I was actually quite excited to see Kuwaresma when I found out it was added to Netflix and I immediately shelved all my pending items on the list to give it priority. I’m a big fan of horror movies and I really want local films to do well, so Erik Matti’s film seemed like a perfect way to hit two birds with one stone. By its end, what I felt like was hitting your own head with a stone, so frustrating and scattered was this movie that it will leave you with a sense of disbelief — not in a good way at all.
Synopsis: Luis (Kent Gonzales) receives a call while he’s at university and learns that his twin sister Manuela (Pam Gonzales) has died. Upon his return, his parents Arturo (John Arcilla) and Rebecca (Sharon Cuneta) dismiss his curiosity about the cause of her death and act extremely weird and not at all bereaved of her death. Luis is haunted by his dead sister and a mysterious demon that seems to reside in their house.
From start to finish, I really did not know what the film was actually gunning for. Was it a paranormal horror? Was it a psychological thriller? It seemed like the film wanted to set up for both, starting with its establishment of the house’s tragic history. There’s also the mystery aspect wherein Arturo and Rebecca’s dubious actions lead audiences to suspect that there’s something more, afoot. The film slowly unravels after several jump scares and proceeds to serve up a composite of several horror concepts gleaned from Hollywood to serve up a smorgasbord of watered down versions of these ideas.
The film does try its best to present itself as an original, but the story felt like an arrogant poseur with its lengthy and cryptic dialogues and scenes that wanted to serve like a piece of the puzzle that audiences need to connect by its end. The problem was the characters themselves. While the acting from John Arcilla and Sharon Cuneta were superb, it seemed like the whole movie was intended only to showcase their acting chops and nothing else. Newcomer Kent Gonzales brought nothing to the table, and Pam Gonzales was only tasked to shore up some scares, period. After John Arcilla’s spotlight moment, the film even felt compelled to give Sharon Cuneta an anticlimactic spiel with dialogue that did not feel consistent with her character.
Kuwaresma wanted to shock with the brutality, and was hoping that the twist would make the film so much more than a poor copy of formulaic tropes from books and movies like The Amityville Horror, The Exorcist, American Horror Story, The Haunting of Hill House and even Linda Howard’s Mr. Perfect but it never quite reached this reaction because of the sheer darkness (literally) of the film which took away from its strength in cinematography. This was the same for Erik Matti’s Seklusyon which had me wanting to yell at the lighting crew to spend more money on the lights because we were paying good money to at least see what was going on in the movie.
Rather than focus on the evil that resides in the house, or that hatred in its walls that corrupt the residents, the film’s hidden message of gender inequality and how the public view men and women seemed to stick out like a sore thumb, which brings me back to the point that the film tries to be more than a Hollywood knockoff. Unfortunately, it doesn’t quite work because of the glaring loopholes in the plot.
So by its end, was there really a connection among the killings in Kuwaresma? Was the ending justified? Was the demon finally dead? These are questions I have no more patience answering after the film wasted over two hours of my time. Pro Tip: Find something better to spend your time on because these are 115 minnutes of your life that you will never get back.
PS. Kuwaresma‘s translation is not The Entity. Its closer to Lent or Lenten Season.