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: ★★☆☆☆

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THE ACHY BREAKY HEARTS (Antoinette Jadaone, 2016)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on The Achy Breaky Hearts:

1. More than Valentine’s Day, I think the annual family reunion is the ultimate source of pain and trauma in any single person’s life. There will always be that one snooty aunt that will ask you the age-old question of “Kelan ka mag-aasawa?”, like your being single is a source of shame for the entire clan that they want to immediately sweep under the rug. On the flip side, you can view it positively that they only ask out of love because they don’t want you to end up as an old maid. A shameful old maid that they want to lock up in the basement, away from the prying eyes and loose lips of neighbors. Sigh.

2. The first few minutes of the movie smartly tackled this perceived dilemma of single women. Can one truly be alone and happy? Does Gabriela revoke your feminist card if you still long for someone that you can clutch onto while watching a horror movie in a cinema (especially one packed with lovers)? Is it wrong to admit the feeling of sadness even if you’re toasting for independence with your other single amigas?

3. Jodi Sta. Maria was perfect in the role of Chinggay because she was able to easily convey these mixed feelings, even when the movie started to default to a typical Star Cinema rom-com. The best scene involved an iyak-tawa moment of her dancing to Sasakyan after getting her heart broken yet again. She may drink a lot of Anlene, but she still gets weak in the knees when it comes to boy problems.

Also, although Chinggay was a successful jewelry store manager, she still seemed very submissive to the two men in her life. I wonder when Jodi will play an actual tough careerwoman that wouldn’t require her to call a man “Sir” every ten seconds.

4. I really abhor voiceovers that feel intrusive and basically explain the characters’ feelings and motives. Show us, don’t tell us. If an effective narrator is really needed, then please refer to Jane the Virgin.

5. I almost died from kilig in the scene where Ryan (Ian Veneracion) removed the ring from Chinggay’s finger using his mouth, but there were two thoughts that immediately countered that feeling: 1) my grandmother told me that you should never remove another person’s ring because you’ll end up becoming enemies, and 2) GERMS!!

6. I have always been #TeamTisoy ever since All You Need is Pag-ibig (they even tried to recreate that movie’s charming Bilanggo sing-along, but it just wasn’t as effective here). Besides, ex-boyfriend Frank (Richard Yap) looked like her father, was a bit malamya, and talked like a wooden spoon. He was no match to the vampiric looks of Ryan that made three women collapse from their seats when the camera zoomed in on his sleeping face. (Speaking of, I was happy to see that Ian sweats a lot like any human being. But then again his sweat might actually smell like Clinique Happy, dammit!)

7. Was that really a De Luxe room in Victoria Court? The faux gold and matching thunderstorms looked like a Premiere Off Beat room. No, I’m not a suki. Please don’t be judgmental.

8. Here are some more burning questions:

• Kelangan talaga meron mini-commercial ng Jolly Spaghetti where Chinggay can reminisce about her childhood? Or a Flanax scene that rivaled the Biogesic cameos in all the John Lloyd Cruz movies?

• Why didn’t she clean her bag? How long was that expired condom in there?

• Was Marion Aunor the only Star Records artist? (To be fair, most of her songs were really good.) Let me rephrase, was Marion Aunor the only good Star Records artist?

• Did you really expect us to believe that Ryan’s character knew the lyrics of Sasakyan by heart?

• Did they use the exact same locations (restaurants) in You’re My Boss and Everything About Her, among others?

• Why couldn’t Ryan take Chinggay to the real Paris? (Please don’t tell me that a Ducati owner like him was just being a cheapskate.)

9. Jodi looked really good, but she also needed some chapstick. There were also times when I wanted to feed her a cookie.

10. Special hugot quotes for my single friends:

• “Next time wag tayo tatanga-tanga sa investment.”

• “Ang love hindi para sa mga duwag o tamad. Ang love hinahanap at pinaglalaban.”

• “Kapag nagmamahal, nasasaktan. Pero kapag nasasaktan, ang mahalaga lumilipas.”

• “Ang pagmamahal hindi nawawala. Pero hindi porke’t mahal mo, para sa ‘yo.”

11. Shamaine Buencamino could play all of Star Cinema’s mother roles and I would never complain.

12. As expected, the ending was a cop-out. I would have been happy even if she didn’t choose between the two and the movie ended with a close-up of her single-blessedness face, but then it decided to tack on this hopeful ending negating every single platitude delivered by the voiceover.

Seriously, just because it didn’t introduce a twin or a doppelganger in the end didn’t mean that the movie was being brave. Teka lang muna wait, Star Cinema…

Rating: ★★★☆☆

ALL YOU NEED IS PAG-IBIG (Antoinette Jadaone, 2015)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on All You Need Is Pag-ibig:

1. It’s easy to identify if you’re watching an Antoinette Jadaone romantic-comedy. After the success of That Thing Called Tadhana, almost everything that she has written and/or directed followed a standard template with the usual elements (an animated prologue with a heart, a scene inside a moving vehicle like a bus or a plane, crying scene over the same pares restaurant, lovely out-of-town location, etc.). The only thing different in this movie was the omnibus structure similar to Love Actually.

2. The problem with having a lot of interconnected stories was the limited time being allotted per narrative. The movie also tried to force several unnecessary connections with its characters. Unfortunately, it chose to focus on the weakest and most formulaic love story (sorry KimXi fans), further reducing the screen time of the most interesting ones (the more grown-up A Very Special Love workplace romance of Jodi Sta. Maria and Ian Veneracion, and a variation of 1st Ko Si 3rd’s dying marriage between Nova Villa and Ronaldo Valdez).

3. Kris Aquino played a love guru named Love with her own popular talk slash advice show. Her character suffered a major meltdown on live TV while being interviewed by Boy Abunda. It should be noted that Kris was completely silent during the first few minutes of the said interview (a first on Philippine TV) and that the said meltdown was not triggered by Boy’s imaginary mirror. It should also be noted that in a future scene, Kris could be seen wearing a bikini and that immediately set off my holiday depression.

4. The major source of kilig here came from the Jodi and Ian tandem simply because they were really bagay. There was nothing original in their love story but you couldn’t help but feel all tingly inside with every stolen glance and sweet gesture. Their story alone was worth the price of admission.

Star Cinema, please tell me that they have their own movie coming out soon (preferably without Jodi’s horrendous wig).

5. Coron, Palawan looked gorgeous. If only I were not averse to sunshine, I would have booked a flight already.

6. I have loved Kim Chiu since she discovered her inner comedienne in Bakit Hindi Ka Crush ng Crush Mo. Sometimes she just needed to rein herself in a bit especially since she was matched with the very wooden Xian Lim (perfect for a Machete remake). Every scene with him was just so annoying (no, he was not clap clap POWERFUL!) that I almost went half-bald from tearing my hair out.

7. The Facebook-like page used in one scene showed “View Photo’s”. At this point, I really went bald.

8. A lot of the funny scenes in this movie involved naked actors. Nova Villa brought the house down with her (literally) stripped down performance. A topless Xian with his mismatched face and body skin tones (put down that Chin Chun Su!) made my stomach hurt. And Derek Ramsey running butt naked on the beach wasn’t really funny but the thought that this role was originally given to Herbert Bautista (imagine Bistek’s bum!) made me laugh really hard. May I request that for a possible sequel, please?

Rating: ★★★☆☆