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Filmmaker Yam Laranas is a one-man horror band, operating
out of his native Philippines, where he writes, directs, produces, shoots and
edits his eerie films. His 2004 ghost story SIGAW was part of the Asian horror
invasion and attracted the attention of Vertigo Entertainment (RING, DARK
WATER, THE GRUDGE), which hired Laranas to remake his own film with an American
cast as THE ECHO in 2008. Laranas returned to his country to helm his latest
film, THE ROAD (no relation to the same-named 2009 postapocalyptic film), which
Freestyle Releasing opens in 16 American cities this Friday and simultaneously
debuts on Freestyle Digital Media (to find the film in your area, go here, and read Fango’s review here).
Creepy and uncompromising, THE ROAD begins with the
repercussions of a 12-year-old cold case, which is reopened when three
teenagers disappear while driving down a cursed and remote road. As detectives
try to find clues to the whereabouts of the missing kids, they also unearth the
path’s horrifying past, which spans two decades—a history of abduction and
murder. Fango spoke with Laranas about THE ROAD taken…
FANGORIA: What was the inspiration for the story (co-written
with Aloy Adlawan)?
YAM LARANAS: I was very much intrigued by crimes of the past
and the long-term effects of mysteries that go unsolved. I believe they create
ripples in time—ghosts. Visually, I was inspired by the paintings of Rene
Magritte. The cloaked heads and the hidden faces—you will see variations of
those in THE ROAD. Ghosts are scary precisely because they are unknowable.
FANG: Can you describe how the three separate time periods
play into the plot?
LARANAS: The film is about how ghosts beget other ghosts.
The ghosts we see now were created by ghosts in the past, and those ghosts were
created by ghosts in an even more distant past. That’s why we say, “Nobody
leaves the road”—it’s a violent cycle you can’t get out of. Not being able to
escape is true horror to me. The three time periods take you deeper and deeper
into the past. They are meant to show different people from different times
trying to break this cycle of violence, but failing and ending up as ghosts.
FANG: THE ROAD is a mix of the supernatural and
serial-killer genres. Was it tough to balance these elements?
LARANAS: It was difficult to serve the demands of both a
horror film and a psychological murder mystery. On one hand, as a director, you
want to scare the audience out of their minds. But at the same time, you need
them to absorb information and clues to solve this mystery. So THE ROAD had to
be more carefully plotted and emotionally richer than what we ordinarily expect
a horror flick to be. It’s very tough, but also very satisfying when it works.
FANG: The scenes of child abuse are more shocking than the
murders. Was that always your intention?
LARANAS: What happens to the child in this film is the cause
of everything that happens afterward. So it had to be the most shockingly
horrific thing in the film to start that decades-long cycle of horror.
FANG: What kind of statement were you trying to make with
the fanatical mother and weak father of the serial-killer-to-be?
LARANAS: THE ROAD is about people who are trapped. Everyone
in THE ROAD is trapped one way or another. The fanatical mom is trapped by her
circumstances. She wants a different life from what she has. The father is
trapped by his fixation on dogma. The result is this child who is
psychologically trapped. Once again, nobody leaves the road.
FANG: How far did you want to push the violence?
LARANAS: I wasn’t thinking very consciously of how much
violence to show, but what images are needed to serve the story. I don’t like
gratuitous violence. When I’m watching a movie, I can sense which scenes are
being thrown in for pure shock value, or to satisfy a requisite number of
“scares.” The audience can sense this too. I want the scares to be organic and
rooted to the story. Those scares are harder to achieve, but they last longer
than a cheap thrill.
FANG: Was the film shot in sequence or by individual
LARANAS: It was shot in individual sections, mostly driven
by practical necessity. We shot everything we could in a given location so we
wouldn’t have to spend money setting up again in that same place. Great thing
our actors are just fantastic. They made the action look seamless.
FANG: Is it tough juggling cinematography and directing
duties at the same time on your films?
LARANAS: I’m so lucky and grateful whenever I can do both. I
was a cinematographer first, before I became a director. So, by the time I
became a director, I was already deep in the habit of visualizing the shots,
how they should be framed and lit. It’s not very tough, because I do my
homework and I come to the set already knowing where I want the cameras, which
lenses to use and which lights and filters. It actually saves everyone a lot of
FANG: The running time (110 minutes) is kind of long for a
low-budget horror film. Was it tough to whittle down the story, and is there a
lot left on the cutting room floor?
LARANAS: The length had more to do with having to tell three
full stories in one film. THE ROAD is also a murder mystery and a psychological
drama. I paced it slower than a horror film to allow the audience more time to
absorb the information and soak in the emotion.
FANG: Are you a one-man horror-filmmaking industry in the
Philippines? Are there other struggling genre filmmakers in your country?
LARANAS: There are filmmakers in the Philippines who can
write, shoot, light, edit and produce their films. It’s a question of whether
they want to. It’s very hard! I prefer it, though. It’s the only way I can
really make sure that what I imagine in my head is what appears on screen. I’m
responsible for everything—especially the mistakes, of course! Whatever
mistakes are all mine.
FANG: It’s quite an accomplishment that a foreign-language
horror film like yours is getting such a major release in the U.S. What made
Freestyle take such a gamble on THE ROAD?
LARANAS: Freestyle believes THE ROAD has a story that can
connect with a broad audience. The themes here are universal, and THE ROAD
could be any road in any country anywhere. The high production standards also
helped. We shot THE ROAD in 2k. It’s well-acted and very visual, which helps
break any language barrier.
FANG: Your own redux THE ECHO came out at the tail end of
the Asian remake craze. Will THE ROAD fare better?
LARANAS: I’m hopeful that THE ROAD will at least be
appreciated on its own merit and not be seen in the context of a current craze
like THE ECHO was. In that sense, THE ROAD is already faring better.
FANG: Were you happy with the remake overall?
LARANAS: I’m very happy about THE ECHO. But a serious
filmmaker will always be exploring and learning and getting better at his
craft. So when you look back at any of my films, there are always things that
you wish you had done or not done or done better. Happy, yes. Content, no.
FANG: What ever happened to your quasi-zombie film PATIENT
LARANAS: I love the premise behind PATIENT X. A city doctor
gets a call from small-town doctors who need help with a mysterious patient.
But when he gets there, he is shocked to find that instead of curing the
patient, the doctors are trying to kill it. And it won’t die. I wish I had
dwelled on this premise more than the thriller part of it. It could have been a
much stronger film.
FANG: What’s next for you? More genre films? Any new
overtures to work in the U.S.?
LARANAS: I’ve written a horror/mystery script set in Los
Angeles and Echo, Oregon that I’d love to do soon. I’m reading scripts sent by
my agent Brant Rose and friends here in LA. I’m just waiting to be grabbed by
that next ghost…
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