GHOST WIFE (Mate Yimsomboon, 2018)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Ghost Wife:

1. If you still hadn’t seen the film that pushed me into (temporarily) becoming a sacristan with the thought that my holiness would shield me from a demonic possession, then let this be your nth reminder to watch the Akin ang Walang Diyos episode of Lovingly Yours, Helen: The Movie. I swear I had never seen a scarier exorcism which resulted to a lot of sleepless nights (not even Linda Blair’s twisting head or the contortionist moves of Emily Rose could even come close).

This was also the infamous source of the 80’s urban legend that an evil lamang-lupa fell in love with young superstar Julie Vega while filming that led to a mysterious illness and her eventual demise.

2. I was greatly reminded of that creepy story during this movie’s opening sequence where a shaman (wearing the biggest Buddha beads so you’d know he was mystical) was seemingly whipping a possessed child (was he using a buntot pagi?). But then the girl started screaming at the camera revealing her obvious blue-grayish contact lenses and I just couldn’t stop laughing from thereon. Was it supposed to be scary? This Thai horror flick was definitely no Shutter.

3. Completely off-topic but I found it really cute that the male students still wore short shorts as part of their high school uniform. I remember wanting to wear the khaki pants back in Grade 6 (next to circumcision and hair growing in every part of your body, it was a sign that you were one of the big boys). And now I realized that shorts were just so much more comfy, especially if you were always close to peeing yourself during a Calculus exam. To paraphrase Venus Raj, “I love it because it’s so comfortable to use and it’s very, very flowy.”

4. It was fascinating to see some cultural differences right off the bat. The teens here (who looked like Thai versions of Janella Salvador and Marlo Mortel) were more open to sex. When Thai Janella’s mom learned that her young daughter got pregnant, she took her to an abortion clinic instead of forcing a shotgun on Thai Marlo’s head (“Panagutan mo ang anak kohhh!”). 

One common factor though was that the Thai neighbors also lived for the latest chismis. Nothing wrong with being well-informed.

5. The abortion scene here would put the one in Hinugot sa Langit to shame. The quack doctors looked like they were actually pulling a baby rhinoceros out of the poor girl’s vajayjay. Did it really need that much heaving, and pulling, and grunting?

6. Before the Buddha beads-wearing shaman, Thai Janella’s mom sought the help of a female exorcist who sported heavy bangs and brought a trusty sling bag (what did that contain really? White Flower and a tin can of mints?). She ended up getting attacked by a medicine cart and was never seen again.

7. Speaking of urban legends, this was supposedly a modern day retelling of Nang Nak, the story of a husband who returned to his wife and child not knowing that they had been dead for months. This version was full of the usual horror movie tropes mostly taken from The Eye (the hallway scares, the ghost in the elevator) and none of them were scary.

When the baby was finally revealed as a tiyanak, I was laughing too much in my seat while wishing that Janice de Belen actually made a cameo. Imagine that reunion. Oh my god, ang anak ni Janice!!

8. I really wasn’t sure why dead Thai Janella was mad at her neighbors, except for being chismosa. Did she want them to keep her death a secret? Or was she just as annoyed at their sheer stupidity? After fearing for their lives and believing that their tenement was haunted, they stormed into the landlady’s office and demanded that she get rid of the ghost.

Yes, gusto nilang palayasin ang multo dahil laging nanggugulo. Hey chismosas, a scary ghost would still be much better than a drunk neighbor singing Itchyworms’ Beer for the tenth time at 3 freakin’ AM.

Rating: ★☆☆☆☆

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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: ★★☆☆☆

LOVE IS BLIND (Jason Paul Laxamana, 2016)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Love Is Blind:

1. Could a hottie like Derek Ramsay actually fall in love with a nottie like Kiray Celis? If we were to believe this movie, the answer would be a definite no. Unless of course one used the power of gayuma, because a conventionally unattractive woman has no chance of being loved by her Prince Charming without any dark magic involved. That was the single joke here stretched for an hour and and forty minutes.

2. In this movie, Derek named Wade actually had a beautiful girlfriend in Maggie (Solenn Heussaff), an unrefined artist who gets a bit wild inside a club. She was so nasty that she actually wiped her wet armpits in public because well, nobody’s perfect (except for Solenn of course, an actress so game that she would do any silly thing and still end up looking endearing).

In one scene, he asked her to undergo crystal peeling because he was embarrassed to bring her in his high school reunion (“Kasi hindi pantay ang kulay mo”). Seriously? The gorgeous Solenn Heussaff still needed a cosmetic procedure to look presentable? Prince Charming was actually Prince Shallow and Obnoxious.

3. Kiray played Fe, an intern in Luxent Hotel and the idea of her being a front desk officer and barely reaching the counter was supposed to be funny. She was joined by a group of hotel friends that also defied the perception of beauty, making them all too desperate to buy magic rings (worth 7k!!) just to have a lovelife (“Ang hopeless natin!”).

Fe was the richest one because she was willing to spend 20k for a gayuma that she could probably buy in Quiapo for 100 pesos. But hey, the movie needed a fantasy so let’s forget any logic here.

4. Speaking of Luxent Hotel, it was a good thing they allowed their brand to be used considering that the hotel staff in the movie were all evil (on top of being caricatures). A supervisor shrieked at Fe in front of guests (and did a Linda Blair headspin while stepping out of the room because the movie just wasn’t corny enough), a manager rudely interrupted dinner (“Hoy babae!!”) and gave Fe a scolding in public, and somebody from housekeeping slept on the bed with his headsets on right in front of the hotel guest. The bosses here were so heartless that when Fe developed a self-induced allergic reaction (that looked more like measles), they didn’t send her home and instead assigned her to clean rooms. I didn’t even touch on the fact that the staff could easily get inside rooms without the use of a keycard.

5. Granted, Wade drank the gayuma and saw a Maggie lookalike in Fe (tattoos and all), how would that explain his physical contact with her whenever they were together? The height difference was blatant and Fe didn’t have a Blusang Itim (or Shallow Hal) transformation so it was just a matter of Wade’s perception. If that were the case, then his arms would be in thin air whenever people would see him with Fe, right? Was I putting too much thought into this?

6. The said allergic reaction turned into pimples in later scenes because Fe apparently just wasn’t hideous enough.

7. If there was one good thing in this movie, it was the message that farmers were noble workers and that the agriculture industry should be given high regard. Now if only it didn’t portray one agriculture person as a simpleton that didn’t even know a Powerpoint presentation.

8. I probably laughed really loud once during the entire movie and that was when Kiray finally looked in the mirror, saw Solenn in her reflection, and ran away screaming in horror. In fairness, siya pa talaga ang natakot.

(In retrospect, the movie had a good trailer that contained most of the funny bits. You could watch that one for free.)

9. Did Kiray and Derek kiss in the movie? Yes (and it drew the loudest groans from the other 6 people inside the cinema). I guess that was my biggest problem with the entire movie. It wanted the audience to laugh at the absurdity of the situations but also wanted them to feel guilty for doing so.

10. The movie ended not with Kiray and her true love Kean Cipriano kissing (loud groans) but with Derek and Solenn having fun in a pineapple plantation because batuhan ng soil wouldn’t look as fun and romantic if the leads weren’t so darn pretty.

Rating: ★★☆☆☆