So this Philippine horror movie comes out and gets good reviews, is supposed to earn honest scares and creepiness, and is said to be genuinely unsettling. So I'm in! We open with a person parked on said road, pulling out a gun and shooting himself. Then we join a police ceremony in which a fast-rising star is promoted to lead detective, over the doubts of some. A woman appears and asks if any progress has been made on the case of her missing daughter. We then meet these three kids, a young couple and their younger girl cousin. There is a title: Part 1: 2008. They are taking the car, and since all of them are too young to have a license, they uncover a boarded-up road and drive down it.
The road is made of dirt and surrounded by dense vegetation, resulting in effective shots showing only the lights of the car proceeding through blackness, making the entire place seem extremely remote. Soon a red car is passing them, but it doesn't have a driver. Then it passes them again. Then it passes them and this time, a bloody figure with a plastic bag over her head rises in the back seat. Then the bloody figure is standing in the road. Then she appears in the car. The kids find a crashed car. It starts on fire. They get separated, and end up coming to a dilapidated old house. Then--things don't work out so well.
SPOILERS > > >
We rejoin the new detective as he and his team search for the missing kids. They find the old crashed car, which has a skeleton in it. It is the body of the daughter the woman at the beginning was asking about. Then a title: Part 2: 1998. Here we join two young women as they go down the road, only to find their car suddenly stalling. A young man passes them, and they go to the dilapidated house, where he lives. He says he's going in to get water for their overheated car, and when he comes out--hmm, I guess he wasn't going to help them after all. The girls start having a rather unpleasant time, and as it proceeds, we see a lot of things happening to them that explain the images and the ghosts seen by the kids in the first section. Their car is the red car. The older girl from 1998 is the woman in the bloody plastic bag in 2008. Lots more images from part one are explained by part two, which also introduces its own creepy images, presumably to be explained by part three.
And so they are. Part three takes place in 1988, and we join the young man from the second part, who is then a young boy. The house was then lived in. He has a stern, abusive mother who refuses to let him go outside and locks him in a wardrobe for any slight transgression. His dad comes home and lets him out, and we learn that dad is a Christian missionary who leaves the mother and child alone a lot while out ministering, causing bad feeling to develop at home. There's not a lot of love in that marriage, and again, things do not proceed harmoniously. But as we go through this story, we have a lot of images that explain the images that appeared to the girls in part two. There is a final coda with the detective that introduces a twist that is not bad and brings all of the stories together, and then that's it.
< < < SPOILERS END
So Philippine horror, eh? What does that mean? Well, interestingly, it seems to share a worldview with Thai art movie Uncle Boonmee, which puts forth that the dead just kind of linger around the place where they met their ends, and are ever-present, sometimes visible, sometimes not. It also seems to share some DNA with Japanese horror like The Grudge, which has it that a violent event leaves a spiritual stain on the place where it occurred. Also like Asian horror, the scares are slow and filled with dread, not jump-out killers or big bang jump scares like we're used to in American horror. Also interesting is that while Americans demand that their horror heroines be somewhat resourceful and fight back, here its more acceptable to just crumple in place and whine "I want to go home!"
Ultimately, this movie is successfully creepy and intriguing, but rarely outright terrifying. There's also a lot more story than we usually get, and the whole thing of images that get presented, then explained by earlier events, so it presents a mystery that continues to unfold as we learn more and more about what happened to make this place so haunted. You don't walk out of it saying its the best thing that's ever happened, but again it gives one a lot more to think about, and supplies many evocative images that linger with one after it is over. I liked it.
If you're in the mood for something more creepy than scary and a bit different than what you usually see.