I must admit that one of the films that excited me about this year’s Metro Manila Film Festival was director Yam Laranas’ return to horror with the film Aurora starring Anne Curtis. By its end, I was of the same feeling as its lead character, still searching for something missing because I felt that something major was definitely missing to make it live up to audience’s expectations.
Synopsis: Leana (Anne Curtis) and her sister Rita (Phoebe Villamor) run an almost bankrupt inn near the shore of where the MV Aurora crashed and caused the death of thousands of passengers with more still missing. Just as the Coast Guard declares an end to the search and rescue operations, families of the remaining missing persons offer Leana a bounty for each body that will wash ashore. Partially wanting to help the families find peace of mind and half wanting to save money to start afresh in a different place, Leana takes the offer, but she was not prepared for what will come next.
The Hitchcock-style scoring used in the beginning of the movie proved to be a promising herald of what was to come but to be completely honest, it was a challenge to get through the first half of this film without getting bored. The lead character Leana was too depressing to watch and it was not because of their business going south or the imminent loss of guests in their inn. She wore her depression like a shroud and it made viewers like myself want to tear their hair out in frustration. Case in point, there was only one sequence where the character smiled briefly when trying to cheer up her sister. One. Scene. Let that sink in. Pun intended.
But that’s not all. Leana is not only a bossy wet blanket, ready to douse any show of happiness from anyone but she was also overprotective, self righteous and judgmental. She felt like what she was doing was a noble thing even though technically, she was not doing anything at all but wait on the shore.
One can tell from the beginning that Laranas was establishing for an epic reveal for the movie’s climax but unfortunately, the plot twists did not have as much of an impact as expected, despite the build up. For one, I was really wishing for Leana to just be dead so she could take her moping self to the afterlife. She was just a detestable person. No offense to Anne Curtis or her fans. Its really hard to get behind her especially when she is such a one dimensional character unable to bend or compromise.
The supernatural element was okay. The fact that the shipwreck was caused by something other than an accident and the revelation of why there were so many bodies that remained missing was a good try. However, the execution of the shipwreck scene was too much of a Titanic ripoff to be taken seriously. Even the flow of the water was too reminiscent of the classic disaster film that comparison will be a given. Story-wise, the reason why there was a haunting in the inn made a lot of sense given the ghosts’ perspective but somehow, there was no wow factor even in the movie’s eventual climax. It didn’t help that the film was too dark to appreciate what was going on, especially with the underwater scenes.
All in all, Aurora was more hype than substance. While it was not entirely bad, I was not blown away by this horror movie. Huge credit though to the cinematography and editing but the pacing was too snail paced to get me excited at any point of the film. So, if you don’t fall asleep from the lengthy dialogue and the depressing cloud that Leana carries around with her everywhere she goes, congrats to you. Patience is a virtue for this flick but I wasn’t sure that the payoff was equal to the set up. In the end, I don’t know if it was a more effective social commentary than a horror.