perfect, never once did I hear him drop into his Australian accent.  Like Stewart, Hemsworth also displays an incredible amount of charisma here.  Although his character is a bit of a loser, it is easy to care for him and feel his pain.  In fact Hemsworth does a great job of depicting a man finding himself and learning to live again.  At the beginning of the film, as I mentioned he is a drunk and after the loss of his wife cannot see the good in life anymore, but by meeting Snow White and seeing her innocence and love of the world, it sparks something in him, and he starts to head down a path where he is more of a participant in the world again.  There is something in Snow that also reminds him of his wife’s beauty and by the end of the film we can see that the Huntsman is a changed man.  Throughout the film, Hemsworth does a great job at displaying these subtle emotional changes in his character.  As “Thor” showed us, Hemsworth is quite adept in the action department and he also stands out in these scenes here, this time brandishing an axe as opposed to a hammer.  I also think that the creators of “Snow White and the Huntsman” deserve some credit in not forcing a romance between the Huntsman and Snow White.  It would seem like an obvious thing to do but it just would not have been the right thing for the film, instead their relationship built on friendship and respect seems perfect.  There is another male character whom appears destined for a romance between Snow White in the film, but that romance also fizzles. William is one of Snow’s childhood friends who agonizingly had to leave her behind when Ravenna was massacring the kingdom’s army from within.  Assuming Snow had died on that night, he is forever haunted by that memory, however when he finds out that Snow has lived he does anything to get her back.  Unfortunately, I felt the character of William was one character too many in a film that has a lot.  We didn’t ever really get to know much about him and as such I feel this is one of the film’s weak points.

Every fairytale needs a great villain, and “Snow White” has one in the evil Queen Ravenna.  Charlize Theron plays the role of the Queen and visually she is perfect in the role, but sadly her performance is the biggest flaw in “Snow White and the Huntsman”.  She is absolutely terrible, in fact it is one of the worst performances I have ever seen by an Oscar winner.  She is so over the top and lacks any subtlety at all, shouting the majority of her lines.  As I mentioned, visually she is amazing and all of the film’s best images revolve around her, but whenever she was on screen she sucked the life out of the movie.  Seriously, she made me cringe.  The other villainous role, Ravenna’s brother Finn (who is played by Sam Spruell), also suffers due to a ridiculous hairstyle that made me struggle to take him seriously in any scene at all.

You may notice that the dwarves are not a part of the film’s title and frankly that is because their participation to the plot is actually pretty minor.  Director Rupert Sanders made a brave choice by not actually hiring real dwarves in the roles, but rather using an ensemble of great British talent such as Ray Winstone, Nick Frost and Ian McShane (to name a few) and resized them via CGI in post.  Personally I think it works, and they all give fun and amusing performances and there is actually one really great scene when Snow White dances with one of them.  Incidentally there are actually eight dwarves in this version.

Much has been made about how visual the movie is, and while I agree it is very beautiful, I was pleasantly surprised that it wasn’t just shallow shiny images that I was expecting.  The film is quite dirty and grimy in parts which I liked.  Prior to seeing the film I was not aware of the fact that the Australia cinematographer Greig Fraser performed the duties here, but as usual his work was stellar.  There were some amazing shots in this film, like Theron rising from the bath of milk(?), the Queen turning into a flock of ravens, to the shadow army being decimated by the soldiers at the beginning of the film, but the shots I really loved were the simple ones of Kristen Stewart which looked similar to something you would see in a Terrence Malick film, simple but beautiful.

While the film’s marketing has made it look like an all out action film, I was again pleasantly surprised by the large amount of fairytale elements throughout.  I thought the film was going to ditch these elements but thankfully they did not and the scenes set in both the dark and good forests are an absolute highlight.  The moments with the troll and the magical deer were also amazing (although I felt the CGI on the deer needed more work).  In regards to the action scenes while they are well done (with the exception of one ridiculous shot that looked like something out of a video game), I actually felt that they were not the strongest element of the film.

Overall, “Snow White and the Huntsman” was a huge surprise for me due to the fact of how much I enjoyed it.  While the performance of Charlize Theron was terrible, the great performances from both Kristen Stewart and Chris Hemsworth made up for it.  I loved that the film was much more of a fairytale than the “Lord Of The Rings” type adventure I was expecting, and visually the film is an absolute delight.  In the battle of the “Snow White” films, this version comes out on top and it was so entertaining that I recommend it to everyone.

3.5 Stars.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012


By the time of the release of “Prometheus” had arrived, my anticipation for it was at an all time high.  I consider myself a fan of director Ridley Scott and the thought of him returning to the world of the film that made him a star, had me giddy.  However was he really going back?  The intriguing nature of whether or not “Prometheus” was actually a prequel to “Alien” also added to my anticipation.

The film is about a couple of scientists, Elizabeth Shaw and Charlie Holloway, who three years after discovering the latest in a long series of paintings, all unconnected and all depicting the same star map, find themselves aboard the spaceship “Prometheus” on a privately funded mission, as they attempt to visit the planet nearest to the star constellation depicted in all of the paintings.  Dr. Shaw’s belief is that the creators of the human race (which she refers to as “Engineers”) inhabit this planet and finding them will lead to the ultimate discovery of life and creation, how it began and why.

Joining them on the ship are a number of scientists and muscle including Meredith Vickers, who appears to be in charge of the mission, Janek, who is the ship’s captain and is always cool in a crisis, and probably most importantly David, an android who has been looking after both the ship and its crew, while they have been in a deep sleep for the majority of their journey through space.  David was initially built by the billionaire Peter Weyland, who although no longer alive was a big believer in this mission and therefore funded the whole thing.  Upon landing on the planet the group suit up to investigate immediately, however it soon becomes apparent that this isn’t just going to be a scientific exploration, and that Meredith Vickers appears to have her own agenda for visiting the planet.  Amazingly, the crew stumbles onto the exact thing they were looking for in a cavern not far from where they landed, where they find the decapitated body of one of the Engineers, as well as a sealed part of the cavern filled with ominous looking canisters that seem to be excreting a black goo of sorts.  Probably an even bigger find in this section is the mammoth sculpture of a very human looking head, which seems to confirm Dr. Shaw’s suspicions that humanity’s creation began here.  Sadly though it appears that all of the Engineers are now extinct, meaning that all of the questions Dr. Shaw came with will likely remain unanswered.  Once they discover the head of the decapitated alien being, they decide to bring it back on board the ship to examine it, but by doing this they start a sequence of events that ultimately could lead to the jeopardy of the entire human race back on Earth.

“Prometheus” is such a beautiful and yet frustrating experience to watch.  When it is on, it is so very good, but there are elements within it that are so clunky that just bring it down.  The biggest problem with the film is the script by Jon Spaihts and Damon Lindelof.  It has characters doing and saying the most ridiculous things, but probably its biggest crime is that it forgoes any sort of character development whatsoever to the point that we rarely care about the entire crew of the Prometheus.  For a film which exhibits such extreme quality in parts, I was stunned to find such a poor script within.  It almost feels like a “Space Travel For Dummies” kind a thing, it feels so dumbed down.  “Prometheus” deals with a lot of heady ideas and themes such as how humanity began, creation, faith, death and rebirth, but they are all handled so clumsily.  For example, Dr. Shaw is seen wearing a cross throughout the film, a symbol of faith, yet she believes that humanity was created by these Engineers rather than God, making her attachment to the cross seem insincere yet the way it is presented we are meant to believe in her faith as a driving force in her life.  It just seems confused to me (or maybe it is just me that is confused).  

What “Prometheus” does have is three really strong lead performances.  Noomi Rapace plays Dr. Elizabeth Shaw, and something that I have always liked about Rapace is that she really gets into her characters, you can see that she lets them infect her life, she lives the role which is what makes her always come across as so real.  Rapace is so associated with her role of Lisbeth Salander in the original Swedish versions of the “Millennium” trilogy that you would almost think she would never be able to get out of that shadow, but such is her talent, not once did I think of Lisbeth when watching “Prometheus”, she was Dr. Shaw and only Dr. Shaw.  Rapace brings an intensity to this role, that is really much needed because if it wasn’t there than much of the second half of the film would have fallen flat.  When the fit hits the shan, you can see that Rapace is feeling every second of it.  Michael Fassbender once again proves that he is capable of playing anything, and his performance as the creepy android David is the film’s best.  He is astonishing here as he alternates between being a very friendly persona to being so creepy that you could see him bringing down the entire human race just so he could see what would happen.  David is a character that sees everything that is going on (and even initiates certain sequences of events), he is always looking and watching, very inquisitive, but is it just knowledge he is after or is he going to use this knowledge in a negative context.  Another thing I loved about David was the fact that he styled himself on Peter O’Toole in “Lawrence Of Arabia”, it seems an amusing thing for an android to do.  The third great performance, albeit with not as much to do as the previously mentioned, is Idris Elba as the captain of the ship.  He really brings a weight to the role, and an incredible amount of charisma making him standout from the rest of the crew, which the script gives little to do.  He is always entertaining when on screen.  The performances from both Charlize Theron and Guy Pearce are a bone of contention with me.  Actually Theron’s performance is fine for what it is, but her character ultimately has no point in the whole story that her role should have been written out well before production on the film began, where as Guy Pearce under a ton of aging make-up was a massive mistake.  Pearce is an actor I normally love, but playing the role of the very old Peter Weyland, just did not work.  He actually looked like a young guy made up to play an old guy, never once did he come across as believable.

Ridley Scott is known as a visual stylist and in that regard “Prometheus” delivers in spades.  The opening “seeding of the earth” segment is just beautiful and once we hit space, the film continues to deliver gorgeous images.  I love that he went back to the look of the original H.R Giger designs of “Alien” as it benefits the film greatly and gives a feeling of continuity.  The only thing that I was disappointed in visually speaking was the design of the Engineers themselves.  I understand that they had to look somewhat human but I didn’t think there was enough creativity shown in their design.  Another thing I loved about “Prometheus” was that when it was called for, Scott did not hold back on the blood and gore.  There are parts of the film that are very gory and I loved that, at least from what my eyes could tell, they appeared to use practical special effects rather than CGI whenever they could.  Granted some effects couldn’t be done without CGI but it looks like if they could be done practically they were, which makes them feel a part of the environment.

The consistent thing about the trailers for “Prometheus” was an incredible intensity held throughout.  Ridley Scott’s original “Alien” had the same intensity and I was really hoping for more of the same here, but sadly this is where the film falls short.  Trust me, there are a number of very intense sequences in the film (the film’s best scene which involves a bit of self surgery is the most intense I’ve felt in a cinema for a long time), but unfortunately the intensity is not sustained throughout the entire film, and it seems to come in peaks and troughs (which is very much like the film itself).

Overall, while I did like “Prometheus” greatly, it was frustrating because it could have been so much better.  The script constantly has characters doing ridiculous things (do not get me started on the character who literally leaves an “antagonist” in a room without telling anyone else about it), and has entire characters that turn out to be pointless.  That said it does make you think in parts.  One moment I was fascinated by was when David asked Charlie why humans made him, and Charlie’s reply is “Cause we could”, to which David responds with “How would that make you feel if you get the same answer from your creators?”.  I found that very interesting. The finale seems to be setting up for another sequel, where hopefully more questions are answered (and I do not mind the fact that the film leaves so many questions unanswered), but I guess you have to ask yourself whether or not “Prometheus” is actually a prequel to “Alien”.  I am not going to answer that question, so if you want to find out the answer to it you will have to check out Ridley Scott’s latest yourself, which in my opinion it is definitely worth it, even if it ultimately turns out to be a frustrating experience.

3.5 Stars.

Thursday, June 21, 2012


Wow, I did not see this coming!  You may remember back at the start of last year that “Twixt” was one of my top four most anticipated films of 2011 (back then the film still had the much cooler sounding title “Twixt Now And Sunrise”).  The reason for my excitement was that this was master filmmaker Francis Ford Coppola’s new film and that it was his first to dabble in the horror genre since his 1992 version of “Bram Stoker’s Dracula”, also little was known about the film which lent an added mystery to it.  2011 came and went and “Twixt” did not see a release, however it did screen at a couple of film festivals, and the reviews that came from them were not good.  Check that, they were woeful.  Critics remarked that this was arguably the worst film in Francis Ford Coppola’s career and unbelievably for someone of his talent, that the film was inept.  I could not believe what I was reading and when a trailer for “Twixt” was finally released, it seemed to confirm what the critics had been saying.  To be blunt, it looked like an amateur had filmed it, there was no way that the guy who created “The Godfather” trilogy had anything to do with this film.  Although my expectations dropped considerably (almost completely), I still wanted to see “Twixt” because it surely could not have been as bad as it looked.  However it is with a deep sadness that I have to report that it is indeed that bad, in fact it could even be worse.

The film is about a C-grade horror novelist, Hall Baltimore, who specializes in a series of teenage witch novels.  He heads to an unnamed sleepy town for a book signing (the bookstore amusingly shares space with the hardware store of the town) where the local sheriff, Bobby LaGrange, tries to convince him to co-write a book together about a series of recent murders that took place in the town.  Baltimore declines, stating that he works alone, but that night while sleeping in his hotel room, he finds his dreams haunted by one of the victims of this horrible crime.  He is so bewitched by the young girl, named “V”, and her story that when he finally awakens from the strange dream, Baltimore sees an escape from the never ending series of witch books he has been stuck writing, and a chance to write something more personal and that would mean more to him than just a check in the mail.  Baltimore goes to see LaGrange to agree to his proposal.  Since Baltimore awoke from his slumber before the dream finished and thus the mystery solved, he realizes that he must go back to sleep to find out the end of his story.  This time when he enters the dream world, Edgar Allan Poe is there (what?!?!) to help guide him along the right path.

As you can see from the plot above, the film does have potential (well, I don’t know about the Poe part) but what has been presented here just does not cut it.  I will admit that I respect Coppola for abandoning big-budget faceless filmmaking so late in his career to focus on making more low budget and personal films.  It is something that George Lucas keeps saying that he is going to do, only to end up tinkering with his “Star Wars” films again.  Just from the above synopsis you can see that “Twixt” is a personal film as a lot of Hall Baltimore’s characteristics mirror that of Coppola himself.  Things like they both want to create works that are more personal and Baltimore tragically lost a daughter to a boating accident (sadly Coppola’s own son shared the same fate).  In fact the main story for “Twixt” came from a dream that Coppola himself had that he felt was so powerful that he had to make the film just so he knew how the story would end.

The main problem with “Twixt” is the fact that it looks like Coppola has just filmed what he had dreamed without working on the story to make it work cinematically.  The film doesn’t even work in a dream logic fashion which filmmakers like David Lynch are a master at.  “Twixt” never once feels like a dream, rather it looks like someone recreating what they think a dream feels like.  Story-wise, the film is all over the place and barely makes any sense.  There is no “mystery” in the murder mystery itself and there is a whole group of “goth” like characters that are introduced who ultimately have no real importance to the film at all.  The leader of the group, Flamingo, is introduced in a grand way but has nothing to do with the main plot.  I also had a problem with the costume and make-up design of the goth characters which were totally overdone.  Even the ghost “V”, while she does look ethereal, I felt it was just too much especially those buck teeth.

On a technical level I could not believe how poor “Twixt” was also.  In the past when Coppola made a dud, at least it had been put together in grand style, but that just isn’t the case here.  The worst example is the terrible and cheap looking cinematography.  What makes this all the more shocking is that Coppola has used the same cinematographer, Mihai Malaimare Jr., on his past three films and both “Youth Without Youth” and “Tetro” looked stunning, so I do not know what has gone wrong here.  I will admit that every now and then during the film you would get a decent shot, such as the Hitchcock-like shots in the clock tower, but overall I was extremely disappointed with the visual style of “Twixt”.  The special effects are also a disgrace - in fact there is nothing “special” about them at all.  I made a loud audible groan when a shot of the moon appeared with Poe’s face imposed on it, and the shots of Flamingo riding his motorbike…..I seriously do not know what to say, they were a travesty.  I almost stopped watching the film at this point it was that bad.  Also I do not remember the last time I saw matte paintings as bad as the ones used here.  I cannot get into my mind that the man who made “Apocalypse Now” is the same man responsible for “Twixt”, talk about a fall from grace.

The strange thing about “Twixt” is that even despite its deficiencies, parts of the film are actually watchable.  The main reason for this is the performances from Val Kilmer (who plays Hall Baltimore) and Bruce Dern (who plays the mad sheriff, Bobby LaGrange) and while they will not win any awards for their work here, at least they are at times entertaining.  Kilmer is actually quite funny in parts, especially in a scene when he is trying to find the inspiration to start writing his book.  During the scene he does a fabulous impression of Marlon Brando from “Apocalypse Now” which sadly is the highlight of the film.  Dern completely overacts the entire film and is anything but subtle but at least he is having fun, which is something that “Twixt” needed a lot more of.  Sadly I felt that the usually great Elle Fanning put in a dud performance as “V”, although I think that Coppola’s screenplay did her no favours in that regard.  Maybe I just couldn’t get past those fake looking teeth but for once she just seemed uninspired in her role.

 An interesting side-note regarding “Twixt” was the fact that originally Coppola had planned to take the film on the road and present it where he would edit the film “live” depending on the reactions of the crowd watching it, making each viewing a unique experience.  Scenes would be lengthened, different takes used, scenes would be shortened or dropped all depending on what aspects of the film the audience were responding to on any given night.  That meant that the film could play more with comedic elements or go darker towards more horror elements.  While I appreciate the novelty of this, it wasn’t to be and I assume it was due to the fact that the film is such a turkey that it didn’t matter what you did to it, it was never going to work.

Overall, I was stunningly disappointed by the latest film from Francis Ford Coppola.  He just did not seem to have a handle on it at any stage, making strange and irrelevant decisions throughout (do not get me started on the needless Tom Waits narration).  I felt that “Twixt” was rushed into production before it was anywhere near ready, with the screenplay itself needing a good couple of rewrites or drafts.  On a technical level, this is the poorest work I have yet to see in a Coppola film, with some of the worst special effects I have seen in recent times.  While Val Kilmer and Bruce Dern provide some laughs, ultimately this is also a poorly performed film too.  The inclusion of Edgar Allan Poe as a character just seems like a terrible misstep and the ending (although providing the best visual elements of the film) just does not make any sense.  It pains me to say it, but “Twixt” is a real dud, if you get the chance to see it, I recommend that you do not waste your money and to avoid it.

1 Star.

Monday, June 11, 2012

THE ROAD (2011)

Filipino director, Yam Laranas, is not someone I am overly familiar with.  In fact before “The Road” I had only seen one of his previous films, the horror film “Sigaw” (which he remade himself in English under the title “The Echo”).  Although I enjoyed the film, it wasn’t special enough for me to anticipate further releases from its director.  My anticipation for Laranas’s latest came about after it played at a recent horror film festival to stellar reviews.  All of the horror websites I regularly frequent raved about the film and about how scary and intense it was, which made it instantly added to my “must see” list.

“The Road” is actually a clever little horror film.  The narrative is told in a non-linear fashion and is split into three distinct parts.  Each part is separated by a decade in time (going backwards) as we are witness to the odd happenings and going-on’s of a dilapidated house that exists on a mysterious road somewhere in the Philippines.  What makes “The Road” so clever is that each different segment represents different sub-genres of the horror genre, while at the same time fleshing out a much bigger story that encompasses all of the parts.

The first part, set in 2008, is a supernatural / ghost story where three teenagers, who are out for a late-night joyride in one of their parent’s cars, stumble upon the hidden titular road where they appear to get stuck in some sort of supernatural phenomenon.  The teenagers realize that no matter how hard they try, they are not able to leave the road and the group starts to panic when they notice that they are continually driving past the exact same landmarks.  Things go from bad to worse when they are menaced by a car that appears to have no driver.  Once they stop the car and try to go it on foot, matters continue to worsen as the group is then haunted by two deformed-looking ghosts intent on causing harm to all three.

The second part, set in 1998, is more in the vein of recent “torture porn” (for want of a better term) films.  In this segment, two sisters, who are driving along the same stretch of road, are victims to their car breaking down.  Upon investigation they realize that the radiator is in need of water and the girls begin searching for some.  Early in their search, a friendly and shy stranger happens by and invites them to his nearby place to get the water they require.  During the entire journey, the stranger does not utter a single word, but upon reaching his house it is soon revealed that he is not the nice guy he appears to be.

The final and arguably best part of the film, which is set in 1988, is a psychological horror story as it looks at the life of a young boy (who lives at the house on the road) and the violent incidents he regularly witnesses between his mother and father.  The boy lives a very sad life as not only is he an unwilling witness to the horrors of his parent’s marriage, but he is regularly abused by his mother and is never allowed to go outside.  This section of the film looks at just how much isolation and abuse somebody can take before their mind ultimately snaps.  To go into any more detail about this section of the film would be a crime in itself.

As well as these three parts, there is also a wraparound storyline which is about a highly decorated cop who is investigating the disappearance of two young girls who went missing twelve years ago on that same stretch of road.

Why I continue to review films that work better the less you know about them going in, I’ll never understand, but it is hard to go into too much detail with “The Road” without ruining what makes it special.  It is interesting to note that the majority of the marketing for “The Road” (ie. the poster and the trailer) revolves around the first part of the film, which is the part I found the least successful of the three.  Do not get me wrong, it is certainly creepy, but I felt that this segment suffered from pacing issues causing it to feel longer than it actually was.  I must also question some of the editing here which made Laramas’s storytelling ability to appear at times a little deficient, as it became hard to distinguish exactly what was going on during certain moments.  Aside from all of this, this segment has the creepiest image of the entire film which is a shot of one of the ghosts running behind two of the teenagers.  The shot is done in slow motion which just adds to its creep factor, with the majority of the shot the ghost being slightly out of focus.  Instead of attacking the youths in this moment, the ghost actually runs past them screaming (as if it is being chased by someone itself) which just sent chills down my spine.

The second segment doesn’t have any of the problems its predecessor had however the level of visceral horror is toned down as an emotional depth is added to the film.  While I described this section of the film earlier as “torture porn” this isn’t really the case because while there is torture, Laramas is smart enough to know that he doesn’t have to dwell on the violence to make it impactful, and as a result the majority of the physical abuse is performed off-screen.  The drama of this section comes from the two sisters as they feel the pain the other one is going through even though they cannot see it.  The two girls are separated by a wall, but they are able to hear each other’s screams, and when the stranger leaves them alone for a bit, the two share a painful but beautiful conversation, where we can feel just how much love they have for one another.  The level of acting in this segment is also an improvement on the first (not that it was bad), with the two actresses playing the sisters being particularly impressive.  Very early on they grab you with the reality of their performance, and you have no doubt that these two are actually family.  It starts with a normal everyday conversation they are having in the car about school and the like, and when their day takes a turn for the worse, that love is never lost.  There is a real sadness and feeling of melancholy that permeates this entire segment of the film.

For me though, the standout sequence was the final one where the film almost becomes a drama with very dark and murderous overtones as it looks at the effects on a child that a loveless and abusive marriage can have.  The abuse of the child himself and his forced isolation from the world also play a huge part of this section, as it suddenly becomes all about the mind of the boy and how much he can witness and be put through before he snaps and his view of the world is forever distorted.  Yam Laranas does not put a foot wrong in this section, all of the performers are stellar (especially from the young boy), but it is the amazing visual style that stands out here.  Laranas actually comes from a cinematography background (and performs the duties himself on “The Road”) so it should come as no surprise that the film looks great throughout but in this segment coupled with the amazing production design of the now alive and flourishing house, it goes to a whole other level.  His shot choices and compositions are expert and I was constantly reminded of the work from South Korean director Kim Ji-Woon (especially his “A Tale Of Two Sisters”).  I mentioned earlier that the content of this part is best unspoken about, but know that it is absolutely stellar and that the heart and emotional crux of the film comes from here.  The depth of emotion on display here is outstanding and the level of sadness portrayed is heartbreaking but everything that happens here effects the rest of the film (and actually improves the quality of the previous segments).

The only other problem I had with “The Road” is an eleventh hour “twist” that I felt was too rushed and muddled certain previous scenes.  Perhaps “twist” is the wrong word because it does make sense, but the reveal of it doesn’t seem to have been worked out as well as the rest of the film.

Overall, while it didn’t quite live up to the huge expectations I had going in, I did really enjoy Yam Laranas’s latest foray into horror with “The Road”, and I am also happy to say that it left enough of an impression that I will indeed now be looking forward to future films from this visually gifted director.

3.5 Stars.