According to http://www.wikipedia.org, horror as a genre is distinctive from other types of films for its ability to provoke a response, emotional, psychological or physical within each individual that causes someone to react with fear. In order for that response to be elicited there are different techniques used, such as unreal figures, or more real situations and figures such as serial killers. The whole horror genre is built up upon people’s fear of the unknown and anxieties. I would like to use these criteria in which to base my reviews for this year’s horror entries to the Metro Manila Film Festival.
Segunda Mano (Second-hand): The first horror outing of RomCom/ drama director Bb. Joyce Bernal deals with a plain antique shop dealer Mabel (horror queen and queen of all media Kris Aquino), who lost her sister Marie on the beach 20 years prior, and struggles to keep her business afloat support her mother (Helen Gamboa), who, after all these years has not given up on finding her daughter, whose body has not yet been recovered. Mabel finds her life complicated when Ivan (Dingdong Dantes), a man who was abandoned by his wife (Angelica Panganiban) for another man, pursues her and expresses his intention to have her complete his family, together with his daughter. The plot thickens when Mabel finds a bag in her best friend’s secondhand store, and Mariella (the wife’s) ghost starts to haunt her and her family. But the horror does not stop with the bag as Mariella’s dress and car also pop into Mabel’s life just as the murders begin. So, is Mariella dead (duh), or did she run off with her lover, as what Ivan claimed? And if she was dead, who killed her?
Shake Rattle and Roll 13: On its 13th outing, the Shake Rattle and Roll franchise once again comes out with three horror episodes intended to shake, rattle and roll the audiences out of its wits with mindless horror, as is tradition with the franchise. The first offering is by director Richard Somes entitled Tamawo, which is based on local folklore of half engakanto, half maligno creatures who have been rejected by both heaven and hell and relegated to the woods which they consider their only kingdom. The episode stars the charming Bugoy Cariño as Bikbok, whose family — stepfather Allan (Zanjoe Marudo), blind mother Isay (Maricar Reyes) and his baby brother are transplanted to the province after Allan takes over the former post of his uncle Lando (Ronnie Lazaro) who was believed to be run over by cows, but was in truth murdered by the creatures. The Tamawos start attacking the humans beyond the woods and send a message through Bikbok that they want to retrieve what has been stolen from them (a crystal egg) or all hell will break loose. Bikbok tries to rectify the damage wreaked by the greedy humans at the expense of his own safety. The second story Parola, directed by Jerrold Tarog (who did a great job on last year’s SRR episode Funeraria) deals with two best friends who go up on a lighthouse only to find themselves possessed by two rival witches from the 1800s and being used to fight to the death by the ghosts. The final episode, entitled Rain Rain Go Away directed by Chris Martinez stars comedian Eugene Domingo in a serious role as the wife of plastics magnate Mar (Jay Manalo), who, in the wake of typhoon Ondoy (which flooded around 80 percent of Metro Manila) experiences supernatural events in their new household.
PLOT AND STORYLINE:
WINNER: This year’s horror entries were a tad disappointing mainly because the filmmakers and producers failed to come up with stories that were original and engaging. Both Segunda Mano and SRR 13 seemed like recycled remakes of Hollywood hits and were concentrated in eliciting cheap thrills instead of building a solid plot and a subsequent twist that would linger in the minds of the audience a la Feng Shui.
In this battle, I would give the edge to Segunda Mano, because the plot had better structure (although very predictable) and lets face it, Tarog may have done great in last year’s SRR but this year, his episode did not make any sense at all. It used up its entire time trying to serve up blood and gore that it did not answer the question as to who really started the feud between the two rival witches/ghosts. The last episode Rain Rain Go Away, aside from the very weak title, also revolved around a very weak premise, taking away from the final reveal. Without any ice breakers, the episode was very bleak and depressing, leaving audiences waiting for the entire thing to be over because the twist was so obvious. The only saving grace in the movie was the Tamawo episode, because of the great acting of its cast and excellent make up and effects for the creatures that hit the right spot.
WINNER: Horror newbie Joyce Bernal got schooled by SRR on this aspect because of a.) poorly executed death scenes, b.) poorly executed haunting scenes, c.) lack of blood and gore. This is horror, after all and its not just the number of shrieks you get that count. Bernal made the mistake of focusing on the establishment of (both) hauntings, that she inadvertedly gave the twist away too early in the game.
SPECIAL EFFECTS and MAKE UP:
WINNER: SRR 13 prides itself on its monsters and this year wasn’t any different. In terms of special effects, the old school horror franchise did not slack off. Segunda Mano fared decently in this aspect though, but really, it could have stepped up its game and thought of more creative ways to stage a haunting. Translucent ghosts in limbo? Really?
WINNER: Acting wise, I would say that it would have to be a tie between the two — Kris Aquino’s overanxious look was an excellent foil for Eugene Domingo’s perpetual state of dismay while Bugoy Cariños charming portrayal of a brave young boy who would protect his family at all cost was a great counter to Dingdong Dantes’ psychotic rages. As for the supporting cast, Bangs Garcia was a revelation as she provided comic relief as coñotic best friend to Kris’s character while Maricar Reyes shone in her role as a blind mother, helpless in protecting her children from imminent danger.
WINNER: This one goes to Segunda Mano, because it at least got the viewers involved in the story that it had to tell. At times, one would wonder whether or not it was actually a psychological thriller with elements of the supernatural and it did have a lot of loopholes and inconsistencies but overall, it entertained audiences, and injected a bit of fun in the face of supernatural haunting.
SRR 13 should have brought it in this installment, seeing as 13 is one of the most popular and significant numbers in the horror genre. But it chose instead to settle for weak stories that eroded the very foundation of its overall presentation. It should have known better.
Both movies had a lot going for it — great budget, and all star cast but both was on pretty equal footing in not reaching deep enough to bring something new to the table. Segunda Mano tried to spend too much time establishing its story and injecting decoys that it failed to check on the loopholes of the plot — leading to a lot of questions (for the more discerning horror fans) like how the ghost’s stuff suddenly materialized when it was clearly with the body? Like how come the ghost was able to speak towards the end when it could have spoken before and given her message to Mabel and made it much more simple? It was also obvious from the beginning who was the murderer so taking too long to move the story along was merely a ploy to eke out moments for Dingdong Dantes for the award.
Shake Rattle and Roll, on the other hand, already had the genre down to a science but somehow, this year’s offering was unoriginal and uncreative and seemed like a halfhearted attempt just to keep the franchise going when it fact it should have taken the lead in dishing out monsters galore and a ton of teenagers being chased by signature folklore creatures. In short, it played safe when it should have pushed the envelope, resulting in a generic and unmemorable horror flick.
Both films are not bad and are passable in their own right. However, they were not fresh and were derailed by their ambition to get one over the other in terms of awards that the essence of horror was diluted by attempts to infuse drama in their stories, dragging out the films instead of moving them forward to a thrilling, horrifying spectacles that it should have been. I say get back to the drawing board, people. This made recent horror The Road seem like a gem. I wouldn’t call that a compliment.