ML (Benedict Mique, Jr., 2018)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

Reminded me that we rarely get good local thrillers similar to 10 Cloverfield Lane or Don’t Breathe. I probably would have liked this better if it chose to simply focus on being the torture porn that it was and not tried too hard to be relevant by using Martial Law as the main theme (ooh #21 September Street!).

So the only way these Marcos apologist millennials would understand the atrocities of ML was to show Tony’s labrusca being electrocuted by a deranged colonel? By being nothing more than a series of torture scenes and Valkyrie jokes, didn’t it trivialize the stories of actual victims?

At least the great Eddie Garcia was there to keep things going with his menacing portrayal. Why were we asked to feel sorry for him in the end, though? So what did we really learn?

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

(Originally published August 8, 2018.)

INSIDIOUS: THE LAST KEY (Adam Robitel, 2018)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Insidious: The Last Key:

1. One could easily say that the return of parapsychologist Elise Rainier (Lin Shaye) on yet another tired installment of this horror franchise was both a blessing and a curse.

Shaye would forever be that badly-tanned old neighbor smooching a pooch in There’s Something About Mary, but she brought a certain amount of grace and seriousness usually missing in this genre. On the other hand, she was also playing a character that was killed at the end of the very first film so there wasn’t really any sense of danger in this prequel, considering what you already knew about her fate.

2. It would have been more forgivable if this movie was at least scary, but it basically recycled most of the jump scares that were already used in the first three films (the scene where Darth Maul suddenly showed up on the shoulder of another character was utilized here again to lesser effect). I had more fun watching the reactions of people inside the theater, especially this group of women seated two rows in front of us. One kept loudly asking questions that made it more obvious she had her eyes covered the entire time (“Anong nangyari? Bakit sila sumigaw?”). Hala siya, sayang naman ang bayad, Ate.

3. So for an entire hour we weren’t really seeing ghosts from the Further and they were real victims abducted by these monster men? How many times did the writers watch Don’t Breathe?

4. “I don’t have memories of that place. I have scars.” Also, literal scars on her back. I wanted to hug Elise after that scene. I just couldn’t stand this type of torture for an old lady.

It reminded me of the time I cried watching Gloria Romero suffer at the hands of her undead son Gabby Concepcion in Huwag Kang Hahalik sa Diablo. Leave these old women alone!!

On a different note, why did the actor that played Elise’s younger brother Christian look so much older than her?

5. I laughed so hard when the demon literally had a key for fingers and started locking up the neck and chest of some characters. I waited for the end credits to check its name (hey, the last one was called Lipstick-Face) and surprise, surprise it was named Key Face.

6. Those bumbling sidekicks were painfully unfunny (“She’s psychic. We’re sidekicks.”). Walang dulot at all. This horror movie needed more victims and it was a shame that these two had to stay alive for continuity reasons. Their presence alone made me want to buy an emergency whistle as well.

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

BLOODY CRAYONS (Topel Lee, 2017)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Bloody Crayons:

1. During the height of Scream fever in the late ’90s, Viva Films attempted to create (read: blatantly ripped-off) a Pinoy version of that popular slasher flick and came up with the terrible Sumigaw Ka…Hanggang Gusto Mo. It was directed by Eric Quizon who had the audacity to cast himself as the movie’s killer and also included the entire cast of T.G.I.S. (kids today would never know the kilig brought by the Wacks and Peachy love team), plus other GMA Artist Center artists question mark.

In one scene, the killer (probably a fan of Mara del Valle) was running after Gladys Reyes who actually tried to escape by climbing up a fireplace. She ended up getting roasted, of course (silly girl, not even Becky would go up a chimeneya to run away from Ms. Minchin).

It was the kind of So Bad, It’s Horrible type of movie that you would only want to see once in your life due to severe trauma, but couldn’t resist to mock whenever it would get shown on cable. It was also the reason why a number of my friends that I forced to watch with me ended up swearing off ever watching Pinoy films in cinemas. I hope you could forgive me, FDCP.

2. Bloody Crayons would probably be the millennial equivalent of that trashy movie, only this time produced by Star Cinema and starred a number of Star Magic starlets. Most of the previous horror films directed by Topel Lee had obvious influences from popular Asian counterparts and this one was no exception (albeit more of Hollywood movies from the opening film-within-a-film sequence used in the Scream series down to the other ones reminiscent of the Final Destination series, Identity, Cabin in the Woods, Don’t Breathe, and countless others of the same genre).

I hadn’t read the Wattpad novel that this was based on so I really wasn’t sure if the lack of originality was from the actual material or the treatment itself. (I was also confused by the separate original story credit given to its three writers when this was clearly an adaptation.)

3. The horror genre had always been the waterloo of our best local directors so I really wasn’t expecting much from this slasher flick. Unfortunately, it still lacked the fun and excitement of seeing mostly annoying characters get killed one by one. Really, all I hoped for was that the cast would be killed according to their acting prowess (naturally starting with the most bano ones), but that obviously didn’t happen with Ronnie Alonte and Elmo Magalona as two of the three remaining survivors.

I actually couldn’t decide who gave the worse performance since both of them could easily replace Aljur Abrenica as the real-life Machete. Ronnie still sounded like a talking robot jakono while Elmo acted like he was a hypnotized victim of the Budol-Budol Gang (except in one kitchen scene where he delivered his lines like he was having a seizure, complete with flailing hand movements). Seriously, mas gusto ko pa si Elmo nung nagpagulong-gulong siya sa burol with Julie Ann San Jose in Just One Summer.

4. Wait, a young wannabe director obsessed with shooting a horror movie near a body of water? Oh, Dawson Leery!!

5. I still couldn’t fathom why there had to be a sequence where the entire gang decided to go for a swim at the beach and they took their clothes off one at a time while the camera voyeuristically lingered on their young bodies (slow motion shots of topless, abs-less guys and granny bathing suit-wearing girls, really?!).

I could almost hear the director saying, “Pasensiya na kayo sa acting ni Ronnie. Eto additional three seconds ng pusod nya para di kayo masyadong lugi.” Next time please leave this type of sexploitation to the experts (yes, Seiko Films of course!).

6. Speaking of acting, I really liked the performances of Jane Oineza and Maris Racal. I wish they could be given more to do in future Star Cinema movies other than the typical best friend or sister roles.

On the other hand, could somebody please tell Yves Flores not to imitate Jake Cuenca’s “akting na akting” delivery? People laughed hysterically in the scene where he was screaming “Bro, anong nangyari sa’yo??” to a corpse with huge stab marks on its neck. Was he gunning for the PMPC Star Award for Best New Movie Actor?

7. If you’d seen a lot of horror movies (or read a lot of R.L. Stine and Christopher Pike) with fake twists and red herrings (this one reminded me of The Last Act), it really wasn’t too hard to guess the identity of the killer. All it took was just a single head shot to ruin the surprise.

8. I was really interested to know more about the Bloody Crayons game since it looked fun to play during a barkada night out. Sadly, I couldn’t see any group including it in any of their parties any time soon since the rules were just too complex (relative to Truth or Dare). Who would even remember what each color stood for when all of you would be presumably drunk on Red Horse?

Also, was it just my oily skin or do crayons really not work as markers on the face? Did they use craypas instead? So this should have been Bloody Craypas?

9. Where was this movie shot? (I noticed one of the characters was carrying a Bohol bag so…) The place looked gorgeous. At least maganda ang cinematography.

10. One character’s words of wisdom to another standing on a cliff: “Mag-ingat ka ha. Pag mahulog ka dyan, baka di ka na makabalik.”

Wehhh, di nga??

11. I wasn’t sure if I laughed the loudest when the group used a rattan chair as a battering ram, or when a character was miraculously saved from a gunshot by his dog tag, or when Umagang Kay Ganda suddenly played during the final sequence.

12. BBC One recently adapted Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None into a mini-series. Better actors, better production values, better use of your time.

13. Hanggang sa horror movie may hugot pa rin ang hindi maka-move on na killer? Tengene lungs.

Rating: ★☆☆☆☆

RINGS (F. Javier Gutierrez, 2017)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Rings:

1. Huge advancements in technology had not been kind at all to this tired, old franchise. Fifteen years ago, a long-haired girl in a white kamison crawling out of a television screen might have been considered scary. But very much like VHS tapes, this type of horror now felt very much outdated (and definitely not vintage).

Besides, in this day and age where one could update his Facebook status on a watch, who else would be using a VCR (or even had one that was still working)?

Even more absurd, not a single click-hungry site (not BuzzFeed, not TMZ, not even Snopes!) picked up the urban legend of a killer video. I actually expected it to be the most viewed clip in YouTube and Samara’s/Sadako’s biggest problem would be how to properly schedule the deaths of millions of people that watched. Surely, she would rather jump back in the well out of sheer exhaustion.

2. If you hadn’t seen The Ring or Ring Two (or their far superior Japanese source Ringu), let me do a quick recap. Adopted child drowned in well for having witch powers wanted to seek revenge on mankind through a cursed video that killed its viewers after seven days and the only way to escape death was to create a copy that somebody else needed to watch.

Yup, it worked exactly like a chain letter or an ambush multi-level marketing scheme in Starbucks. Scary, huh?

3. This entire lore was completely thrown out the window when Samara basically chose whoever she wanted to kill and towards the end of the movie even turned into a virus and started sending her own video to everyone on a character’s contact list. I was guessing part of her rebirth consisted of becoming the ultimate social media famewhore. (Also, sorry bitch, but the terrible Feng Shui 2 beat you to it.)

4. I definitely missed Naomi Watts who brought a certain depth in an otherwise standard fright flick. In this one, she was replaced by some college kids that didn’t know how to act scared or even let out a proper scream. Nobody could authentically pull out an incredibly long and chokeable foreign matter out of one’s throat (you pervert!) like Naomi and she did it first and much better in The Ring.

5. In one scene, a girl entered a projector room and disturbed everyone else that was seated when she crossed their path to get to the other side. It reminded me so much of my terrible viewing experiences in Greenbelt 3 Cinemas 1 and 2 where people would treat the last row of seats as if it was an aisle for them to get to the bathroom (and of course, they would return to their seats the same way and bother you a second time around). Hmm, I should probably start listing down my cinema pet peeves.

6. Hala biglang naging Don’t Breathe! What the fork!

7. If you were the type that get easily scared by umbrellas that loudly open, you would enjoy this one. As for me, na-sad ako. (Whee! I’m so punny!)

Rating: ★☆☆☆☆