MY BIG BOSSING (Tony Reyes, Marlon Rivera, Joyce Bernal, 2014)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on My Big Bossing:

1. Vic Sotto just had this certain charm that I wasn’t surprised when the ladies kept fawning at him. In the movie’s very first scene, he simply said a throwaway “Exchuse me!” and I couldn’t control my laughter. In the second segment, he even showed some range dealing with a dead daughter. Good one, Bossing!

2. Sotto wore a crisp white polo shirt and of course I knew what was coming next: “Bossing sa kaputian!”. To be fair though, this sequel only had a few commercials. The only other product I noticed was PLDT Home.

3. The Sirena segment by Tony Reyes could have been an episode of Okay Ka, Fairy Ko. Only this one had Ryzza Mae Dizon donning a mermaid costume. It was still a very weak entry already given its sitcom roots. People just kept getting pushed in different bodies of water. Not funny.

4. Speaking of Dizon, why haven’t we seen her launching movie yet? She has the same spunk and charm of a young Aiza Seguerra. Given the right material, she can achieve the same superkid status. She’s just too adorable. Obviously I’m a fan.

5. The cast of Ina-Tay was here! (Refer to Cinemalaya 2014.)

6. Manilyn Reynes was supposed to play a fish vendor so they covered her up with dark make-up. Sometimes it looked like she had jaundice instead.

7. The Taktak segment by Marlon Rivera had a lot of potential. Unfortunately, there were just so many sub-plots to tackle in forty minutes. You’re not yet completely forgiven for the first one, Sir. Not yet.

8. Dizon here played Angel, a version of Elsa (more La Aunor, less Frozen) and she looked funny during the seances. This reminded me so much of Judiel Nieva, the transgendered lady who apparently could see the Virgin Mary back in the early 90’s. Wikipedia refers to her as an actress and businesswoman.

9. Marian Rivera looked good onscreen but has she ever played any character that didn’t scream her head off at other actors? Her characters always sounded shrill and high-strung like she was invoking the spirit of Maricel Soriano during her Inday days.

10. One obvious gaffe: Jose Manalo’s character texted Angel looking for her even if in the previous scene he was seen walking away with her.

11. One ghost mentioned something really scary and had always been one of my fears: “Susundan kita sa banyo.” Imagine a dead relative watching you take a shower in all your naked glory. Horrors!!

12. The third segment called Prinsesa by Joyce Bernal looked really good. Granted, most of the castle scenes were shot in Fernbrook Gardens in Las Pinas, I was impressed with the village that looked very much like The Shire and was populated by digital animals. Eat your heart out, Peter Jackson!

13. One character had his tongue cut off and was shown all bloody in a succeeding scene. What happened to the General Patronage rating?

14. If Mara Clara was a fairy tale, this would be that version.

15. At first I thought that the trilogy was very Eat Bulaga Holy Week presentation levels. And then it dawned on me. It was trying to be that other movie anthology, Mga Kuwento ni Lola Basyang. Am I right, 80’s kids?

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

(Originally published January 5, 2015.)

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GET OUT (Jordan Peele, 2017)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Get Out:

1. It was probably around the 40-minute mark when the mostly white houseguests were excitedly fawning over Chris (Daniel Kaluuya) that I realized this film had the exact same setup as Shake Rattle and Roll 2: Aswang. Chris was obviously Portia (Manilyn Reynes) and his white girlfriend Rose (Allison Williams) was Monica (Ana Roces), the bearer of the townspeople’s feast of the month. The similarity was so uncanny that when a white woman grabbed Chris’s bicep and asked if black meat really tasted better, I really thought that he would be the night’s main course (my brain was screaming: “Stay away from the banig!!”). I felt a tad disappointed that it wasn’t the silly premise that I expected, but I was still surprised with the crazy route that this film took.

2. The opening sequence alone screamed Wes Craven, with a black man getting assaulted in a dimly-lit and deserted (read: quietly creepy) street (I wouldn’t be surprised if it were named Elm). It had the same laugh and then shriek approach that the director used in the cold open of Scream 2 (remember when Omar Epps got stabbed by a dildo through a glory hole? Oh wait, that was Shawn Wayans in Scary Movie, but same diff).

3. “My father would have voted for Obama a third time” was the equivalent of “I’m not racist, I have a lot of black friends” excuse. The fact that it was repeated several times here (and even declared proudly by an older white male) clearly drove home the movie’s message. Actually, there were so many instances that showed the day-to-day realities of the black man experience (Chris’s initial reaction to meeting Rose’s parents was: “I don’t want to be chased off the lawn with a shotgun”, a white police officer asked for his ID even if he wasn’t driving) that felt terribly depressing (and scary, very much like Bradley Whitford’s corduroy pants).

4. Excellent performances all around. The Armitages (Whitford, Catherine Keener, and Williams in her very appropriate, most annoying Marnie mode) made me frightened of these seemingly perfect white suburban liberal-minded families. But even better were the performances by the black cast. Kaluuya delivered a starmaking turn, LilRel Howery had the best lines (“T, S, motherfuckin’ A!”, and reminded me so much of Atlanta’s PaperBoi), but my favorite was Betty Gabriel with her creepy Stepford Wife smile. I didn’t care so much about the Baron Geisler brother, though.

5. I was such a skeptic and would usually laugh whenever I’d hear people getting held-up through hypnosis (Budol Budol!), but the Sunken Place here really left me feeling disturbed. The sound of a spoon stirring in a teacup would never be the same again. Also, all the hypnosis scenes with the out-of-body experience and peering through distant holes made me think so much of Being John Malkovich (also with Keener!).

6. That Behold the Coagula video reminded me of The Dharma Initiative in Lost. We need to go back.

7. I wish there was a more directly racist explanation on why black people were being targeted for the experiments (when one character asked, the simple response was a bit generic that they wanted people that were physically superior). It could have been an even more effective commentary on racism in this kind of social satire.

8. Seeing Papa Armitage getting killed by the horns of the very animal that he hated was just sweet revenge. I also had this oddly satisfying feeling while Rose was getting choked (maybe it was because she annoyingly ate her colored cereal separate from her glass of milk, with a straw to boot).

9. When the police car arrived towards the end of the movie, I actually felt really bad for Chris because in my mind, a white officer would step out and shoot him right on the spot. I would like to believe that I wasn’t the only one who thought the same way. Such a sad world we’re living in, no?

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 surprised 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: ★★☆☆☆

SHAKE RATTLE AND ROLL 8 (2006)

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13TH FLOOR (Rahyan Carlos) – The hokey back story couldn’t support this more (unintentionally) comical, less scary episode of the 8th installment. It was the kind of movie that was able to drag down veteran theater actors like Robert Sena and Isay Alvarez into Roxanne Guinoo’s level of acting. The scares happened really early and yet the Scooby Doo gang continued to stay in that haunted condo. If I see flying hotdogs on a cabbage or spirits of dead children, my first instinct would be to run as far away as possible. I guess these people really just wanted to be scared to death.

Rating: 1/5

YAYA (Topel Lee) – The biggest hurdle of this trilogy has always been the runtime for each episode. Forty minutes is just too short to tell a good horror tale and if you focus on atmosphere and special effects, you end up rushing the story. Iza Calzado makes a great manananggal but the material doesn’t give her much to do. Sheryl Cruz’s awfulness definitely doesn’t help. I had more fun watching Kris Aquino get terrorized by THE Lilia Cuntapay in the far superior Yaya episode of the 3rd installment.

Rating: 2/5

LRT (Michael Tuviera) – This episode offered the most scares among the three although it seemed to be in such a hurry to kill off its big cast (among them, the usually noteworthy Eugene Domingo and SRR staple Manilyn Reynes). We weren’t given enough time to care for these characters and since some were completely unlikable, I ended up waiting for them to be killed. The killer’s look came straight out of M. Night Shyamalan’s The Village that I’m surprised he didn’t sue. Can we ask for more originality next time, please?

Rating: 2/5