Kubot: The Aswang Chronicles Movie Review

KubotI really loved the first installment of Tiktik: The Aswang Chronicles because it was innovative, edgy and super entertaining. When my brother, sis in law and I learned that there was going to be a sequel, we were super excited to see what it was all about. Aside from some initial reservations upon seeing the trailer, we still went ahead and saw the movie. It looked cool, but there was definitely something missing from the original that could have made the difference.

After wiping out the Tiktik (mythical creatures who prey on pregnant women) in Pulupandan, what remained of Macky’s (Dingdong Dantes) family — his girlfriend Sonia (now played by Hannah Ledesma), Sonia’s father Nestor (Joey Marquez) and their neighbor Aling Pacing (Rina Reyes) try to flee to Manila to start afresh. But even before they are able to leave, the Kubot (mythical creatures who have powerful hair to cause damage) take their revenge on the group for killing their kin. Two years later, Macky and Nestor find themselves in the midst of another aswang attack, this time involving a new race of aswangs who use tainted hotdogs to turn people into monsters.

Kubot was very consistent with the original, which was unsurprising seeing as the same writer, director and producer Eric Matti helmed the movie. True to form, it retained the classic comic book approach it used in the first movie. It was obvious from the opening sequence that it was going to be loads of fun like the original.

Kubot delivered on the mirth in spades, thanks to the presence of Joey Marquez and Lotlot de Leon. My favorite scenes in the movie were always with their two characters, their countless punchlines and just their sheer commitment to the comedy that just made the movie come alive (UPDATE: Marquez and de Leon won best supporting honors at the 40th MMFF awards night, deservedly so). Ramon Bautista, who returns to the franchise in a different role, was teamed up this time with Bogart the Explorer as a bumbling law enforcement officer, whose overconfidence and miscalculation led him to his doom. For sure, the MVPs for the movie were the supporting cast members.

In contrast, it felt like lead stars Dingdong Dantes and Isabelle Daza were trying too hard or too little that they never quite hit the right note in their portrayal. In almost 90 percent of the scenes he was in, Dantes oversold the embittered and uncaring tough guy act while Isabelle Daza, while quite beautiful, seemed not quite ready for a lead role just yet. She was great in some comedic scenes and she seemed quite comfortable in the action department but frankly, her acting was really subpar.

As for the main villain KC Montero, it bothered me that he looked too much like Captain Spaulding (Devil’s Rejects, House of 1000 Corpses) and that his powers were too similar to Resident Evil zombies that he felt like a watered down version of a bad guy. The church scene, on the other hand, seemed like it was inspired by an episode of The Originals. I, for one, couldn’t really get behind his grand plan. The idea was gross, true, but because the gore was kind of sanitized by the comic book approach to the sequence, the horror aspect seemed diluted.

The cinematography, on the other hand, was very good. As was the fight choreography. Given the small budget of this movie, it really stretched each buck and made everything work out overall. I also appreciated the fact the Tarantino-inspired editing that made the movie fast paced and edgy.

However, because it set the bar high with the first movie, there was a lot of room for comparison, and sadly, with each aspect, the second film felt short of expectation.

All in all, while Kubot was a strong fantasy horror in its own right, I felt like it was trying too hard to be Hollywood with the introduction of Sci-Fi effects like Macky’s mechanical arm that it neglected the Filipino aspect of the film which made the first movie so cool in the first place. I missed the focus on the traditional aswangs, which are a strong part of Filipino folklore. Instead, the Kubot, which should have been front and center as the main villains like the Tiktik, were pushed aside to accommodate a cocky Fil Am baddie with a penchant for making speeches.