MIDSOMMAR (Ari Aster, 2019)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Midsommar:

1. Let me preface this by stating that I would never recommend this film to just about anyone. My high rating wasn’t really a reflection of its overall quality. Rather, it spoke more about the perverse pleasure that I had watching old people’s faces smashed to smithereens or the silly thought that a horny teenage girl used her pubic hair trimmings as a vital ingredient to a love elixir (or better put, organic gayuma that would put all those Quiapo-made ones to shame).

Pretty sure a good number of you might find this misadvertised (?) horror movie reaaaaally slow and excruciatingly boring (even worse, lacking a decent payoff). I should know, I felt the exact same grief with Ari Aster’s feature length debut film Hereditary and its snail-paced two hours (plus knockoff Paranormal Activity 3 ending). You had been properly warned.

2. I mentioned before that Get Out gave me that creepy Shake, Rattle & Roll II: Aswang vibe where Daniel Kaluuya’s character Chris resembled the offering of the month Portia, played by local horror princess Manilyn Reynes. Well this one took it to a whole new level by increasing the number of Portias and cranking up the overall weirdness (and this coming from someone who had seen both versions of Wicker Man).

I had never been this scared of villagers wearing all-white outfits (imagine the boxes of Tide that they consumed!!) and faint, chanting sounds that would never be part of my ASMR nightly playlist. Because of this movie, Sweden definitely dropped to the bottom of my travel checklist, just a little above Slovakia (no thanks to you Hostel!!).

3. There were several moments here that required suspension of disbelief because nobody in their right minds would see a body freefall from a cliff and not run as far away as possible from that crime scene (no, not even if one would win a Pulitzer for Anthropology by writing about that cultish ritual). And who wouldn’t question the type of meat pies that were being served to them, especially one that had a golden pube? (This reminded me again of another Manilyn classic, the Zombies episode of Mga Kuwento ni Lola Basyang where they got served a special soup filled with hair, nails, and ultimately “MATAAAAAA!!”).

Why didn’t these people ever feel the need to… wait for it, get out?!

4. Still, the most disturbing bits for me were the ones where Dani Gurl (Florence Pugh) suffered from panic attacks caused by the trauma of her bipolar sister killing their entire family (the sight of the sister with that exhaust tube taped around her mouth was the stuff of nightmares).

One of my favorite scenes was this smooth transition of Dani exiting the living room and ending up hyperventilating in the plane’s lavatory (my other favorite was that disorienting upside down shot of the car traversing the country road, reminiscent of Martin Scorsese’s Bringing Out the Dead).

Pugh’s a terrific actress and effortlessly made me feel the pain that she was going through. Seriously, I needed some high-grade Ativan as well to calm me down after her breakdowns. 

(Although I did find it weird that Dani experienced a lot of grisly stuff yet only threw up when she witnessed her “cheating” boyfriend. Iba talaga ang effect ng pag-ibig.)

5. Happy to see The Good Place’s Chidi (William Jackson Harper) playing a variation of his geeky TV persona on the big screen. Wait, he wasn’t too smart in this one pala considering where his character (and leg) ended up.

6. When the one of the elders used the tambyolo to pick out the village’s other 90-year offering, was it a direct reference to Shirley Jackson’s The Lottery?

7. Moral of the story: Always treat your partner right or you might end up drugged inside a hollowed-out bear while burning in a cult’s yellow temple. You had been warned, Gerald Anderson.

Rating: ★★★★☆

GET OUT (Jordan Peele, 2017)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Get Out:

1. It was probably around the 40-minute mark when the mostly white houseguests were excitedly fawning over Chris (Daniel Kaluuya) that I realized this film had the exact same setup as Shake Rattle and Roll 2: Aswang. Chris was obviously Portia (Manilyn Reynes) and his white girlfriend Rose (Allison Williams) was Monica (Ana Roces), the bearer of the townspeople’s feast of the month. The similarity was so uncanny that when a white woman grabbed Chris’s bicep and asked if black meat really tasted better, I really thought that he would be the night’s main course (my brain was screaming: “Stay away from the banig!!”). I felt a tad disappointed that it wasn’t the silly premise that I expected, but I was still surprised with the crazy route that this film took.

2. The opening sequence alone screamed Wes Craven, with a black man getting assaulted in a dimly-lit and deserted (read: quietly creepy) street (I wouldn’t be surprised if it were named Elm). It had the same laugh and then shriek approach that the director used in the cold open of Scream 2 (remember when Omar Epps got stabbed by a dildo through a glory hole? Oh wait, that was Shawn Wayans in Scary Movie, but same diff).

3. “My father would have voted for Obama a third time” was the equivalent of “I’m not racist, I have a lot of black friends” excuse. The fact that it was repeated several times here (and even declared proudly by an older white male) clearly drove home the movie’s message. Actually, there were so many instances that showed the day-to-day realities of the black man experience (Chris’s initial reaction to meeting Rose’s parents was: “I don’t want to be chased off the lawn with a shotgun”, a white police officer asked for his ID even if he wasn’t driving) that felt terribly depressing (and scary, very much like Bradley Whitford’s corduroy pants).

4. Excellent performances all around. The Armitages (Whitford, Catherine Keener, and Williams in her very appropriate, most annoying Marnie mode) made me frightened of these seemingly perfect white suburban liberal-minded families. But even better were the performances by the black cast. Kaluuya delivered a starmaking turn, LilRel Howery had the best lines (“T, S, motherfuckin’ A!”, and reminded me so much of Atlanta’s PaperBoi), but my favorite was Betty Gabriel with her creepy Stepford Wife smile. I didn’t care so much about the Baron Geisler brother, though.

5. I was such a skeptic and would usually laugh whenever I’d hear people getting held-up through hypnosis (Budol Budol!), but the Sunken Place here really left me feeling disturbed. The sound of a spoon stirring in a teacup would never be the same again. Also, all the hypnosis scenes with the out-of-body experience and peering through distant holes made me think so much of Being John Malkovich (also with Keener!).

6. That Behold the Coagula video reminded me of The Dharma Initiative in Lost. We need to go back.

7. I wish there was a more directly racist explanation on why black people were being targeted for the experiments (when one character asked, the simple response was a bit generic that they wanted people that were physically superior). It could have been an even more effective commentary on racism in this kind of social satire.

8. Seeing Papa Armitage getting killed by the horns of the very animal that he hated was just sweet revenge. I also had this oddly satisfying feeling while Rose was getting choked (maybe it was because she annoyingly ate her colored cereal separate from her glass of milk, with a straw to boot).

9. When the police car arrived towards the end of the movie, I actually felt really bad for Chris because in my mind, a white officer would step out and shoot him right on the spot. I would like to believe that I wasn’t the only one who thought the same way. Such a sad world we’re living in, no?

Rating: ★★★★☆