A young couple find themselves straying into a strange and purgatorial landscape after taking an ill-advised shortcut in Lawrence Fajardo’s eerie gothic horror, Reroute. Shot in a crisp black and white, Fajardo’s journey into darkness is one of intensely toxic masculinity born of a macho culture which manifests itself most clearly in the military and authoritarianism while the “private property” onto which the couple stray appears to be a liminal space inhabited by those who cannot live in the modern society. 

As for the couple, when we first meet them they are in the middle of a blazing row on a long distance drive mostly caused by the man, Dan’s (Sid Lucero), jealously and resentment towards the woman, Trina (Cindy Miranda), who supports them both with her down to earth job as a bank manager while he is in a band but technically unemployed. Dan’s volatility is palpable, quickly getting into a physical altercation with a local man at a rest stop much to Trina’s dismay but uncomfortably enough the fight seems to clear the air between them. Cooling off at the beach, they become warm and gentle with each other making love at the shore, but tensions rise once again when they approach their destination and discover that the road is closed because of a military exercise. The soldier on the checkpoint tells them to follow the diversion which involves going round in a huge circle adding hours onto their journey, but Dan doesn’t listen and decides, as he grew up in the area, to take a “shortcut” using the old road. To placate Trina he agrees to check directions with a local man whose house they’re passing but he tells them they’re on private property and should turn back. 

Again, Dan ignores him and the car breaks down stranding them in the middle of nowhere with no phone signal, Trina further blaming Dan for not having checked all of this out beforehand or made sure the car was in good condition. The following morning a man approaches and offers to help, but there’s no kindness in his eyes and something unsettling about the way he keeps staring at Trina. Gemo (John Arcilla) takes them back to his house and offers to radio a mechanic but otherwise spends his time responding to cryptic messages about some kind of military operation. “If I were you I’d leave now” Gemo’s wife, presumably, Lala (Nathalie Hart) advises Trina but it’s already too late. They’re miles from anywhere and this weird village seems to be completely cut off from the outside world.  

One level, the contrast between Gemo and Dan is stark. A former military man Gemo’s old-fashioned masculinity is rigid and austere while Dan is an underachieving slacker with an inferiority complex prone to fits of rage. In an ironic way, they could be father and son yet they fight over a girl, not Trina but the absent daughter of Gemo, Ariana, who passed away after getting an abortion at 16 when the boyfriend who got her pregnant abandoned her. Half-crazed, Gemo is convinced Dan is the man guy ruined his life and takes an extremely ironic form of revenge in proving his masculine dominance over the younger man while forcing Trina into the role of his 16-year-old daughter. 

Then again from what we later see perhaps Gemo is responsible for ruining his own life and those of the people around him as product of the society in which he lived, spouting religious aphorisms and talking of his military past suppressing protests by the Muslim community on Mindanao. This weird village where all the villagers seem to be on Gemo’s side and also involved in some kind of covert operation appears to be a kind of purgatorial space inhabited only by former soldiers who can not move on from the authoritarian past, yet Gemo is haunted by a different kind of ghost and commits a different kind of crime in trying to quell it. Trina is dragged into this bizarre series of events because of Dan’s wounded male pride, insisting he knew a shortcut and ignoring all the warnings, but in the end is the only one capable of ending the curse in forcing Gemo to accept the reality of his daughter’s death “so we can all be free”. Filled with an intense sense of dread and malevolence, Fajardo’s eerie drama ends in the mist-drenched forests of the remote countryside but perhaps suggests that escape is only possible through fully exorcising the past. 

Reroute screened as part of this year’s Udine Far East Film Festival.

Original trailer (English subtitles)

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