ILAWOD (Dan Villegas, 2017)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Ilawod:

1. For me, Pinoy horror stories with their local settings, deeply-rooted mythologies, and fascinating folklore would always be much scarier than any Hollywood flick. Whereas Linda Blair and her spinning head made me cackle with glee, I almost peed my pants when Manilyn Reynes was stalked by a horde of aswangs led by Vangie Labalan. I could never picture Valak looking at me through a mirror, but I could easily imagine that dead nun killed during the Bataan Death March in the Magandang Gabi Bayan Halloween episode staring right at me from outside my bedroom window. This must be all coming from my childhood belief that Count Dracula and every other foreign monster would never even bother taking a 21-hour flight to the Philippines.

2. I really tried to like this movie especially since I was easily drawn to the very Pinoy story of the Ilawod, a water elemental living in streams known to dominate human bodies and suck the souls out of them (the name itself literally means downstream). Unfortunately, it wasn’t able to differentiate itself from other horror movies with genre tropes that included an exorcism and possession.

There was a scene with a kid drawing black rings that could have been an early promo for the new Rings sequel. The real face of the Ilawod looked like a monster from Pan’s Labyrinth. The elevator footage eeriely resembled that viral video with Elisa Lam (Google it!). Even the haunting scenes involving water (dripping from the ceiling, puddles on the floor) in the condominium seemed to have been borrowed heavily from Hideo Nakata’s Dark Water.

3. In the opening scene, an old lady was possessed by the Ilawod and when she saw Ian Veneracion (playing a daddy daddy beat reporter), her long pointed tongue started flailing like crazy and my very first thought was, “Why wouldn’t it?” Veneracion just didn’t age since his Anak ng Demonyo days and I could easily see hordes of women and gay men doing the exact same thing when they see him in person, with or without spirit possession. (Where did you find the Fountain of Youth, Ian? Tell us please!!)

4. I might have missed it, but I couldn’t understand why the Ilawod got really mad at Ian and wanted to exact revenge on him and his family aside from the fact that he didn’t believe in the supernatural. I’d rather assume that she was just being bitter for getting rejected by a hottie.

5. I kinda felt bad for Therese Malvar since she’s currently one of the best young actresses in Philippine cinema and she got stuck playing an elemental with heavy makeup and a brushed-up wet look hairdo while sporting Mother Lily’s magic white kamison. I also couldn’t believe that Ian’s teenage son never once bothered to ask why she never changed outfits or why she was always making tambay by the poolside.

6. Speaking of teenagers, I was really shocked at how much Xyriel Manabat has grown. Her transformation made me feel even more old. But wait, why didn’t she look like any of her parents (the mother was played by Iza Calzado)?

In one hilarious scene, she was attacked by the Ilawod so she ran to her parents’ bedroom but the door remained locked. Her parents kept knocking and pulling on the knob but the door just wouldn’t budge. In her state of panic, Iza then asked the most logical question: “Ano na bang nangyayari sa mga anak natin?” HUH?!!

At least after that incident, she regained her bearings and got the services of Father Pnoy to bless their unit.

7. With its blatant sexualization of kids, I was surprised that the movie still took the safer, more sanitized route. Don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t suggesting a love scene, but I would have preferred it if not everything (even just a simple kiss) were merely suggestive. Nothing wrong with a horror movie making people squirm in their seats and making them feel uncomfortable.

8. If the Undin made me stay away from the sea, this one made me reconsider making tampisaw in a batis.

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

THE FOREST (Jason Zada, 2016)

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My notes on The Forest:

1. Aokigahara Forest lies on the base of Mount Fuji in Japan and is more popularly known as Suicide Forest. According to locals, it’s a place where people left their sick or disabled family members to die during the war. Currently, it’s an infamous haunted site where depressed people committed suicide (single friends, never ever go here please).

I verified everything to be true (Google it, if you have the guts) and the folklore surrounding this, including the eerie pictures, could be the perfect fodder for nightmares. Unfortunately, this movie squandered a really interesting setting when it decided to be a typical ghost story full of cheap scares that reeked of B-movie Asian horror.

2. If you know your Hideo Nakata from your Takashi Shimizu, you’ll find this one completely derivative and repetitive. Every single Asian horror movie trope was used, most them unsuccessful in generating genuine fear. (By the way, if the only Hideo you know is Muraoka, then I suggest that you go to the nearest Bench outlet and buy an underwear that you can use to cover your eyes while watching the original versions of Ringu, The Grudge and The Eye.)

3. I still haven’t fully recovered from The Revenant and this movie further reminded me never to go camping. Ever. (As the noisy grandma in front of me put it succinctly, “Hindi ako magtatagal diyan!”)

Forget the bugs or the lack of an actual toilet. I would never be able to sleep at night inside a tent in the middle of the woods where all I could hear would be crickets, owls, wolves, and other weird (hopefully) animal sounds (and probably the beating of my agitated heart). I completely blame The Blair Witch Project for this. Now that was a true horror in the woods flick where your hyperactive imagination did all of the scaring.

4. Do twins really have this intuition (twintuition?) of knowing and feeling whatever is happening to the other? I wonder if it’s exactly the same as gut feel (or as my lola would say, “Malakas ang kutob ko”) or women’s intuition (nope, your girlfriend’s not psychic when she randomly asked you if you were sleeping with her best friend).

Anyway, my favorite pair of twins would always be Richard and Raymond Gutierrez (sorry Mary-Kate and Ashley!) not only because they were so cute in their Nestle Klim commercials but also because I envied them for riding a giant flying bibe with ease in that Manilyn Reynes classic Feel na Feel as the wonder kambal Mumbo and Jumbo.

5. Are Viewfinders still available? I remember having one as a kid and I loved getting lost in all the adventures (Europe! Disneyland! Nature!) of these magic binoculars (mistaken as a camera by most of the viewers during our screening). This just might be the closest I would ever be to exploring a forest in my lifetime.

Rating: ★★☆☆☆