THE DIPLOMAT HOTEL (Christopher Ad. Castillo, 2013)

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Que horror indeed.

It’s hard to believe but The Diplomat Hotel just beat Amor Y Muerte as the worst movie I’ve seen in #Cinemalaya2013, and possibly this year.

It was like The Shining. Only with everyone playing Jack Nicholson. And without the scares. Or anything that makes sense.

The hotel and its rich history would have made a great horror movie but everything was wasted. It would have been better as a Magandang Gabi Bayan Halloween special.

Let’s get this out of the way. Gretchen Barretto was horrible here. Kris Aquino could have done better and that says a lot.

The production values were awful, several scenes were out of focus, there were a lot of missing dialogue, subtitles were not in sync, etc.

The only thing scary here was that La Greta’s lovely face was barely moving.

End of rant.

Rating: ★☆☆☆☆

(Originally published August 6, 2013.)

CineFilipino Short Films – Set B (2018)

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CINEFILIPINO 2018 – SHORTS B

.RAW (Eugine Frondoza, 2018) – ★★★☆☆

Reminded me of two things: 1) the belief that there was a certain gloom behind these perfectly-edited pre-nup videos, and 2) my undying love for Mara Lopez. I just wish it went beyond the “love the raw and unedited version of your other half” message.

*****

GABI NG KABABALAGHAN (Stephen Lopez, 2018) – ★★★★★

My easy favorite from this set. It was a well-crafted, inspired, and wicked take on Magandang Gabi Bayan’s iconic Halloween special. Those hilarious reenactments with the White Lady were just spot-on. Best end credits sequence, too. Made me excited to see what else this director had to offer.

*****

LASINGTUNADO (Miguel Fernandez, 2018) – ★☆☆☆☆

With its corny jokes and extended fight scenes, this one felt very much like an annoying, drunk next-door neighbor who went way past the allowed 10pm videoke curfew. If only it had more of that smart Bituin Escalante reference.

*****

AMUSIN PA (Raiza Masculino, 2018) – ★★☆☆☆

Spotty Southern Tagalog accents aside, this didn’t really offer anything new to the puppy love slash coming-of-age genre. At least it had the same kid in the wonderful Ang Painting ni Tatay.

*****

DUYAN NG ALON (Kaye Banaag, 2018) – ★★★★☆

I really liked this version of Cast Away imagined through the eyes of a child. It also had some really striking visuals, including a precious shadow play sequence that I could probably watch all day.

*****

ATE, KUYA, GUSTO KONG KAPE (Mark Bayani, 2018) – ★☆☆☆☆

Even an all-“star” cast that included Epy Quizon and 90’s Most Promising Actor Jao Mapa could not save this obvious headscratcher. “Sino si Ate?” Did anyone really care?

*****

SIYUDAD SA BULAWAN (Jarell Serencio, 2018) – ★★☆☆☆

There was an underlying sadness in this story of miners (and minors) working in a city of gold, but the film ended without really saying much. It looked really good, though.

THE STRANGERS (Bryan Bertino, 2008)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on The Strangers:

1. This might sound weird but the only time that I’d be really scared of ghosts would be 1) when somebody familiar died (also why I never looked at corpses and/or coffins), or 2) after having watched a really creepy local show/film (think Magandang Gabi Bayan’s Halloween episodes). I guess that would explain my fondness for the horror genre and my strange aversion to lights (seriously, I would rather feel my way through the darkness than flip a light switch).

It might also be a result of my mother’s constant warning of “Matakot ka sa tao, huwag sa multo”, which actually made a lot of sense especially after watching all those Carlo J. Caparas massacre movies.

2. Speaking of, my definitive home invasion film would probably be the early 90’s cult classic The Vizconde Massacre: God Help Us! that started this tasteless trend of exploiting true Pinoy crime stories as popular entertainment.

I swear I was emotionally scarred for life at the sight of Lady Lee (as the young Jenny Vizconde) getting repeatedly stabbed on the back while trying to run away from her assailant that I never forgot to check the locks of our gate every night ever since.

3. I couldn’t understand why the characters in this movie didn’t act like any normal (read: paranoid) person and just made the dumbest horror movie decisions that were blatantly mocked in Wes Craven’s Scream series (“Never, ever, under any circumstances say ‘I’ll be right back’. Because you won’t be back.”)

Kristen (an atrocious Liv Tyler who kept cooing her lines) and James (Scott Foley) were so oblivious to the dangers around them that they readily opened the front door of their remote summer home when somebody knocked at 4 AM. And even with the presence of intruders inside, they chose to hide in a room instead of run as far away from there as possible.

In one scene, Kristen even broke a lamp (to fight a possible murderer with bubog, perhaps?) rather than do the most obvious thing to increase her chances of survival which was lock the freakin’ door. Sure, people would do the craziest stuff and stop being rational in a state of panic, but it was just too hard to sympathize with them when they were basically throwing themselves at their killers.

4. I think it was a smart choice that they never really showed the faces of the killers. This made their motives vague as well and created a more haunting atmosphere (“Why are you doing this to us?” “Because you were home.”)

5. There was one chilling scene where a masked person stood silently behind Kristen and I really thought that this would hold throughout the entire film. A horror movie that didn’t rely on banging noises and cheap jump scares would have been terrific. Unfortunately, even with a slim 90 minutes runtime, it lost steam halfway through and decided to utilize the same tropes of the genre (the entire thing even ended with a scream from a supposedly dead person, pfft!).

Also, I just realized that the chilling scene that I described earlier was the exact same one that could be seen on the poster. Now you really wouldn’t have a reason to see this anymore, no?

6. Robin Williams as an obsessed stranger slash trespasser using another family’s toilet in One Hour Photo was way more disturbing than this. Watch that one instead.

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

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: ★★☆☆☆