Orphan Movie Review: There is Something Wrong with Esther
Orphan borrows from just about every other psycho-child thriller flick; but it is good to know that its visceral staples for the suspense-thriller kind is its good source of sheer terror.
Orphan Movie Review: There is Something Wrong with Esther
The Shining Movie Review: Stanley Kubrick’s Horror Masterpiece Shines for Many Generations
The Shining is a masterpiece of modern horror. With its remarkable visual panache and a keen sense of irony, it is a rare, chilling, majestic piece of cinematic fright benefiting repeated viewings.
Jennifer’s Body Movie Review: Capitalizing on a High School Scare Flick
In Jennifer’s Body, Megan Fox looks high school foxy as a scarily hot horror queen in the usual teen scare flick set-up. And it could probably work best for midnight screenings and slumber parties.
The Exorcism of Emily Rose Movie Review: A Courtroom Psychological Horror
Provocative and absorbing but without any pronouncements, it is a thinking person’s demon possession film.
District 9 Movie Review: A Thinking Man’s Timely Sci-Fi
District 9 is a hybrid of a film, and it looks like a successful sort of anti-Hollywood venture for that. A brilliant social commentary.
Capitalizing on a High School Scare Flick
By Rianne Hill Soriano
“Jennifer’s Body” works more as a teen sex ad that seeks pleasure on seeing Megan Fox looking high school foxy as a scarily hot horror queen in the usual scare flick set-up. And it could probably work best for midnight screenings and slumber parties. Overall, it’s not as frightening as it should be; it’s not as hip and funny as it would like to be; yet, it’s not a complete disaster if merely accepted as a lowbrow gore and titillation offer to hormone-raging audiences and undemanding slasher film lovers.
As a brisk, bloody mix of gory horror and high school comedy punctuated by the typical scare elements and high school cheekiness, the film hobbles with tonal inconsistencies because of merely concentrating on having two-dimensional characters. It fails to capitalize on its campy premise about the usual girl-in-distress who would latter go to the opposite side of the fence – which could have effectively worked side-by-side the commercial appeal of Fox who plays the lead character of the film. Actually, there are moments of inspired cleverness and decent scares, but they are not frequent or sustained enough.
The film seems to want a lot but it doesn’t manage to achieve them accordingly. Screenwriter Diablo Cody (Oscar winner for her “Juno” screenplay) has a few good points to make about the frenemy dynamics in a high school setting including teenage relationships and connections, party fun, fame and power plays, sexual excitement, among other things. Director Karyn Kusama tries to mount a certain atmosphere in what it’s like to be adolescent girls who come into sexual and social power through tragedies. However, the final output still looks amateurish that the film actually renders itself as a lackluster scare flick. The good intentions doesn’t get to deliver well, perhaps because of some mainstream requirements to do this and that to maintain its formulaic cash cow bearing. Kusama seems torn between the duty to female empowerment and the movie’s slasher conventions that the main character is not really defined that effectively. Even Fox’s performance makes it hard to measure up to the ideal character development that the audience should see on her. And while it wants to put that higher level of tone and treatment in itself, it gets too lost in trying to be hip, current, alternative, and mainstream all at the same time.
“Jennifer’s Body” actually takes a common theme on slasher films – the panicky fascination with female sexuality which grows to become a weapon of evil. However, the movie doesn’t live up to its full potential because of many things, part of which is its clunky pace, some distracting elements in the screenplay, and the film’s reliance on Fox’s fame to sell tickets. The idea of Fox playing an evil high school beauty queen who eats the boys she seduces definitely sounds sellout interesting primarily in the box office. Yet, the film is neither cringe-inducingly frightening nor laugh-out-loud funny. It is punctuated by gory episodes and high school fun moments, but much of them are not explored well enough – lacking in suspense and surprise to raise the potential of bringing some real cinematic power to itself.
Though Fox as Jennifer and Amanda Seyfried as Needy considerably work well as high school frenemies in the story, especially in terms of chemistry, their thinly conceived and underdeveloped characterizations, along with the heavy-handed direction of the film, leave little to make their characters fully desirable in terms of cinematic brilliance.November 3rd, 2009 Posted by Rianne | Film Review, Films, Flicks, Hollywood Films, Horror, Youth/Teenybopper | no comments
There is Something Wrong with Esther
By Rianne Hill Soriano
“Orphan” knows what it wants and what it’s doing. It is generally uncomfortable and wrong, the kind of story it presents, that is. It is a downright unpleasant child-from-hell type of movie teetering between the slasher-flick formula and the workable psychological horror elements.
“Orphan” stays faithful to every cliché of the genre. It’s reasonably, cheesily suspenseful. The scares are often the generic. Yet with the excesses and exuberance, the film still has the power to surprise. It somehow plays a little beyond its sophisticated audience’s expectations. Its visceral staples for the suspense-thriller kind is its very source of sheer terror – which can make a quick killing at the box office amidst the fact that it merely borrows from just about every psycho-child thriller flick. The film rests on Isabelle Furhman’s shoulders as the creepily weird Esther. And she is definitely up to the task.
This flick occasionally sinks into ludicrousness, but it has enough suspense and chills to keep avid horror fans at the edge of their seats. The troubling theme utilized by director Jaume Collet-Serra (House of Wax) takes the movie further. And while it skates over thin ice in its silly but vicious story, it puts a disturbingly fetishistic bent to such an evil child movie. From being grotesque, perverse, and ludicrous, the movie paints a darkly atmospheric elegance to its violence and mayhem. The dark undercurrent that lingers around its breathtaking cynicism heavily relies on jump-scares, familiar chases, lunatic behavior, and jolt-and-shock factor.
There are some booboos in the plotting that are not very much acceptable given how the film is mounted: drinking one glass of wine intoxicates you enough to have double vision and be unable to fight off a crazed little person’s weird behavior; you can sneak into a hospital’s ICU and suffocate someone without anyone noticing; the cops will show up only after there isn’t any kind of danger anymore; among others. A little more intelligent means to go about these issues could have elevated the film’s stature.
The inclusion of a twist ending works in general (though personally, it has actually dawned me right away even before the actual part came – putting the suspense to it not so surprising to me anymore).
The acting is first-rate. And this is the best aspect of this flick. The 12-year old Fuhrman as the oddball Esther is truly ferocious to watch. She blazes her way across the screen in a performance that ranges from sweet to seductive to psychotic.
Vera Farmiga as Kate Coleman is deep and brilliant in her mother and wife character compounded by her history of alcoholism and the present issues of the family. Peter Sarsgaard works as the father and husband John Coleman who gets daunted by his past infidelity and the current family mishaps. From here the familial tension takes off further as the Coleman’s third child turns out to be stillborn at birth and their second child Max played by Aryana Engineer is deaf – while Kate is a passionate piano player. The eldest son Daniel played by Jimmy Bennett is in his pre-teen surges and resents the adoption of the weirdo Esther, a 9-year old charming Russian orphan whose artistic flair, articulate demeanor, and matured thinking get the attention of the Coleman parents.
Solid lead performances and a moderately engaging premise is what makes the dark “Orphan” a decent bad-seed-horror flick. I wonder how it would look if Tim Burton hopped in as director?August 3rd, 2009 Posted by Rianne | Film Review, Films, Hollywood Films, Horror, Suspense/Thriller | no comments
On for the 10th Time
By: Rianne Hill Soriano
Directed by: Mike Tuviera, Topel Lee
Starring: Marian Rivera, Kim Chiu, Gerald Anderson
“Shake, Rattle, and Roll” has truly become a legacy in Pinoy pop horror. On its tenth installment since its birth in 1984, this horror trilogy has become an annual entry for the Metro Manila Film Festival (MMFF).
The latest addition to the franchise stars Marian Rivera, Kim Chiu, Gerald Anderson, Roxanne Guinoo, and JC de Vera. The supporting cast includes Jean Garcia, Mylene Dizon, Wendell Ramos, Iwa Moto, Jennica Garcia, John Lapus, Erich Gonzales, BJ Forbes, IC Mendoza, Janus del Prado, among others. Clearly being marketed for the billed actresses and actors to capture their fan bases, “Shake Rattle and Roll X“ solidly keeps its commercial value on top, especially with how it mounts itself for the masses. Its trademark of utilizing Filipino folklore in its campy horror attribute is still apparent. And on the not so good side, though there are minor attempts to elevate its production value and make additional artistic merits to the horror flick, the compromises made for its mainstream needs are still the major force moving around the picture – and the film keeps up with these regardless of the negative effects on the film’s aesthetic quality.
The first episode entitled “Emergency” directed by Michael Tuviera revolves around the story of an obscure hospital becoming the target of vengeful “aswangs” headed by Mylene Dizon and Wendell Ramos. The paramedic Jay played by JC De Vera and his x-girlfriend Dr. Sarah played by Roxanne Guinoo, along with the other hospital workers and patients, struggle together to save their lives.
The film opens with a dose of horror and suspense, but as the story progresses, it becomes less and less scary and even to the point of becoming kind of comic due to the cheap effects, cliché lines, dull, uncharismatic, and wooden acting, and overly familiar characterization. Even the simplest lines and acting, from the doctor, to the nurse, to the “aswang” characters are not that convincing in most cases. Moreover, “Emergency” offers nothing new. It is a mere rehash of the typical monster-and-prey story already seen thousands of times in the big screen.
Personally, I didn’t quite understand the reason why (facing the building) the exterior of the hospital’s ER shows the word “emergency” on the right side of its façade instead of the ideal spot where it should be placed – the middle, the most easily seen part of the hospital. Talk about what it means by emergency, just like how ambulances make their presence felt in the roads because they are there in life-and-death situations… I really tried to understand if there’s a concept behind it, but I just couldn’t get it all along.
The second episode entitled “Class Picture” directed by Topel Lee is about a group of students staying at the school campus overnight to prepare for a photo exhibit in exchange for lifting the suspension of their organization. However, they find themselves haunted by a century-old photograph that awakened spirit of the demented nun Sr. Maria Belonia played by Jean Garcia – who has put a curse on a class picture of her class in 1898.
“Class Picture” is the most effective horror flick of the three episodes. Amidst its own shortcomings, its mood and treatment attempts to promote such an unsettling atmosphere with its horror elements.
The third and last episode entitled “Nieves” also directed Michael Tuviera features Marian Rivera playing the title character – the town’s famous “engkanto slayer.” After her beloved husband Adonis, an “enkanto heartthrob,” is abducted by a mythical creature, she retires from her post to live a life of loneliness. But when strange and unexplainable attacks begin to strike the whole town, she is forced to team up with her new apprentice slayers Junie played by Robert “Buboy” Villar and Kaysee played by Jennica Garcia to save the townsfolk from evil.
More fantasy than horror, “Nieves” is pegged on the light of “Buffy The Vampire Slayer.” It is the only episode that stepped away from the “Shake, Rattle, and Roll” horror format. Nevertheless, with Marian Rivera on the titular role, no doubt that this is the film’s carrier episode amidst its too commercialized quality.
The legacy of the “Shake, Rattle and Roll” franchise has clearly marked itself in the Pinoy pop culture and the Pinoy horror tradition. And what people can best hope for is that any more follow-up to this 10th offer could evolve into better horror films – where quality becomes a better priority than just merely becoming star vehicles and cash cow for the franchise. Come to think of it, a good compromise can work if given the opportunity.
Reflecting Something Beyond What It’s Supposed to Be
By: Rianne Hill Soriano
The Asian horror film remake “Mirrors” looks trapped within the desires of pushing the genre to more creative heights and the need to be in line with the so-called profitable territory. This Hollywood version keeps the suspense tight and its visual artistry plays around a considerably fine level for a mainstream treat. And yet, its inconsistencies and tenuous bonds between the supernatural issues and the human drama delineate the imaginative frights into a fragile piece endangered of falling into pieces any time soon.
The theme and concept is quite strong. The idea of mirrors becoming a mode of terror in the story is tangential to some supernatural ideas where such are utilized as portals of the otherworldly into the mundane realm. And a horror flick rising from it can pave way to exploring creative ideas and coming up with a good premise. At one aspect, director Alexandre Aja is able to reflect fear primarily through his good visuals. However, he seems to have concentrated more on the physical and technical sides of the story that he is unable to further utilize his characters into the more credible and interesting zones. Thus, its horror story, which requires much in characterization for the audience to sincerely feel more of the dread, becomes crippled in the aspect of storytelling. Horror should not just be about arresting images, scary sounds and music, and breathless moments of fast events and continuing suspense. It should also have a good grasp on how its characters deliver and touch the emotions of the viewers in accordance with the film’s approach to the story.
The best point in “Mirrors” is how it reveals its mysteriously lyrical ending which is impressive enough if compared to the typical Hollywood flicks where the endings are either conventionally happy or tragic. To those who would think deeper, its ending could say a lot of possibilities for its own open-endedness. And such atmosphere maintains the eerie mood the film is supposed to reflect.
The bad points of the movie include some cheap boo scares and slathering too much common tricks and gimmicks to source out fright elements. There are also inconsistencies with how the mirrors work as a freaky killer. On one scene, the woman’s reflection kills her with breaking her mouth vertically using her bare hands even with her not anymore generating any reflection from the mirror as she has already immersed herself into the bathtub. However, the scene of the little girl about to be murdered using a pair of scissors survives the threat by getting her reflection out of the mirror of terror. In a story, specifically in film, even supernatural elements should still be bound by certain forms of consistency. Else, the very essence of the story loses itself somewhere. A better investment on the screenplay could have saved it.
Kiefer Sutherland kind of plays a variant of his Jack Bauer (from the TV series “24”) character here. His plays the role of Ben Carson, a depressed cop-turned-security guard struggling to get back together the broken pieces of his persona. Sutherland renders a certain form of gravitas for it. But what makes the character fall at certain times is the very treatment for the film – which tries to exploit more of the technical parts of storytelling more than anything else. Even the rest of the characters including Paula Patton as Amy Carson, Cameron Boyce as Michael Carson, Erica Gluck as Daisy Carson, Amy Smart as Angela Carson, Mary Beth Peil as Anna Esseker, and Josh Cole as Gary Lewis all promote some superficiality amidst their general attempts for good performances.
Overall, “Mirrors’ could work as a minor chiller. It has a few campy moments that can provide either good scares or absolute tedium to particular kinds of viewers. And in various ways, both good and bad, it reflects something beyond what it’s supposed to be.September 25th, 2008 Posted by Rianne | Adaptation and Films with Related Inspirations from Lit, Film Review, Hollywood Films, Horror, Religion/Mystical/Supernatural | no comments
A Horror Point in War
By: Rianne Hill Soriano
Directed by: Su-chang Kong
Starring: Woo-seong Kam, Byung-ho Son, Tae-kyung Oh, Won-sang Park
The Korean film “R-Point” works as an atmospheric thriller. Set in the tail end of the Vietnam War, it combines military drama and supernatural mystery with tones and themes somewhat reminiscent of “Apocalypse Now.” While it works in a fundamental level by blending horror and war movie elements into a low-key psychological horror offer, it never really reaches the expectations for it to be called a classic, a jaw-dropping movie, or at the least, a mind-altering film for its genre. The premise looks promising. However, the film’s take on its straightforward approach, stylistic attempts, and supernatural underpinnings does not result to a blend of a masterpiece.
Written and directed by Su-chang Kong, this 2004 film tells the story of a ragtag team of South Korean soldiers assembled to investigate a missing squadron from Battalion 53 who fails to report back from a strategically important island referred to as R-Point. As shortwave radio transmissions from the said group are received for an eerie couple of times, volunteers are chosen from those about to be shipped back to Korea for a search and rescue operation. But more than the haunting weapons of war, what they actually uncover is something to be described as terrifying in another level as new enemies in the form of ghosts start stalking them from all sides.
The film’s treatment explores more of immersing the audience into the psychological aspect of horror than shocking them with gore. There is nothing much that makes the viewer jump or shriek in fright. It’s mainly the heavy dose of atmosphere that helps generate the creeps for the film.
“R-Point” has nothing new to offer. And this makes it quite predictable like a reasonably made horror film for the can. Once the basic plotpoints are brought out, there is no much suspense about how things will move further anymore. There are some bump-in-the night scare tactics that work, but overall, the mounting of the story won’t keep one hooked from beginning to end. Its horror elements, including its pay-off, use too much familiar devices that pull it down the scale. Indeed, creating a horror film is more than putting up frightening set pieces, showing faceless soldiers walking creepily in a dense field of grass, a white lady with tears of blood, a creepy Chinese warning written on the stone near the border, a foggy and moss-covered colonial period mansion, and a terrifying face of a dilapidated stone statue in a damp, uncomfortable jungle. Also, the director could have used the supernatural aspect in a little more subtle way – especially when it comes to some of the ghost-related scenes. It could have worked much better without those annoying POV-like visions of the ghosts who all seem to wear night vision goggles with such greenish POVs (is the filmmaker trying to point out that the dead soldiers were actually provided night vision goggles to wreak havoc to the living soldiers within R-point?). In a short but more serious way of saying it, it just doesn’t work. Much like how some of the scenes of the soldiers wandering around scared get tiresome by the end.
On the brighter side of things, “R-Point” attempts to live up to a few artistic sequences. The cinematography is quite solid as the production team generally manages to blend the sights of nice vistas with that of the creepy requirements. (SPOILERS) The flashes and revelation of bone-white crosses lined up as a mass grave is quite a scene. The moments of the platoon starting to realize the supernatural occurrences including a comrade hanging himself and bathing the other soldier from below with blood and the American soldiers they have befriended seen to be actually dead even before they met them are effectively staged (END OF SPOILERS).
The film’s major asset is its ensemble cast. On the forefront is an excellent performance by Woo-seong Kam as the hard-boiled combat veteran Lieutenant Choi Tae-in. He sports a convincingly calm demeanor of a desensitized and cynical military man. Backing him up in the story is Byung-ho Son as the typical military hard-butt Sergeant Jin Chang-rok. And the rest of the actors also bring their roles to life; thus, generally elevating the film with their performances amidst such fairly stereotypical characters – including a cocky teenager forcing himself for enlistment, a man with syphilis, a mortician’s son who knows creepy things and Chinese characters, a man haunted by the thoughts of a fellow officer sent to R-point prior to the current mission he is in, among others. Truly, the characterization is much the same as any misfit group seen from every other military movie. And just like their simple search and rescue mission sounding so fast and easy to understand, the soldiers fall apart so easily with such swiftness that the body count speedily falling to pieces in this kind of story is some kind of record in a war movie.
“R-point” turns out to be a stylish attempt to elicit some creepy vibes without yielding to the cheaper gimmicks more often misused in the genre. However, it doesn’t reach the better expectations for it. Nevertheless, if it is approached as nothing more than a vessel of some supernatural entertainment, it can still provide few scares.September 23rd, 2008 Posted by Rianne | Asian Films, Film Review, Horror, War/Spy | no comments
PIFAN’s “It Project” Invites Filipino Productions
By Rianne Hill Soriano
The 12th Puchon International Fantastic Film Festival (PIFAN) opened diverse spaces and events including the various projects of the Network of Asian Fantastic Films (NAFF). One of NAFF’s highlights included the “It Project” which opened a new gate offering production support to help finance film projects with high potentials. Out of the 19 projects, one Filipino project and another Filipino-American project were invited to take part of the event: Rico Ilarde’s “Killdroid” produced by Pete Tombs of Boum Productions Ltd. and Nathan Adolfson’s “The Help” produced by Adolfson through 5858 Films.
The opening ceremony of NAFF was held last July 19, 2007 at the Puchon’s Gyeonggi Art Hall and the closing ceremony was held at the same venue last July 23, 2008 – capping off the project with the “It Project” winners announcement and the “Fantastic Film School” graduation.
NAFF at this year’s PIFAN also featured the “Industry Showcase of Fantastic Cinema 2008” which extended its screenings with 50 international films. The industry screenings catered to producers and filmmakers to further promote both Korean films and the circulation of Asian films. The project provided NAFF guests exclusively with industry video library, guest lounges, and casual meeting places to facilitate the business. With more than 100 official guests of professionals in the film industry, it led diverse business meetings and developed new opportunities to Genre Cinema.
PIFAN also designed the education program through which genre film experts meet with prominent young filmmakers through the launch of the “Fantastic Film School 2008.” With “The power of Action Film!” as its slogan, this new enterprising industrial program of NAFF invited outstanding Asian martial arts directors from China, Japan, Thailand, and Korea to impart their spirits and methodology of martial arts to young filmmakers through invaluable lectures, seminars, and instruction.September 2nd, 2008 Posted by Rianne | Fantasy, Films, Horror, Personal/Expression, Sci Fi/Cyberspace, Surreal | no comments
Clicking the Too Familiar
By: Rianne Hill Soriano
Directed by: Masayuki Ochiai
Starring: Joshua Jackson, Rachael Taylor, Megumi Okina, David Denman, John Hensley
From the rapidly growing list of American remakes of Asian horror thrillers, the Hollywood version of the same-titled 2004 Thai picture “Shutter” remakes itself with a J-horror image having an attempt to thrive on atmosphere more than the usual gore elements. From the director to the location, plot, and some major and a number of supporting characters, it tries to keep up with the inspiration for such Japanese and Asian horror fares; however, it merely emulates such recycled horror elements with perfunctory efforts in its concept and execution. This movie is not as bad as a number of really crappy versions of successful Asian horror films; and yet, it is not a greatly crafted offer that can shock, haunt, or impress the general audience more than just merely having some creepy moments inducing minimal fright or “scare shout” at certain instances.
There are seen attempts on the director’s part to somehow deviate from the Hollywood conventions. And it makes the film a little different mainly in terms of how to set up the scare factor. “Shutter” actually starts like your usual melodrama – with the horror pace slowly building up within the first 20 minutes or so. Some people might not like this, though personally, I have nothing against it. Considerably, it makes the expectations go a different direction from the general predictability of the plot. At some instances, some shots induce some creeps, but this movie is not the type that would give you nightmares the way other great horror films did (like the classic American horror “The Exorcist,” the Japanese film ”The Ring,” or even the Thai version of the film where this got lifted from). Its formulaic Hollywood stroke gets a little toned down, but just a little… Though the attempts are apparent, they only get through some efforts on the style and treatment, but the script and plot points are completely within the second rate derivative and the movie is still inferior to the Asian original. According to 20th Century Fox, from the two film versions one being American and the other Japanese, the film version provided for the Philippine audience is the Japanese version. Perhaps, this is what makes it slightly different from the current remakes of Asian films turned into typical Hollywood flicks.
Japanese director Masayuki Ochiai tries to make up for what he can with the screenplay. Actually, the screenplay preserves most of the original film’s storyline and situates it in Tokyo where a newly married couple discovers disturbing, ghostly images in photographs they develop after a car accident. With the film’s clammy and clinical interiors, artsy production design, overcast skies, and diffused cityscapes, the director knows how to establish situations and manifestations. His style for the film exudes a certain calmness, and this is where he gets the fear factor from. However, at most times, he is not able to push the moods towards the peak and he is not able to maintain the shifts on emotions effectively. “Shutter” is not able to accomplish that much effort to lift such an exhausted studio fare. It’s keeps up within the familiar trade of cumulative mediocrity in doing remakes. The acting performances exude a certain passivity that makes them generally bland and recycled amidst the film’s emulated J-horror norms. From Joshua Jackson as the photographer husband Benjamin Shaw, Rachael Taylor as the caring wife Jane Shaw, and Megumi Okina as the deadpan female ghost Megumi Tanaka, to the supporting characters including Ben’s professional playboy friends David Denman as Bruno and John Hensley as Adam, the acting performances go a wooden direction.
“Shutter” is not a great piece with the level of “should not be missed.” And yet, it is not the crap the way some American remakes get so atrocious and annoying that what makes them survive the box office, apart from their titles, would be their edge for production resources (and it’s just way too sickening to think about the fact that they have all the resources but they resort to using lousy scripts).
“Shutter” is high on atmosphere, low on scares, and exhausted on script and characters.April 12th, 2008 Posted by Rianne | Film Review, Flicks, Hollywood Films, Horror, Suspense/Thriller | no comments
Stanley Kubrick Revisited
By: Rianne Hill Soriano
Good news to film buffs and DVD fanatics, now, you can include Stanley Kubrick’s opus ‘Full Metal Jacket’ to your collections.
‘Full Metal Jacket’
This film is a moving commentary on the dehumanizing process that occurs when soldiers prepare and engage in battle. It shows Kubrick’s notion of how the military changes ordinary people into killing machines.
Bleak but darkly funny at times, ‘Full Metal Jacket’ is a cinematic critique of how war affects the lives of many. Kubrick seems to direct his vision beyond the reality of the Vietnam War to issues far more universal and timeless. Set in the point of view of U. S. Marines from their brutal basic training to the bloody street fighting set in 1968 Vietnam, the film provides a riveting look at military life. Adapted from Gustav Hasford’s novel ‘The Short Timers,’ this 1987 Kubrick film is told through the eyes of Private Joker played by Matthew Modine, a cynical aspiring photojournalist who is forced to fight for his life and the lives of his fellow recruits.
The first half of ‘Full Metal Jacket’ focuses on the training of a squad of Marine grunts and the troubled relationship between their brutal drill sergeant Gny. Sgt. Hartman played by real-life drill instructor Lee Ermey and an oafish, flabby misfit and demented sharpshooter Leonard ‘Private Pyle’ Pratt played by Vincent D’Onofrio. This first half is jaw-droppingly good in its entirety – from the presence of the ensemble to the audio-visual splendor of its technicality to the simple and yet precise elements that infuses a dream-like, fatalistic quality on its theme and story.
The second half takes the grunts to Hue City during the turning point of the Vietnam War. And just like Kubrick’s powerful antiwar classics ‘Paths of Glory’ (set during WWI) and Dr. Strangelove (set during the Cold War), ‘Full Metal Jacket,’ once again explores the behavior of men in battle through a solid depiction of combat and the process by which the soldiers come to realize that they are, like it says on Private Joker’s helmet, ‘born to kill.’
What is even more fascinating with Kubrick’s films as this one is how they get to effectively manage universal themes while being specifically set in particular periods –never getting in any way obsolete until now. At this time and age, wars are still fought. The U. S. A. waging war to Iraq and Afghanistan can be interestingly compared to what has transpired in ‘Full Metal Jacket’s’ sixties Vietnam War setting. The comparison is edifying. And apparently, nothing has really changed much. Just like in the film, the soldiers trained to become killing machines are obliged to follow orders from their superiors, and in one way or another, they don’t acquire much knowledge about the people they come to defend. The morality issues are also explored. Private Joker wearing both a peace sign and a helmet with ‘born to kill’ writing maintains such irony the way the soldiers sing the Mickey Mouse Club hymn after fighting. Such similarities abound and they testify for the film’s take in the imposition of democracy through gruesome violence and destruction.
Personally, Stanley Kubrick, along with Tim Burton, is one my favorite directors of all time. And with many of Kubrick’s films now immortalized in DVD, he and his films can become treasure pieces for you too, the way they are to a hard-core fan like me.March 1st, 2008 Posted by Rianne | Adaptation and Films with Related Inspirations from Lit, Classic, Film Review, Films, Films I Like, Hollywood Films, Horror, Melodrama, Period/Historical, Personal/Expression, Sci Fi/Cyberspace, Surreal, Suspense/Thriller, War/Spy | no comments
Another Monster Smackdown
By: Rianne Hill Soriano
Directed by: Colin Strause, Greg Strause”
Starring: Steven Pasquale, Reiko Aylesworth, John Ortiz, Johnny Lewis
As an attempt to jumpstart two run-down franchises once more, ‘Aliens vs. Predator 2’ accommodates two sci-fi races in an interstellar cockfight with its last stop on earth becoming a rather disappointing venture. It could have worked – given the hype for it and its fan base all waiting for its opening – but it falls short on its way.
Compared to its really impressive trailer, this once-promising project sadly gets doomed to disaster. For a matchup between two fearsome motion picture creatures, ‘AVP 2’ is ruined by the treatment for it. It fails to generate enough empathy for screaming people who have aliens erupting from their bodies or the scare factor of seeing the predator on its way to slay innocent victims. The game-like killing sprees are borrowed too much from other movies – and yet, they are quite devoid of much thrills.
Ruined by inept horror scenes, the film has not bothered to develop the characters or establish a plot with something more than the superficial impact. It lacks the emotional build up the way successful frightfest franchises do it. It doesn’t really start off that bad as the hunting father and son makes a good kickoff for a film that’s all about monster hunting and the dwellers of the earth becoming the casualty. However, as the story progresses, for such a movie about monster smackdown like this, the unintentional laughs outnumber the legitimate scares.
The video game approach to the killing spree on this film is quite mediocre. For people who merely have fun with suspense-filled bloody movies with monster and alien themes, ‘AVP 2’ can pass. But for the more demanding ones, the perfunctory fight scenes and cardboard characters are non-scary and not even reaching any artistic spots. All it shows over and over again are the aliens finding some incubation chambers through the human victims and the predator typing on his keyboard arm and dripping that ‘acid blood’ from a glowing crystal-like container. These scenes eat so much screen time and the audience just tends to manage enduring the exposition through the suspense-filled music and sound effects.
Familiar as they are, the followers of the two franchises can relate somehow. But with all the dull and plodding hunting and running away, the film doesn’t really appeal well especially to those who are new to the franchises.February 1st, 2008 Posted by Rianne | Adaptation and Films with Related Inspirations from Lit, Film Review, Flicks, Hollywood Films, Horror, Sci Fi/Cyberspace, Suspense/Thriller | no comments
28 Weeks Later
By Rianne Hill Soriano
Starring: Catherine McCormack, Robert Carlyle, Amanda Walker, Shahid Ahmed, Garfield Morgan
Directed by: Juan Carlos Fresnadillo
‘28 Weeks Later’ is scarier, utterly gripping, and occasionally unsettling than many horror and suspense-thriller movies. It gives a disturbing effect with its terrifying aura of doom and gloom about the gory mess of reconstructing a city ravaged by a virus and the internal and external forces trying to control, improve, and/or worsen the situation. Presented with a stinging and intriguing load of subtexts and social and political commentaries, the good emotional and audio-visual treatments save the feeble plotpoints of the film.
This follow-up to Danny Boyle’s ‘28 Days Later’ contains many visually arresting images that will knock on your memory even after watching the film. Director Juan Carlos Fresnadillo does a decent job of keeping up with the prequel’s template as established by Boyle, who is the executive producer for this sequel.
The point-of-view shots and whiz-blur-camera work within the grimy, digital-video treatment – which is mainly at work during the first part of the film – yield to the delirious editing, blistering sound design, and thundering musical score. The various elements are put into good use.
As compared to the graphic opening of ’28 Days Later,’ this sequel starts pretty much quiet and contained as a group of survivors hide quietly inside a rural farmhouse, trying to live as normal as possible within the dark corners of their hiding place. Escalating from the tensioned-filled dining scene where they share a seemingly sumptuous meal and a serious discussion, an external force starts knocking. Human as they are, they help a boy struggling for his life from his munching parents already infected by the rage virus. In a few seconds, the zombies start wrecking unthinkable havoc as they bite and spew blood to the uninfected civilians. And from there, Alice (Catherine McCormack) is seen trapped as she protects the little boy; while his cowardly husband Don (Robert Carlyle) is only left with his instinct to save himself as he escapes with the sight of his wife and the boy ready to be victimized by the monstrous horde. In the same way, the humanitarian characters showing sympathy further validate themselves in the story. The logical and sympathetic chief military medical officer Scarlet (Rose Byrne) is concerned about the lack of protocol regarding young repatriates and how saving the children brings hope of getting the antidote for the virus considering their mother’s unique immunity to the rage microbe. The conscientious Army Ranger Sergeant Doyle (Jeremy Renner) is caught between the ruthless military orders and his internal compassion as he is unable to pull the trigger to the innocents. And the story picks up with them leading a small pack of survivors away from the American soldiers and zombies who are both lined up on the same side towards their annihilation. Coherence in terms of elements from the locations to the characters is also carefully crafted in the right places. More parallelisms are seen at work as well as the blades of the motorboat start chewing the flesh of the monsters, in line with the blades of the chopper making minced meat from the group of zombies on the ground; the self-preservation instincts of Don becomes apparent once more with the scene of another unthinking, panicky survivor in desperate acts of holding on to the chopper without thinking more rationally; and the children Andy (Mackintosh Muggleton) and Tammy (Imogen Poots) easily sneak out towards the danger zone, just like their father Don sneaking in to the laboratory facility way too easily.
The flow of the story places the audience in the middle of the action – which makes the film very human. This makes a good take on the audience’s hearts and minds. The point of view-ish take including the scene during the first part of the film where the survivors have caught sunlight the way a vampire’s eyes could take it (as they have been all locked up in the dark crevices of their hiding place for around 28 weeks already), is presented with impressive aesthetics as the audience get to really feel how the sunlight becomes hurting to the iris. Moreover, Fresnadillo rouses a person’s instincts and shows the loathe of brutality that can affect any sane person. The visuals and sounds summon the most familiar fears around. From a raging virus to a toxic fusion of social crisis, careless military strategies, and selfish preservation instincts, it makes the rational and critical minds of the people work on such apocalyptic situations and how every human can actually contribute to the worst times. Furthermore, it confounds what the many monsters of the world could really be. It makes you question, which is worst, environmental, toxic, and viral infections, lethal psychological tendencies, or careless political and military power at work? And how should the people go about such things right about now?
The treatment for the film is impressive. You see the allegories on jerk husbands abandoning their wives in the middle of crisis, parents munching their children than protecting them, government betraying the people with its military policies, conscience knocking the door of followers who are powerless to question the chain of command, and man’s most primal biological instinct of trying all measures towards survival at all cost. From the domestic to the social to the political domain, you see metaphors and allusions on how various people deal with the many desperate moves to escape an inevitable doom for oneself and/or for others, split-second decisions to survive or be sensible and heroic, and sexual intercourse linked to contagious and lethal diseases. From the menacing frenzy of snarls to the sinister shadows of military men armed with weapons of war, the many scenes of poison gas hunting, incinerating, and arson leave the viewers with such completely shocking possibilities. The recurring presence of Don marks a horrific sight that effectively captures the boldest undertones of the film. And just like the virus reasserting itself, the ‘Code Red’ becoming the ‘ultimate solution’ wipes out everyone in sight – targeting everyone on the ground to complete annihilation. Everyone becomes crazy-scared with the virus, the bullets, the firebombs, and the chemical weapons. The streets are filled with panic and hopeless escapes. And the tale of survival becomes a very clear and working aspect of the narrative.
The film’s treatment makes a great potential amidst its poor plotpoints. But still, such weakness pulls down the film. The military presence is well-established as they put back law and order in the mass relocation and reconstruction efforts to repopulate London. However, amidst their undeniably featured strength and power, they come out so lame in the story especially during the scenes of Alice’s and Don’s kids Andy and Tammy easily defying the military restrictions amidst the early sight of them from the security cameras that they are sneaking out towards the forbidden quarantine zone. They even get luxury time to steal a scooter to get to their house. With all those many minutes or even maybe hours of being on the lookout of the military, the men in uniform, complete with their warfare machines and vehicles, unrealistically gets into the scene by reliving the very cliché device of ‘save the poor protagonists on the last part of the scene.’ Never mind that the children effortlessly skip out of the US Army’s security zone with such a lousy reason of gathering possessions from their home – just to fill in the story’s need to let their mom get back into the story. It is quite understandable that the establishing of the kids being far from their parents for quite some time as they have been living abroad during the carnage can validate their desire to go back to their old home to deal with their loss. But the actual escaping of the kids to merely retrieve meaningful memorabilia from their house is quite too much for their age already, especially with the older sister. Actually, it could have been something to consider still, and some mother and children instincts can be taken into account, but their means of escape contribute to such a lousy plotting. Moreover, like his children, Don sneaks in rather so easily towards the laboratory quarantine facility where his wife is held amidst the security cameras and tight defense of the military. It is such a considerable act to, against all odds, try to go near his wife out of a combination of love and guilt; but using one piece of citizen ID to go in and out of every military facility is just so flimsy and unconvincing. Furthermore, the way Alice is seen trapped in the farmhouse ready to be munched by the zombies makes her escape a little too questionable as well in terms of narrative logic. With these plotholes, the film doesn’t seem to take extra care about considering believability. Good thing, the contrived plotpoints have not completely diminished the breathless pacing of the disturbing scenes – they are no less than gut wrenching.
The handheld cameras and ultra loud music jars create a sensory freak out play against the audience’s comfort zones. The highly stylized technical treatment keeps up with the visually arresting moments that are filled with extreme subtexts of terror. The film plays on a person’s deepest fears as it cranks up the action with truly disturbing scenes of mass slaughter by military helicopters and gunships of war targeting a mix of healthy and infected humans. The nihilistic scenes propelling shock and gore include the exceptionally traumatizing sight of the fire-cleansing scene of the Canary Wharf and the helicopter-cleansing scene at the Regent’s Park. Even the make-out session of Don and his shackled spouse inside the medical facility gives the jolts and jitters as he transforms into the zombie he has been trying to escape for around 28 weeks already.
Mackintosh Muggleton as Andy and Imogen Poots as Tammy effectively evoke the necessary innocence and fear with their performances. Rose Byrne as Scarlet brings much-needed rationality and compassion with her role. Jeremy Renner as army sniper Doyle makes a sensible contribution for the story to move on. Harold Perrineau as the chopper pilot Flynn gives a credible performance as well. Catherine McCormack as Alice effectively contributes to the humanitarian undertones of the film and the ‘losing of hope moments’ of the story. Robert Carlyle greatly lives up to the indelible shock of imagery that makes the film work as nothing less than a disturbing satire.
‘28 Weeks Later’ makes you experience parallel thrills to the original shocker ‘28 Days Later,’ while marking its own dose of blows and pleasures. Its unforgettable sequences, cynical moments, nihilistic tones, and jolting qualities clearly feature a poignant critique on significant domestic, social, political, and war issues. And amidst some plotholes, it manages to overcome its weaknesses with its undoubtedly effective treatment. With all these, ‘28 Weeks Later’ is considerably a good watch for its genre.May 13th, 2007 Posted by Rianne | Film Review, Films I Like, Hollywood Films, Horror, Suspense/Thriller | no comments
Pinoy Folklore Immortalized in a Fil-Canadian Cinematic Offer
By: Rianne Hill Soriano
Starring: Phoemela Baranda, Cholo Barretto, Jacklyn Jose, Victor Neri
Directed by: Romeo Candido
What a relief… and how ironic… for a Filipino who grew up in a foreign land to come up with a supernatural thriller sincerely marked with rich ‘Filipinism.’ For all these times, the Filipino audience has seen the best and the crappiest of the local films from the supernatural and horror genres (actually, in any genres, for that matter). Common denominator: they are either homages or rip-offs from international hits. In fact, most are lousy horror copycats. And suddenly, here comes Romeo Candido’s ‘Ang Pamana: The Inheritance,’ an excellently crafted modern Pinoy folktale about two Canada-based Pinoy siblings returning to the Philippines to get their inheritance in a provincial town enveloped by supernatural beliefs and mysticism. I give my high regards to the filmmaker, the producer, and the entire production team for being able to collaborate in a film commendable in theme, story, and production values.
‘Ang Pamana: The Inheritance’ proves that Pinoy folklore, long ignored and misused in local movies, can make rich and compelling stories in the big screen – and if utilized well, can embark such quality recreations conveying the various aspects of the Pinoy culture. This film promotes a very Pinoy mark with its careful use of Filipino spirits and elementals such as: the white lady and lost souls, and the ‘aswang, manananggal, kapre, dwende, and nuno sa punso.’ It also brings up the concepts of the ‘mangkukulam’ and ‘albularyo’ and the forms of contacting, protecting, fighting, healing, and making peace offerings to spirits and elementals such as doing a ‘tawas’ to know what or who is responsible for some supernatural happenings, wearing an ‘anting-anting’ or ‘agimat’ for power and protection, using salt for protection and as a weapon against evil entities, utilizing natural ingredients and herbs to heal and drive away dark forces, giving ‘alay’ as a form of offering for a request, an apology or a means of gratitude. All these are carefully weaved within a number of universal conflicts including family issues, greed, arrogance, discontentment, enviousness, jealousy, infidelity, and drug addiction.
The statements and undertones presented in this film are very general and they don’t dig way too deep, and yet they are presented very creatively and effectively. Even the visuals, music and shot compositions uplift this film into a modern Filipino folktale story, safe enough not to be disowned by those who know much about the supernatural aspect of the Filipino culture. Indeed, it is commendable to say that the filmmaker’s cinematic license in adopting the Filipino folktales and the supernatural characters has not been abused nor compromised. Without relying on Hollywood quality special effects or even cheap scare tricks from B-movies, ‘Ang Pamana: The Inheritance’ really uplifts Pinoy horror without becoming too shallow nor going overboard. It is rich in Pinoy colors from the point of view of the new generation of filmmakers transforming the film into an organically progressive cinematic form. Well, it’s about time to make a global mark of what ‘Filipino culture’ can bring: making a culturally correct exposition and representation of the Filipino beliefs, myths, and folktales that promote the culture and tradition of the Filipinos. It is high time to get rid of the copied elements of the tried and tested, and yet overused formulas (from Hollywood scares to Asian horror flicks � that are sadly, not at all connected to being Filipino, where ‘Asian horror’ is just merely represented by Japanese and Korean trademarks).
The authentic and very natural performances from a combination of Filipino and Filipino-Canadian film, theater, and TV talents create an ensemble in this cinematic offer. From the Fil-Canadian performers Darrel Gamotin, Nadine Villasin, Caroline Mangosing, and Nicco Lorenzo Garcia, to the renowned character actors and actresses Jacklyn Jose, Tirso Cruz III, Angel Aquino, Susan Africa, Noni Buencamino, Victor Neri, Allan Paule, Shamaine Centenera, Mhalou Crisologo, Ces Aldaba, Raul Dillo, Shamaine Centenera, Lani Tapia, and Gammy Viray, to known mainstream talents Phoemela Barranda, Cholo Barretto and Ketchup Eusebio, this film renders a distinctively aesthetic and cultural feel to the audience. The lead characters have been able to carry themselves on the right level. Gamotin, Villasin, and Mangosing give effective performances – all in the right taste. And it is indeed great to notice, too, that the supporting characters give justice to their roles. Acting really naturally, they are all commendable. And it is notable to mention Garcia as the mentally retarded relative who really keeps up with the authenticity of his character and pushes the film’s mood with enough power and conviction.
The creative and technical aspects of the film is brilliant. With Romeo Candido on the lead as writer, director, and editor, his production staff follows… The story and screenplay coming from Candido, along with the other writers Ria Limjap and Carmen de Jesus drive the film into a thematically superior work. Ody Flores’ validating and ingenious cinematography using high contrast visuals (he probably push processed the film negatives or used bleach bypass or enhanced it further in post to achieve the effect � the film being shot in 35mm film), utilizing distorted lens for the scenes needing more distinctive looks, and playing with colors and angles accordingly to keep up with aesthetically conveying the right messages. Ben Padero’s production design effectively connects to a culturally correct visual representation of the story and it really complements the film’s cinematography. The make-up and prosthetics from Cecille Baun have greatly contributed to the effective horror feel without upstaging or downstaging each of the character. The sound design courtesy of Scott Purdy has brought to life the awesome array of elementals such as the ‘dwendes, nuno sa punso, kapre, aswang, and white lady.’ Overall, the sound elements become seamless to the visuals. Moreover, the 5.1 Dolby surround sound has really uplifted the film’s mood further. The musical score under the baton of Gerard Salonga (using a live orchestra) gives ample support to the film as well.
The minor concern I have seen against the film is its considerably ‘semi-abrupt end’ and the ‘too exaggerated’ scenes of the ‘manananggal’ inside the house. Unlike the rest of the elements being presented in the right mood and pacing, the said concerns are a bit off. Meanwhile the other details left without complete closure are generally okay. But personally speaking, with the way the film has ended, I am smelling a sequel… And if ever there would be any, I hope it can at least be of the same caliber, or better yet, improve further.
I look up to the producers and financiers of this film endeavor. I should say, this project is a brave attempt to contend against the conventions. From the executive producer Ann Gatmaytan, line producer Joann Banaga, and the rest of the production staff and crew, to the Digital Sweatshop, Global Reach Canada, and Powerhouse Creative Content Company, all of them deserve due credit: Kudos to you all! May you open more avenues for quality film production in the country.
‘Ang Pamana: The Inheritance’ is considerably a patriotic horror film that does not copy ‘The Grudge,’ ‘The Ring’ and other horror hits. Elevating the Pinoy horror trademark, it has executed a new way of presenting the thriller and horror genres in the Filipino context. It has given justice in using Pinoy folklore in its story. With the film’s very elements coming from the Filipino roots, the Pinoy audience get to relate effectively. It proves that we Filipinos have a rich culture, folklore, and mythology waiting to be utilized in various storytelling media (Come to think about it, I think it’s high time to further pass on and immortalize our rich culture, traditions, folklore, and mythology just like our ancestors! If during their times they pass them on through words of mouth, dances, stone carvings, and clothing, maybe we can do the same utilizing both the basic ways and the new art forms as retelling and recreating them in cinematic form). However, it is rather sad that the attempts to make good use of them is hampered by the boxed thinking of the big and established film outfits and even grant-giving institutions. Indeed, it is a tough struggle. I remember a group of really talented and multi-awarded animator friends who have a big project about Pinoy folklore that is really deserving of some financial support. But until now, they just work on the project in ant steps because of lack of finances and resources. Obviously, with production work, it can’t be all passion, no budget… If only those in power can see beyond the contrived mainstream formula and idealism… Even with myself, as a filmmaker, I’ve always dreamed of making and seeing a real quality Pinoy epic on the big screen. Maybe a peg for the quality of LOTR, but of course, ‘not like an LOTR Filipino version’ – talk about Pinoys feeling obliged in copying every renowned material as possible – but a heartful, insightful, and sincere Filipino epic. Actually, I and a number of other struggling filmmaker friends have various concepts for such… but most would probably utter something like ‘Dream On…’ (I just hope and pray that the age of positive change and better opportunities pushes itself forward now… enough of the times when we’re left with too much of too less…) Let us all be positive on that, with the number of independent films and the evolving mainstream films surfacing now, the Pinoy film industry is really struggling from its death bed.
To Romeo Candido and the rest of the people behind this opus, I really give my high regards. With the way ‘Ang Pamana: The Inheritance’ has become, it would be a great honor to meet you and learn how the film has really come about. And may you continue to make quality films, not just to entertain, but educate the already ‘left out’ Filipino audience.
November 28th, 2006 Posted by Rianne | Film Review, Films I Like, Horror, Independent Films, Pinoy Films, Suspense/Thriller | no comments
The parody of a “Feast”
By: Rianne Hill Soriano
Directed by: John Gulager
Famine or ‘Feast�’
A film utilizing a B-movie treatment accompanied by some wittily nasty moments, the �Feast� is a cheap-looking, gore-drenched, slick, brutish, and comic splatter horror flick. A thriller product of the 3rd season of the American reality show Project Greenlight, this debut film from John Gulager is about a group of strangers locked inside a sleazy bar and are forced to fight a family of hungry monsters.
‘Feast’ is a growse, meaty, and bloody affair that tries to put a wild tone to compensate with its lack of distinctive characters and back story. Ruined much by the sepia-toned freeze frames introducing each character with their subtitled stats including names, occupations, and life expectancies, the ‘Feast’ misses more than it hits. Not being able to develop the characters well and not being able to tell enough information on what�s going on makes the movie look really crappy at most parts.
Although ‘Feast’ can never be considered a masterpiece in the horror genre, it delivers a certain flair still and some load of gory goods. The actions are manic and the monsters are ghastly (even though they look and move so B-movie-like). However, most of the actions are too fast. The visuals suffer from jerky and spastic camera movements creating a sort of motion dizziness to the viewer. The actions are not clear anymore and the too choppy editing seems to become a scapegoat in order to assemble the film amidst its lack of effective shots. The repetitive, stuttering, and lightning-fast style of cuts almost makes it impossible to see who or what is doing what to what or whom.
Basically throwing together a number of familiar horror ideas without focusing on any in particular, what ends up on screen is an overall passable horror flick that could be marred by some budgetary restraints the way an independent film is made (no chances for additional shots, reshoots, etc.) – I could not be sure enough about how limited the budget for it really is though.
Characters aren’t developed in any organic way. It kills off a few people you might think would be potential heroes and permits other less-likable characters to keep up to the end. At least, it is not an entirely, predictable story (though the ending is, obviously�).
It is quite notable to notice that the heroes here are actually ‘heroines…’ amidst the fact that the director, writers and producers are mostly men.
‘Feast’ is no classic, but it’s a fun night out movie if you and your friends are in the mood to shout and laugh a bit in appreciation of a B-movie under the monster-siege genre.
‘Sukob’ is both scary and funny
By: Rianne Hill Soriano
Starring: Kris Aquino, Claudine Barretto, Boots Anson-Roa, Jhong Hilario, Bernard Palanca
Directed by: Chito S. Rono
The Filipino culture is rich with beliefs and superstitions, especially when it comes to the do’s and don’ts during the highlights of the person’s life. ‘Sukob’ deals with the superstitions binding the belief where: if somebody dies or if somebody gets married within the immediate family members, you have to wait for a full year before getting married or else misfortune will arise from it. This film comes up with a narrative flowing deceptively like parallels in time, one set in the present and one seemingly set in the past. But things are yet to be revealed from here…
‘Sukob’ has a certain edge from the usual horror flick with its good concept that promotes an interesting twist to keep the audience guessing where the bad luck is coming from. Slowly, the facts are unraveled. And the turn of events actually becomes both scary and funny from here. Viewers are willing victims of their own shrieks from the expected horror elements. However, some of the screams tend to dissolve into sheer annoyance and at some point hilarity when a number of the horror scenes stray too many predictable elements that can never be ignored. Worse, a great number of the viewers just can�t take the unlikely rip-off scenes as if they are goofs for a comedy film like ‘Scary Movie.’ Watch a scene where the flower girl ghost becomes a Sadako and climbs, not the well but the window, and do her thing… Watch Ju-on, The Grudge, Shutter and other Asian horror tales being copied here. And obviously, these scenes don’t induce fright and chills anymore but they tend to provide mocking laughter from the ‘Scary Movie’ look and a smirk of distaste for the deliberately copying of such elements. Indeed, what the local films mainly lack nowadays is originality. It’s okay to find pegs from foreign flavors but to end up watching mixed foreign movie scenes in a Pinoy movie is just way too pathetic. It destroys the good flow. It could have been more appreciated if it were made with more cautious details. Such copies don’t add up to the aesthetics or the entertainment for the film. It becomes more unacceptable and funny in a negative way.
What redeems this film is the concept. The story flows quite okay and the treatment becomes promising overall. However, it turns out that there are some scenes poorly executed and a number of significant details left inadequate and unexplained (and they don’t work effectively if they are meant for that open-ended effect). The story and plotpoints seem unpolished. Some details are too contrived – posing questions that require more logical explanation from the film’s narrative flow. There are no clear details explaining the deeper association of the death of the ‘kampanero’ other than saying it’s where the curse has started. Moreover, it becomes questionable that the dead body of the woman who has stopped the curse fell from the church tower that night and the police and ambulance just retrieving the body the day after. In this case, it’s funny how the scenes are forced to be shot in just one sequence – waiting for the father to arrive to the province and all the townspeople around under the heat of the sun when the dead body is supposed to be in the morgue by that time already, logically speaking. Another funny scene is the struggle inside the ‘kampanaryo’ where Sandy (Kris Aquino) uses a sort of dumbbell to destroy the ‘aras.’ Come to think of it, amidst the established metaphors and literal symbolisms injected in the story (mainly the plot devices as the ‘aras,’ the candle, the veil, the dried leaves, etc.), there comes a funny prop ‘carefully chosen’ for the role of destroying the ‘aras’ while up there in the ‘kampanaryo.’ Yes, that is quite plausible but not very ingenious really. The kind of death of the ‘albularyo’ unexplained, the missing dead bodies and even the mystery behind the flower girl ghost with her sort of ‘kamatayan’ role are quite okay. But the appearance of the dead mom in the ending does not become effective, whether there is a deeper reason for injecting such scene or it’s just there for the kicks. After the curse has been stopped, it seems like such kind of added scene is not worthy anymore – as if it’s meant to be a sort of teaser for a sequel, which don’t sound likely if there are any plans, or if it’s meant to give a quite shockingly funny end, it doesn’t really render well, or if it depicts as the karma of the father, the treatment has not worked for the film’s betterment really. It is quite disappointing how certain things have been used to build the storyline without utilizing their actual value for deeper aesthetic and thematic reasons. There is no clear and more valued explanation with the issues on Sandy’s neighbor Helen, and more importantly, with the character of Joya (Maja Salvador) other than using the said characterizations to push the story forward. Apparently, Joya disappears in the story when she seems already useless and she is not given any room to get into the complete picture anymore – no character growth, no value as a character more than interacting with the main characters when needed. All these flaws, no matter how great or small, all contribute to the downside of the film.
Claudine Barretto, Maja Salvador, Ronaldo Valdez, Boots Anson-Roa and Cris da Luz give commendable performances as compared to the rest of the actors and actresses in the film. Kris Aquino seems effective at times but she becomes quite inconsistent as she always tries to look good on cam by finding her angle, posing and acting unnaturally in some scenes. Her features and acting skills may be fitting her ‘horror character’ but her ‘real-life maarte upbringing’ becomes apparent and quite irritating at times especially when she fails to deliver. The character of the creepy flower girl ghost becomes scary at the start. But with the way it is treated and exposed in the entire film, after a while, when the audience gets used to it, the fear factor gets lost and it becomes corny. The blatant copies marking the elements of the horror films as ‘The Ring’ (the phone ringing, the photos and the Sadako crawling), Shutter (the popping out of the ghost from outside and suddenly appearing right beside or in front of the victims) all fall short for the film. The character of Maja Salvador becomes significant at the beginning and middle part of the film. Suddenly, she disappears in the last part of the film – which makes the film much weaker for not taking care of its characters well. Indeed there are many flaws and inconsistencies in the characterization and treatment.
The sound track generally delivers for the appropriate mood and feel. The editing becomes successful in making the parallelism between the life of Kris Aquino and Claudine Barretto. The shots conform to the scare and narrative demands of the film. The cinematography renders good and intense creeps on the right parts of the story. However, the yellowish tone of Claudine’s scenes works more like scenes from the past (more of a flashback) than being scenes happening simultaneously with that of Kris’. The yellowish tone becomes a bit too much that it even becomes more invalidated when Kris gets into the place where Claudine is – and here, the color grading even becomes completely different and yet the symbolisms that could have been utilized with their reunion are lost. Also, though minimal, there are times that the lights are used too much on certain scenes that they really look ‘lit’ and they don’t look that natural anymore. But it’s good that the dark scenes are commendably realistic and really exudes that horror feel.
This film is entertaining, but still, the quality is not good enough. It is not fully polished. With its very concept, it can somehow dig the Pinoy film industry from the deep hole. But its sacrificed quality cuts its promising value short. The suspense of the story is noteworthy. Overall, the viewers are not treated like dumb spectators with it. The ‘takot’ and ‘gulat’ factors are there. However, the film falls short with its logical flaws and some predictable and vague scenes that lose track of quality. But I should say that such a concept is a step above traditional Pinoy horror flicks. This movie, as a horror film, can make you scream. But its flaws make it funny.August 9th, 2006 Posted by Rianne | Film Review, Horror, Pinoy Films | no comments
On superstitions and folklore
By: Rianne Hill Soriano
Starring: Dennis Trillo, Marianne Rivera, Paolo Contis
Directed by: Rahyan Carlos
Pamahiin may not be as excellent as critically-acclaimed classics but this one surfaces itself from the roster of ultimately boring horror flicks by adding an effective twist to its story. Without much expectation on having a good story to play around with actually makes this movie a little more interesting and better appreciated by the viewers. There’s just one major weakness that makes this movie still a ‘coping copy’ in a number of aspects – having overused horror style and treatment. Good enough the story tries to keep itself up against its countless borrowed horror flick elements.
Belief in superstitions becomes the backbone of the scary premise of the movie. Noah (Dennis Trillo) returns to his provincial hometown after the untimely death of his childhood friend Damian (Paolo Contis). With his girlfriend Eileen who has an opened third eye, they become challenged by superstitious beliefs and lost souls passing their way. Meanwhile, Becca (Marian Rivera) shows up to Noah after mysteriously disappearing with her mother Belinda (Jaclyn Jose) after being accused of practicing some form of pagan worship.
The conflicts and issues in considering words of warning as the Filipinos’ ‘pamahiin’ is being rationalized in the presentation of the story. From the point that superstitions wouldn’t exist without any basis to the idea that superstitious beliefs could limit one’s life allows a creative flow of storytelling and suspense.
Though its set-up for horror is completely expected and overused for the genre, the story and script come up with a considerably good twist as compared to most trying hard horror copycats. And this is definitely something to look forward to as director Rahyan Carlos is a scriptwriter himself. Knowing him personally as I have worked with him as assistant director for one of his early independent works and as a workshopper for one of his group’s scriptwriting workshops way back five years ago, his passion has never seemed to stop. I would like to personally commend his efforts for this film. It is noticeable that he is still fond of using handheld shots for many scenes. In this case, it generally works.
Technically, the movie is not very impressive but it is quite better than other recent Pinoy films of its kind. The special effects courtesy of Ignite (also the one responsible for the commendable technical works for Exodus) are unconvincing. It could probably be the budget constraints that have stopped this movie from achieving technical excellence. The overall execution is not that consistent and solid. There is also a minor bothering transition, a swish pan as seen in a number of sequences including the scene of Eileen at the market to the next forest scene that seems to be an unfit kind of transition effect for the film’s mood. Nevertheless, some moments of terror still come to place through the scenes that have sincere cinematic and emotional involvements. The dubbing is fairly okay but some lines especially during the early funeral scenes are too theatrical and the treatment for them actually turns out corny. It is also overscored. There is too much music even with scenes that could have been more effective without it. At some point, the music ruins the emotional build up of the scene rather than backing it up. The sound mixing becomes a bit problematic as well particularly during the opening scene where the bass sounds too annoying. The scene where Eileen looks from the hole of the doorknob seems quite unconvincing as well because with the kind of doorknob used, it is not possible to see something from the other side.
The Korean and Japanese horror look is very transparent in the execution. And the familiar lines, drawings and writings on the floor and Belinda’s chants and rituals look a lot like the hoodoo ritual in ‘The Skeleton Key.’ It could have been way much better and more relating to the Filipino audience if it has maintained a more Pinoy treatment in par with the ‘pamahiin’ theme. Additional research about Filipino folklore could have made a more genuine base for the story.
The major cast is commendable. Iya Villania shines much of that terrified emotion for her role while Dennis Trillo’s character is vital and yet it doesn’t require much challenge and moment in acting. Fast-rising young actress Marian Rivera makes a good performance. So goes with Paolo Contis who successfully gets rid of his comedian image. The supporting characters who are veterans in the industry already serve their parts very well too. However, some of those in the minor roles have either lame acting or are actually overacting. The early funeral scene is filled with too much shouting, lip service and not so good acting from the minor characters as they all try to rub in all the ‘pamahiin’ they can say in the dialogues.
This film could have been better. But it is a good debut film for director Rahyan Carlos. It brings a message to cope up with issues on ‘pamahiin’ which is very much a part of Pinoy traditions and folklore. Though not as outstanding as great art-house films and classics, the story of this mainstream movie can at least keep up to the hundred bucks to pay for it.July 14th, 2006 Posted by Rianne | Film Review, Horror, Personale, Pinoy Films, Religion/Mystical/Supernatural | no comments
A courtroom psychological horror
By: Rianne Hill Soriano
Starring: Laura Linney, Tom Wilkinson, Campbell Scott, Jennifer Carpenter Directed by: Scott Derrickson
The ‘Exorcism of Emily Rose’ is a hybrid of horror and courtroom drama. It approaches its compelling subject matter with metaphysical horror within a courtroom procedure. A psychological thriller as it is, it presents both the scientific and religious side of the controversial case of the exorcism of a 19-year old German girl who has battled a terribly neurotic or psychotic disorder or a dreadful possession of 6 demons. It discusses the intersection of faith and science and makes both a person’s mundane and spiritual foundations shake.
This relatively gore-free film is an intelligent inquiry about the limitations of belief and faith in defense to a more scientific interpretation of things. Though the marketing of the film has obviously tried to ride on with the prominence of Linda Blaire’s ‘Exorcist’ films, it is not exactly a rip-off. The flashback style gives justification to the courtroom set which paves way to a more solid ground of putting arguments in their own places. This validates the aim to make the audience think and really use their heads in coming up with their own judgments concerning faith and spirituality vs. objective truth and secularism. It presents both the scientific and supernatural insights in the case of Emily Rose (based from the true-story of the life of Anneliese Michel). Overall, it is more psychological than the horror an audience expects for an exorcism movie. Unlike the usual demonic-possession movies wallowing in the gore of green vomit, 360 degrees head turn, and levitations, this film stays in the natural world with its own kind of realistic gore and trauma. But still, the subtle but striking supernatural and horror elements presented here tend to give goosebumps of another level.
The story evolves around a negligent homicide case involving Father Moore (Tom Wilkinson) who has performed an exorcism to the late Emily Rose (Jennifer Carpenter). Ironically, the church chooses hotshot criminal attorney Erin Bruner (Laura Linney), an agnostic and ambitious lawyer, to take on as the defense attorney. On the other side of the courtroom is the prosecutor Ethan Thomas (Campbell Scott), a devout Protestant.
The strong and solid performances of the actors and actresses elevate the story to achieving its goal. Jennifer Carpenter is the major asset of the film. Her performance is incredible. Seeing Emily possessed as she shouts latin words in demonic voices, scratches walls with her nails, twitches robotically and falls to the ground so realistically, is absolutely terrifying. From her physical features to her acting talent, she is perfect for the role. Her twitching and snappy moves when possessed or when having unusual epileptic attacks (the way the doctor and the prosecutor see it) require great physical skills and are considerably stunts of great proportion. And they all turn out so creepy. The subtle parallelism of Emily’s experiences to the physical manifestations of the dark forces on defense lawyer Erin Bruner makes an effective ground on inquisitive prodding of objectivity, insanity and spirituality. It adds cinematic dimension to the film without going too much. Bruner’s ending speech is commendable. Its content could have been a melodramatic monologue without Linney’s acting prowess. Tom Wilkinson gives a dignified performance as the embattled priest. He plays the character well as he exudes his faith in God in battling the dark, powerful forces surrounding Emily Rose even until the court trial. However, Campbell Scott’s interpretation of his role as the prosecutor makes him more like an antagonist. He could have performed the role in a more objective way and not way too antagonistic. Emily’s family and close friend Jason effectively stay on the background and yield to the story’s focus on the trial and the real reason of Emily’s death. The internal struggle of each character shakes the audience’s own physical and supernatural struggles as a human being.
This film is not for those who want gore Linda Blaire style. The scare this film brings doesn’t rely with horror stingers and music and physical gore. Its utilization of silence speaks even more. The devil’s presence is simply a shadowy figure in a robe. The scare factor includes simple movements of door, flickering lights, breaking of glass, animals going crazy over the fear of the devil/s’ presence, and the most ones that rely on some visual effects are the slight morphing of images and human faces. They prove a real scare altogether. Playing around basic camera shots and lighting, the juxtaposition of shots of Emily during the build-up of the possession and exorcism (where the demons manifest themselves in Emily’s physical body and mention their names) is really engaging both cinematically and spiritually – minimalist and yet striking.
The researches about the 3:00 a. m. witching hour, the Halloween season as a time when the veil between the worlds of men and the otherworldly becomes thinner, the latin words, the names of the demons, the asking of the names of the demons during exorcism, the exorcism rites, the smell of sulfur and the other physical manifestations of the devil/s’ presence are combinations of various spiritual beliefs that complement one other. And the message this film wants to impart complements that of Emily’s – to restore faith to the people. She points out to the unbelievers: How can they believe that God is dead when I show them the devil?
As a cinematic presentation, it could have added some dramatic license to it but the good thing about the film is that it presents the 2 sides well. It makes the audience think about the possibility of a demon possession but leaves a room for one’s own judgment, whether it’s really a spiritual or a physical battle. And yet, it doesn’t end there. The film imparts an engaging issue in life for the audience to think of. Provocative and absorbing but without any pronouncements, The Exorcism of Emily Rose is a thinking person’s demon possession film.July 11th, 2006 Posted by Rianne | Film Review, Hollywood Films, Horror, Personale, Religion/Mystical/Supernatural, Suspense/Thriller | no comments
The Skeleton Key unlocks a few scares
By: Rianne Hill Soriano
Starring: Kate Hudson, Gena Rowlands
Directed by: Iain Softley
Official Movie site
Set in a moss-laden, dirty, southern gothic mansion in New Orleans, the ‘Skeleton Key’ unlocks some scare as a psychological horror thriller about the young hospice caretaker Caroline (Kate Hudson) trapped in the hoodoo spells and conjurations of an enigmatic couple. A skeleton key meant to open every lock in the house plays a major role for the pre-planned victimizing of the naive Caroline who gets a dose of folk magic and injustice in such a suspense flick minus that standard hollywood happy ending.
This movie is one of the many line of horror movies touched by black magic and set around the places of New Orleans. Though the movie is filled with haunted-house cliches (including the most basic horror elements utilized in such genre as dim lighting and very tight reactions shots), it tries to set a mood based on the history of black magic, conjuration and rituals known for the place the story is set. There are some regional and racial cliches as well. The story is generally fiction but some touches of ritual moves seem to keep contact with researched texts.
The southern gothic production design gives the usual spooky atmosphere and dark, gritty look. The catch for the audience’s curiosity is setup by having folk magic in the very premise of its fictional story – revolving around an isolated swamp and an old house filled with the usual haunting elements as white and dirty curtains, occasional eerie candle flames, flickering light bulbs, some dust and cobwebs, forbidding mirrors and stormy weather. The creepy voodoo dolls side-by-side ritual candles, herbs, animal offerings, conjuration texts and other horror set pieces, add up to that ‘mainstream catch.’ The movie doesn’t depend on big time special effects and scary musical score but takes the ‘scary-movie behavior’ by wrapping a seemingly haunted house in shadows and beliefs of folk magic.
The acting performances of the major characters are good enough for an effective drawing of fear for a light-hearted audience. There are no gratuitous displays of violence and gore. The sets and locations are nothing new to the eyes but the fairly predictable yet quite effective twist ending leaves a certain fear for the audience to ponder on – the idea of having such a tragic possibility in real circumstances. And this tends to give a certain kind of jolt to this atmospheric, supernatural, suspense thriller.
The flashbacks are nicely weaved like a series of cuts carefully thought off like the way human memory tends to work. However, most of the chasing scenes of Caroline and Violet (while they wield all kinds of folk magic props) become a drag. More creativity in the execution could have saved it.
This movie clearly relies on production design, lighting and acting more than special effects. Whether you believe in black magic or not, the issue in the movie is still the eerie premise that might give you a nightmare if you take it too seriously. It can be pretty haunting if you try to get yourself too affected by the jolt of the ending (that is, if you don’t get to predict what happens in the end, or maybe if you don’t get disappointed of such kind of twist that you may have probably seen somehow in other movies). If it’s okay with you to leave the moviehouse with quite a heavy heart, a tragic suspense story as this wouldn’t be too bad to check out.July 5th, 2006 Posted by Rianne | Film Review, Hollywood Films, Horror, Period/Historical, Personale, Religion/Mystical/Supernatural, Suspense/Thriller | no comments
A well-crafted, bittersweet love story
By: Rianne Hill Soriano
Date: 6/20/2005 10:04:59 AM
Source: Rianne Hill Soriano
Starring: Claudine Barretto, Jericho Rosales, Diether Ocampo
Directed by: Cholo Laurel
Official Movie site
Set in the fog-covered, cold and mysterious Baguio (which reflects the moods and ambiance of the story), ‘Nasaan Ka Man’ is a film about tragic love and passion, undying memories, unfulfilled promises and lost dreams. It opens with that horror feel crawling into a melodrama/love story mood and musing into a suspense-filled story which extends to the issues of the paranormal and that touch of horror injected every now and then. It takes on different dimensions and hues to the usual love triangle story. Filled with metaphors, finely orchestrated camera movements, and breath-taking visuals, its heaviness is complemented with stunning cinematography and powerful individual performances which all absorb deep-rooted emotions that are troubling, secretive, mysterious, violent and painful.
The story revolves around three adoptive children of two spinster sisters who have raised them. An epitome of a happy, religious and conservative family from the outside but filled with repression and tragic memories from the inside, family complications, jealousy and revenge try to seriously tear them apart. The composite world the two sisters have created where the three adoptive siblings have dwelled in becomes a contrived space of fragility and emotional disturbance of varying magnitudes.
The direction and handling of the actors are effective. There is rich characterization. The characters are played around with grayness, greatly contributing to the story’s complications and its side of suspense. Each character is well crafted both inside and out. On the physical, emotional and psychological plane, we see: the quirkiness of Trining’s (Hilda Coronel) slightly deaf character (which becomes a source of humor, a comic relief to the story’s heaviness) and her passive bearing to her older sister’s authority inside their prison-like home; Lilia’s (Gloria Diaz) domineering old maid stance which expresses herself by covering up her sadness by trying to look good through her flair for make-up; Pilar’s (Claudine Baretto) initially loving and innocent nature to a confounded, fear-stricken temperament – along with her opened third eye, and her being a product of sin and violence herself (one of the family secrets to be revealed in the story), she unconsciously gets cleansing by immersing herself on the bath tub at times; Joven’s (Jericho Rosales) kind, introvert bearing as the outcast adopted child who is so much filled with his inspiration and thoughtfulness for his beloved Pilar; and Ito’s (Diether Ocampo) repression from his silent obedience to the laws and rules of the house as an overprotected adolescent male who becomes ultimately jealous and troubled.
Pilar and Joven fight for their love until they are finally granted the hard-earned family blessing. Ito, totally-wrecked by this, gets his revenge by violating Pilar. Trining is sympathetic to Pilar’s plight, but Lilia is more concerned with his favorite son, Ito. The deliberation among them becomes a realistic reflection of how it goes within a typically conservative Filipino family in such turmoil. And as the story progresses, Ito rages further as he knows he can’t have Pilar’s heart in any way. And violence causes a tragic death in the family.
There is parallelism between the spinsters’ and their adopted children’s fate. And though there are some questions on the believability of the storyline (more than just the paranormal vs. realism and family issues), the capacity for disbelief is removed. The justification on what happens to the story is carefully built up by the well-made screenplay of Ricky Lee and Rafael Hidalgo, effective characterization and performances and the over-all treatment of the director Cholo Laurel.
Aside from having an efficient production staff and crew, the cast provides a good contribution to the film’s success. Claudine gives justification to her role. She is not overacting nor underacting, just right. The rape scene is truly gripping. It gives that worst feeling for the viewer. The tight and uncompromising shots of her being gripped upon make a really effective scene giving a sad and painful grudge to such fate. The characters of Jericho and Diether with their roles as rivals give enough room for steady development. The chemistry of Gloria and Hilda, delivers wonderful portrayal. They also provide the comic scenes and lines. There is a nice utilization of silence supplemental to that shock mood after the family learns about what Ito did to his sister. Jericho bursting from the hurt at the bathroom scene during the rape aftermath was very much compelling. Irma Adlawan’s character as a blind helper who has an opened third eye and Katherine Luna as her daughter, a willing victim at a certain point of the story, become the weaving factor for the enhancement of the storyline.
The film is filled with a number of intense scenes of argumentations and fighting. The love scenes are subtle, suggestive and carefully crafted. Pilar and Joven’s love scenes are very passionate and very gentle and very sincere. Pilar and Ito’s rape scene is way much violent, painful and struggling.
There are small bits of loopholes in the story. A very much disappointing part for me personally is the scene where Pilar is asked to check the fuse (after a blackout) when the suspense of Ito’s further revenge is at its peak. It seems forced into the story just to get Pilar alone in the dark, ready to be menaced by the deadly Ito. When in reality, if you are in danger, you wouldn’t check on the fuse but think of how you can save your life… and make sure that you have company with you…
Overall, the story has a well-handled exposition. It is complicated and delicate. Tight and distorted shots contribute much to the heavy and emotional moments. Even though the themes are “borrowed” from other films, it has been put together in a good light. With its effective twists (although most are gotten from thriving Hollywood films), the audience is given some silent screams that are far better and scarier than the outright shocks of red gore and hard-core monstrous effects (talk about what genre… horror/suspense/love story/melodrama?). The film is emotionally tying and won’t give that feel-good mood after watching it. With a considerably depressing ending, this film is a must-see for those who can take a certain heaviness in a film and would like to ponder on some simple but good realizations as “being thankful to things that are given to you, mainly, the people you love who are still with you… or who are still there…”July 1st, 2006 Posted by Rianne | Horror, Love Story, Melodrama, Pinoy Films, Suspense/Thriller | no comments
Bahay ni Lola Anew
By Rianne Hill Soriano
Conceivably, Regal Films revived ‘Bahay ni Lola’ with the attempt to break in to that horror genre trend following the footsteps of a number of local and other Asian horror flicks. Was it worth the chills and terror the audience expected especially to those horror freaks and seekers of that ultimate ‘scare shout?’
The film was not actually scary. In fact, the comic side was more appealing as those rendered by John Lapus (the interior designer), Chokoleit (the family’s maid/yaya), and believe it or not, the ‘lolas’ and the rest of the ‘ghosts’ seen in the film. Strangely, the typical horror elements were there (the white-painted scary faces and uncombed hair, some black shades and shadows, a dose of some scary music, shots of blood and insects to add to the gore, close-up and canted shots and lighting design for that scare effect, etc.). However, nothing much of the ‘gulat factor’ to keep that blood rush to the movie spectator.
Overall, the cinematography was not an artsy fartsy endeavor but rather a complementing treatment for the story requirements. No much fuss with the exposures, camera angles, focusing, and the rest of the camera work. The director of photography (a. k. a. the cinematographer) Romy Vitug gave a major contribution to create a generally good visuals for the movie. He knows his craft well as seen with the littlest details as keeping good lighting and exposure for the film (like that shot where there was a reflection of a building outside from the door of Dingdong’s office). He utilized tight shots for most of the scenes to provide more details to those facial expressions. Tracking shots were also very apparent. The smoke machine was quite not effective though. Personally, it added to that ‘faky feel’ which made the movie a ‘non-scare’ horror film. Though the visuals were complementing the story, no much chills and shouting at the theater were heard. The comic side of it upstaged its horror side so much.
The production design shows Regal Film’s overtones of that ‘Mano Po’ look and Chinese appeal through Gloria Romero’s Chinese shop and that feng shui concept. The doll that was used for a ‘semi-Chucky’ role was quite okay. The sort of plague of flies and ants could have been more effective and scary if deemed with the right treatment and execution. Again, though the horror elements were seen in the production design, the horror side of it was still, quite unsuccessful. And like the cinematography, the music tried to complement the story and visual requirements. However, the music and sound design were not tough enough to uplift this supposedly horror film and create that fright. They were too subtle; it lacked that ‘bitaw’ for scare and suspense. But they weren’t merely the ones to blame, because just like what I said, they would have to yield to the overall treatment given to the film.
I was quite neutral with the acting of most of the major and supporting characters. Dingdong Dantes was not that consistent at times but he was considerably fitting for such role. One thing that I would seek more for his acting was ‘that feel of mystery and fear’ which could have made the movie more effective. The looks of the ‘ghost lolas’ were nothing new, and in fact, overused. Remind us of ‘The Ring’ and ‘The Grudge’ to name a few… I actually have nothing against such, but sadly, I found no much creativity to create an effective scare of a film trying to blend with that Asian horror trend. Moreover, the comedy even backed itself up at the end of the story upon seeing the ‘ghost lola’ attached to the door of the truck. Scary? Actually, it was more of funny.
Though there were certain parts of the script that were considerably okay for a mainstream movie, the storyline itself was nothing new to begin with. The last part of the movie seemed to lack some twist. No much fast heartbeats from the audience. It was way too predictable. And what happened to the girl sacrifice? The story ended with Karylle and Dingdong leaving the haunted house but there was no sign of sadness for the death of the girl who traded herself for Dingdong’s life. But it turned out that the girl was confirmed to have exchanged her soul to the ghosts for the family’s freedom from the curse of the house. This made me question the completeness of the ending. Of course, the idea of Bahay ni Lola Part 3 (which could probably give a clearer view of this later on) seemed to be lingering around… But then again, this Part 2 should stand on its own. The attempt to scare didn’t work.
It was kinda contrived which made things so much predictable. I believe the script, style and treatment lacked both the simplicity and complexity for the execution. Further effort could have tracked it a bit more forward. What surfaced more was the comic relief. I believe it’s not merely with the effects nor any technological advancements to make it effective but it’s with the vision and execution. It’s not merely with the pretentions but with the sincerity and creativity. It doesn’t exactly have to be original, for as long as it could stand in its own ground. Compare this with the horror success of the 80′s ‘Shake, Rattle and Roll.’ This may not be a big-budgeted horror film, just like with ‘Bahay ni Lola 2.’ But the ‘goosebumps’ intended for it was there for the screaming spectator.
Overall, with the effective comedy but poor scare factor for a B-movie horror film, I would have to rate the new ‘Bahay ni Lola’ with 2.5 out of 5.July 1st, 2006 Posted by Rianne | Film Review, Flicks, Horror, Pinoy Films | no comments
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