ANINO SA LIKOD NG BUWAN (Jun Lana, 2015)

image

SPOILER ALERT!! (Also: Rated R-18)

My notes on Anino Sa Likod Ng Buwan:

1. If you haven’t seen this film yet, do yourself a big favor. Stop reading this, head over to the nearest cinema, and watch this two-hour one-take achievement in local filmmaking. You can thank me later.

2. I was greatly reminded of two things while watching. The first was Joe Wright’s adaptation of Anna Karenina, a visual feast with its moving sets and changing backdrops all within the confines of a theater. This one had the exact same feel, although it was limited to just one camera moving around in a tiny hut. Everything was expertly-staged and it had to be because there wasn’t a lot of room for errors (I could only imagine how frustrating it would have been to keep reshooting if major flubs were committed).

This type of staging also supported the oftentimes theatrical cadences and lyrical dialogue (one character’s description of another: “Lubog ang mata, humpak ang pisngi, ang mga linya sa mata niya na tila bahay ng gagamba”, which was exactly how I would describe myself before breakfast).

3. With just a few choice words (“walang kuryente”, “walang tubig”, “kamote ulit”, “nakaw na sardinas”, “sobrang init”), it quickly established its setting in treacherous ’90s Marag Valley (also known as “No Man’s Land” in Kalinga-Apayao). The battle between the military and the rebels placed the land in such a depressing state that one character actually felt relieved that his wife had a miscarriage, rather than watch their baby die of hunger. Now I would always remember that before complaining about something as petty as EDSA traffic.

4. Farmer Nardo (Anthony Falcon) kept saying the line “Wag mong gagalawin ang asawa ko. Akin yan!” that it all but guaranteed wife Emma (LJ Reyes) and bantay-salakay soldier/friend Joel (Luis Alandy) hooking up in that now notorious 10-minute graphic sex scene (even in black and white though, I could have sworn that Luis used plaster; don’t ask).

But really, if there were only three actors and two of them had full frontal nudity, whatever happened to solidarity? We could have easily judged who had the bigger ari. (Also, I take everything that Mo Twister says with a grain of salt so…)

5. I could still remember LJ as a Starstruck Survivor trying her best to squeeze out the tears in that drama workshop under Gina Alajar so that she wouldn’t be replaced by an Avenger (Starstruck, not Marvel) in the weekly eliminations. Well, this fearless Urian winner had definitely gone a long way. She was just amazing here, to say the least (even better than when I last saw her in Tanghalang Pilipino’s Juego de Peligro).

If I remembered correctly, in the entire two hours, she only blatantly tripped during the “puke at mga suso” line, but then who wouldn’t (again, one-take, no cuts)? Even her cunnilingus aria was spectacular. Brava!

6. Similar to Ang Panggagahasa Kay Fe, I really liked the inclusion of a local mystical creature in the discussion. Nothing else could describe the horrors of that time like a homegrown kapre. To quote one character, “Sino ba talaga ang kaaway?”.

7. Oh, the other thing that I was reminded of was the FX TV show The Americans with its smart take on spies, lies, double crosses, deceit, and even unrequited love.

8. “Lahat tayo ay mga baliw na nagpapanggap na may katinuan sa pag-iisip.”

9. It was funny that after the final scene when the screen faded to black, nobody stood up and left because we were all expecting an end credits sequence. Waiting for it, though, was like waiting for redemption that will never come.

Rating: ★★★★★

HAUNTED MANSION (Jun Lana, 2015)

10294302_10153794813008544_524747038526305850_n

SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Haunted Mansion:

1. I could have easily written the first fifteen minutes of this movie. It involved a kid searching a (spoiler alert!!) haunted mansion saying different variations of the word “mom”. “Mom? Mom? Mooom? Mom! Mom!! Mooommm!! Mom, mom, mom!!” Instead a mumu appeared and ate him.

2. The best friend character played by Sharlene San Pedro apparently lost her cellphone in the canteen so she nonchalantly walked back to that area. She must have had a Nokia 3310 as well. I remember when I left the same unit in a restaurant and ten minutes later, it was still sitting untouched on the table. I guess possible thieves saw my precious phone more as a liability.

3. Janella Salvador’s character had a third eye so she was approached by dead people everywhere. Forget the mansion, it was haunted wherever she went. Haunted Everywhere would have been more original than anything in this movie.

4. I audibly gasped when I saw Lilet appear onscreen as Janella’s mom. I will forever remember her as the iconic manyika that came to life opposite Herbert Bautista in Pik Pak Boom. (If you know that one, then cheers to a life well-spent.)

5. One of the mean girls in school (who will never be Regina George) gave Janella a box of chocolates with live cockroaches in lieu of actual chocolates. The fact that she didn’t notice the movements of the critters inside the box made me question her senses (sixth or otherwise).

6. I was appalled by the general lack of rules in the school here. One male student had an eyebrow piercing, most of the girls wore skimpy shorts, the faculty even extended the stay of several students in the haunted mansion as a form of punishment. Actually I shouldn’t be surprised because this same school thought that a haunted mansion with a next-door private cemetery would be the perfect place for a retreat.

7. Jun Lana directed the excellent Bwakaw so I wasn’t sure why he was channelling Dementia with the same cheap scares and loud banging noises.

8. An hour into the movie and not one of the lame young actors had been killed yet. Instead we saw the talented ones like LJ Reyes, Joem Bascon, and Iza Calzado get hanged, burned to ashes, or died of boredom (oh wait, that was me).

9. I always sympathize with any movie character that has asthma or uses an inhaler. In this movie, it was the Horror Royalty Janice de Belen. Unfortunately, she had a thankless role where she was asked to say inane lines. When several people started getting killed, her word of advice while looking at the corpses was, “Ang magagawa natin ay ipagdasal na lang sila.” Girl, you cray!!

10. In a movie populated by dim-witted characters that hide under a table to flee a shrieking ghost, I wasn’t surprised that the ghost itself was stupid. It initially got killed by a flaming cross and you’d expect that it would have learned its lesson to stay away from an altar but no, the story flashed three months forward and it still went near an altar and eventually got killed by a rosary.

11. Here’s my favorite scene:

Janella ran to the corpse of her very dead friend Faye and screamed, “Faye, anong nangyari??”

At that point, I laughed so hard that my appendix shot out of my ass, bounced on the theater wall, and knocked the usher unconscious until the end credits.

He was actually the lucky one.

Rating: ★☆☆☆☆