Review: Meandering 'Road' with a chilling destination

The Filipino horror movie "The Road" takes its own sweet time drawing you into its world of frightened teenagers, bloody apparitions and buried secrets. Co-writer/director Yam Laranas prefers protracted enigmas to quick-and-easy shocks, making for some slow going early on.

The story centers on a trio of adolescents who sneak out in a car for a late-night ride on a closed-off dirt road where two young sisters famously disappeared a decade ago. Laranas then flashes back to the sisters — a captivity tale involving a grim-faced teenage boy in a dilapidated house off that same road — before hopping even further back for the tale's whole twisted family origins.

Steeped in the filmic language of ghostliness — things there, then gone, with unreliable points of view and spare, echoey sounds — the film's three-pronged narrative does a fair job of laying a spooky groundwork for the revelatory emotional sadism that lies behind most acts of evil; it just takes a bit of clunky exposition to get there.

The end twist is hardly a surprise considering the early introduction of a seemingly superfluous character, but it leads to a final image of lilting, haunted uncertainty, one whose artfulness makes good on the occasional bumpiness in the journey.

"The Road." MPAA rating: R for violence, terror and some disturbing images. Running time: 1 hour, 50 minutes. At selected theaters.

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