Corazon, Ang Unang Aswang: A Review

I didn’t see the trailer for this movie but I did catch a snippet of its behind the scenes feature on Cinema One before I decided to watch it on the big screen. The way the filmmakers and the actors were talking about it, I was fully expecting a compelling drama with some horror aspects in line with the general theme of the movie, the first aswang, a mythical creature in Philippine folklore that preys on the flesh of children. At the end of the film, however, I was more confused than entertained about what I just sat through an hour and 45 minutes for.

Corazon is a story set in the aftermath of the Japanese wartime era about a young couple, Daniel (Derek Ramsay) and Corazon (Erich Gonzales), who live in the outskirts of a village where Corazon is considered an outcast because of her lineage. Townsfolk believe her mother to be a whore during the Japanese occupation and thus has passed on the stigma to her. Aside from the war, the townfolk are also waging their own battle to retain their livelihood against their haciendero (landlord) who wants to sell their farmland to gain profit. Amidst this all, the young couple struggle to build their family and have a baby but find it difficult to conceive even after five years of marriage. They turn to a village mystic and undergo a ritual to help grant their wish but consequences abound when something bad happens to their child.

What I liked about Corazon, first and foremost was the great cinematography and the visually stunning treatment of the entire film. This much is consistent and coats the film with an air of professionalism that is a credit to the filmmakers. It also had a great story to tell — about love, and faith, the loss of faith, of people’s ignorance and cruelty and eventually, revenge, all issues that remain relateable even to this day and age.

However, its main failing, for me, was that it became too ambitious. The film wanted to be a story of enduring love, a compelling drama, a film with social relevance and a well executed horror. The problem was that it lost focus on what it wanted to establish. As a result, the film became too wordy, too whiny, too dragging, and basically too much of everything. Many of the scenes actually should have been cut from the movie if only to expedite the progression of the story.

There were openings at the beginning that were not answered, such as what the crazy woman’s true relationship to Corazon was, or where the mystic found her powers. The transitioning was also a bit confusing, and cost the general storytelling with lost momentum. It’s as if some parts of the story were left forgotten because there was something else to tell.

Also, much of the dialogue was cliche so instead of tears, many of the moviegoers were more inclined to snickers. Some of the actions of the film’s characters also made no sense. Like why was Daniel mad all the time when he claimed to be very happy just being married to his wife? What of the perpetual killer look and the grim expression, then? Why was he so fond of pulling his bolo on his friends? Many may say that this was one of Ramsay’s best performances in his career but for me, it was actually the worst. Yes, there is such a thing as overacting, and this movie pushed Ramsay to the edge. Too much, too much, not his fault entirely but perhaps, this fault lies with the director. On the other hand, while I am not a big fan of Erich Gonzales, her portrayal of Corazon was quite well done, especially in the parts where she was losing her faith. My complaint, too much screaming on all parts.

Corazon was a passable movie, a bit of a torture to sit through, but I had the feeling that the movie was made to showcase acting rather than tell a story, which should never be the case. If the filmmakers were going after awards, this was not the proper genre to do it on. It was too much of a hard sell, too much sitting around, too much clenching of jaws, too much cliches. For me it was horror alright, but a horror in storytelling and direction — but I don’t think this was the reaction they were gunning for.