Tuesday, 28 September 2010

The Road. (Warning: Prozac required)

There are great movies that are so relentlessly bloody horrible that it takes real commitment to see them through to the end. The Road is one of them.

In this undeniably accomplished but endlessly depressing offering, Viggo ‘Versatility’ Mortensen plays a man whose sole objective, following an unspecified cataclysm that has burnt the world to bits, is to protect his young son from the ravaging hordes of cannibals that stalk the unremittingly grey, unyieldingly cold landscape. (My thesaurus has now reached its limits of alternatives for ‘without end’ – feel free to insert your own synonym almost anywhere you like.)

Viggo is, in fact, the only reason I didn’t hit the ‘stop’ button. In a post-apocalyptic world, I’d like him to be my dad. (Or, you know, my boyfriend.) He even does us the favour, at one point, of removing his clothes and frolicking in a pond – a moment I have been eagerly waiting for since I saw his naked wrestling-in-a-sauna take in Eastern Promises.

(A quick side note: like most women in the known world, I fell hopelessly in love with Viggo’s Aragorn in Lord of the Rings. But in real life, Viggo is even more swashbuckling: he’s worked as a truck driver – way to earn rough kudos! – has a degree in Spanish, and established his own publishing house, Perceval Press, to help struggling artists get the recognition they deserve, because he’s also a poet, musician, photographer and painter. He was married to a singer in a punk band – can this man get any more fabulous?? – with whom he has a son, now 22.)

Anyway, back to the movie. I’m not a fan of horror movies because I don’t like having nightmares (I couldn’t sleep for a week after seeing the apparently tame The Frighteners), so I never rent them. But there was nothing on the cover of The Road that led me to believe that I’d wake up, strangling in my duvet with terror, at 3am. It didn’t say, for instance, that Viggo would come within nanoseconds of purposefully blowing his own son’s brains out. It gave no inkling of the Deliverance-style scene where a hillbilly’s snake-lipped black-toothed grin at a petrified boy would send horrified chills down my spine. It didn’t warn me that Viggo would find, in a locked cellar in an abandoned house, a roomful of deranged, skeletal people, cached there by cannibals as a food supply.

‘Please, let something good happen,’ I whispered, about half an hour into the movie, when my nerves were so stretched that when my cellphone beeped to tell me an SMS had arrived, I let out a little scream.

Then something did! They found food! And warmth! Oh thank god! I relaxed a little, and massaged the crescent-shaped indentations in my palms.

But it was a shortlived reprieve. Very soon, they were back on the road, having an entire forest of trees fall on them, getting pierced by arrows, being robbed, vomiting, being wracked by fever, exhibiting meanness to blind old men and generally displaying man’s inhumanity to man (well, Viggo was, which did make me a little disappointed in him).

The ending – which really couldn’t come soon enough for me – was both as traumatising as the entirety of the movie (and - spoiler alert - another thing Viggo can put on his CV is playing a corpse with genuinely upsetting credibility) and unbearably annoying. Okay, I’ve given this much away, I may as well just reveal all: Viggo dies, and the boy finds a new home with a mom, dad and kids – and a dog!

A dog?? Hello?? In a world in which nothing grows and dinner is, literally, a hay seed if you’re lucky, not only does a dog somehow succeed in not being turned into dried strips of much-needed protein, but appears glossy-coated and cheerful? Yes, I realise it’s a metaphor for hope and new beginnings and all that stuff – and I suppose I’d rather starve to death than eat my own hounds – but come on! There’s seldom been a time when I’ve wanted to kick Hollywood’s butt more.

Anyway. By all means, see The Road (if you want to, now that I’ve told you what happens*). But be warned: this is not a road movie, it is a horror movie.

* I’m sorry if I’ve spoiled The Road for anyone who hasn’t seen it, because I’m a great fan of how carefully movie buffs protect the plot twists of movies even years after they’ve left the main circuit. So I have to share this astonishing experience I had, in a DVD-rental store in Malmesbury, a while ago. I took out a movie called The Orphan. When I went to pay for it, I asked the clerk on duty if it was any good. ‘Ja, I s’pose it’s okay,’ she said, mindlessly snapping her bubblegum, ‘but I think it’s just schoopid how the 9-year-old orphan girl akshully turns out to be a 33-year-old woman.’ Not believing for an instant that someone who akshully works in a DVD-rental store could possibly supply such an obvious spoiler (and temporarily forgetting that Malmesbury is not the centre of the world’s brains trust), I assumed that more would be revealed when I watched the movie. It wasn’t. The whole point of the movie was that ‘the orphan’ wasn’t a 9-year-old girl, she was a 33-year-old mental patient. So, if you’re planning to see The Orphan any time soon, sorry for that plot spoiler too.

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Lynne said...

thanks for the warning. Because I may have rented it purely for Viggo. Maybe you could just let us know at what point he does the naked frolic thing and we (and by that I mean me) could just go directly to that point and leave out all the other, less appealing stuff?

Claudine said...

I hear the book is better, more bleak. The movie however, ranks right up there with Attack of the Killer Tomatoes. I fell asleep more than once, even snored loud enough to wake myself.

Muriel said...

Oh, go ahead and rent it for Viggo, Lynne. Fast-forward to the frolicking scene. Because golly is it worth it!
Oy, Claudine, I don't know how you could have fallen asleep. I couldn't, because if I had, cannibals would have eaten me. Clearly you have more houding than me.

Claudine said...

Oh I don't know about houding. The only movie that has ever freaked me out enough so that I couldn't sleep was Event Horizon. Still can't watch it.

ali g said...

Well would you believe I just bought 'The Road' from the ex-rental video stand at the local video shop for A$7.
Got it home and have just read your review...
Might just put in the cupboard now for if the only good bit in it is a bloke having a naked frolic then

Gretchen Bong Spoodle said...

I'm definitely going to take some time off in a post-apocalyptic, zombie-ridden world to frolic in a river. Obviously. Them zombies have their own things to do, like buy toothpicks and groom happy-ending dogs.
No Viggo, No!

Gretchen Bong Spoodle said...
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