MA (Tate Taylor, 2019)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Ma:

1. In most (if not all) of her films, Octavia Spencer displayed such an amiable and trustworthy aura that one wouldn’t suspect that her character might be a few fries short of a Happy Meal (or in the case of The Help, that she was already feeding you the most delicious shit pie). I would usually have problems with films that made me sympathize with demented people (read: psychotic murderers), but it also spoke a lot about the brilliance of the actors that played them (e.g. Anthony Perkins in Psycho, Matt Damon in The Talented Mr. Ripley, Kathy Bates in Misery, to name a few).

In one scene from this ridiculously trashy yet insanely enjoyable psychological thriller, Sue Ann aka Ma (Spencer) was smiling inside her car when a bunch of kids threw beer at her window. It brought back memories of being bullied in school and feeling like a pathetic loner slash loser that she just spontaneously burst into tears. Needless to say, I cried along with her, completely forgetting that she lured underaged kids in her basement and emotionally tormented one of them with a loaded gun just a few minutes earlier. Why’d you do this to me, Ma?

2. If that wasn’t enough to make you an instant fan of Spencer, she also had this FaceTime scene where she said “Why wait for the weekend? It’s five o’clock somewhere!” then let out a deranged cackle that both creeped me out and made me laugh out loud. I hadn’t even touched on Ma’s crazy dance moves that included the Funky Town robot and some can-crushing set to Kung Fu Fighting. It was easy to understand why these kids (that weirdly resembled a grown-up version of the Stranger Things cast) would party with this stranger. I mean I could be best friends with Ma, hideous maroon beret notwithstanding.

3. Diana Silvers (also good in Booksmart) looked like a cross between Anne Hathaway and Gaby Hoffman, no? Ooh, time for a Now and Then rewatch.

And speaking of lookalikes, the girl that played Ashley who would always pretend to pass out in parties could pass as Marilyn Manson’s daughter (ironically enough, she played a pastor’s daughter in this movie).

4. “You can smoke until you’re twenty-five and then quit and nothing bad will happen” sounded like an advice that I’d give as a parent. Which would also explain why I probably didn’t have any kids.

5. I had never seen this many number of syringes piercing the skin since Amanda was thrown in the Needle Pit during Saw II. I was just thankful that I still had quick reflexes to shield my eyes or I probably would have passed out in my seat.

(And don’t get me started on those stitched lips.)

6. Seeing a naked Luke Evans almost getting his penis cut off reminded me so much of that schlocky local revenge film Loretta, where Ruffa Gutierrez played a version of Lorena Bobbitt. Yes, it was the “Take it! Take it!” role where her MMFF Best Actress win lasted for a good thirty minutes (RIP Viveka Babajee).

But going back to that penis, was it prosthetic? Should I assume that Evans didn’t have the guts to have his real manhood anywhere near a kitchen knife unlike the fearless Carlos Morales in Laro sa Baga?

Also, what was that canine blood transfusion for? Was it because he was being such a bitch to her in high school?

7. So Sue Ann aka Ma worked as a veterinary technician/assistant. Please tell me that wasn’t the reason why her dog only had three legs huhu. (That moment when she was holding a pair of clippers made me feel really queasy. For nothing, but still.)

8. Speaking of Kathy Bates, one scene here reminded me so much of her Annie Wilkes. It was when Sue Ann aka Ma arrived from work and noticed that her cat figurines weren’t facing in the direction that she left them. Was that kind of attention to detail and obsessiveness a sign of being a murderous psycho? I could relate because I would also turn into one whenever people messed with my stuff. You have been warned, pakialameras!!

Rating: ★★★☆☆

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THE NUN (Corin Hardy, 2018)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on The Nun:

1. Long before Kidzania, Sky Ranch, Enchanted Kingdom, Star City, Boom na Boom, Glico’s, Payanig sa Pasig and Big Bang sa Alabang, the certified 80’s kids had that glorious haven located in the heart of Cubao called Fiesta Carnival. It was an indoor amusement park filled with the coolest rides and the best perya games ever created.

My favorite attraction there was this dingy horror ride (the predecessor of the corny horror train) where you would sit in a tiny cart that would pass through this long, dark tunnel split into several rooms (your cart would enter them by bumping onto the sliding doors) and each room was filled with every kind of supernatural entity designed to scare the crap out of you. One area would have like a ghost suddenly flying above your head while another would have a vampire jumping out of his coffin.

It felt very much like a nightmare that wouldn’t stop until you literally puked your kiddie guts out from all the screaming. That experience would probably be the closest equivalent I could think of for this movie that was relentlessly packed with jump scares. The only difference though was that I was no longer six years old.

2. In the Conjuring Universe, this would probably fall right smack in the middle with the best being the first Conjuring film and the worst being the first Annabelle. As a huge horror fan, I’d usually hate the ones that would sacrifice a good story over some cheap scares, but this one proved to be an exception (yes, I enjoyed it more than I probably should have).

Maybe it was because it didn’t take itself seriously (it definitely failed as an origin story because it didn’t really tell much about Valak aka Sister Marilyn Manson) and just took on the full silliness of its premise by upping the scream quotient (regardless of how effective they were).

3. With all the hilarious moments here through Frenchie-Canadian (Jonas Bloquet), I wasn’t even sure if it was trying to be a parody of the past movies (or even the genre). I mean, that scene where he pulled an oversized cross from a grave and ran with it all the way to a local bar was definitely a joke (and a really funny one, too).

Plus, you could probably name every cliché in the horror rule book and it was included here (except for a cat jumping out of the shadows, unless I missed that one). When one nun fell face down on the floor, everybody knew that somebody would grab her legs and pull her away from the camera. That corpse covered with a white sheet? It would come alive screaming, of course. And the scene where a nun suddenly dropped from a tree while hanging from a noose? It was done far better by Ynez Veneracion with her crazy eyes in Chito Roño’s The Healing. But all of these generated a symphony of screams (with some people literally jumping out of their seats) in our almost sold-out screening that made me enjoy the viewing experience even more.

4. When that horse-drawn carriage suddenly pulled up outside that monastery, I half-expected Keanu Reeves as Jonathan Harker to come out and seduce Valak with his tasty blood. I didn’t even care much about the supposedly creepy atmosphere of the broken-down monastery and smoky graveyard, I still found olden Romania incredibly romantic. Now what does that say about me?

5. Did Father Burke (Demián Bichir) provide an answer to his question on the opposite of miracle? This had been bugging me for days and Google was no help. Also, his character didn’t really figure much in the overall story, but at least he was able to deliver lines like “There is a time for prayer and a time for action”. Ooh, very Balweg, the Rebel Priest!

6. Glad that they actually made the effort to tie this up with the earlier films, although I was a bit disappointed that Sister Irene (an effective Taissa Farmiga) did not have any relation to Lorraine Warren (my darling Vera Farmiga) even if they obviously looked exactly alike. I would just assume that she was her reincarnation, which would explain why Valak was stalking her for several decades.

Side note: It felt iffy when the crowd started shipping Sister Irene and Frenchie-Canadian after that “kiss of life” scene, complete with an audible (and juvenile) “Yiheeeee!”. I felt the same way when this group of horny teens let everyone know that they were lusting over Phoebe Walker’s Sister Cecilia in Seklusyon. Forgive them Mother Butlers, for they have sinned. (Ang linis ko, thank you!)

7. I really liked that silent circle of prayer scene. Never thought I would ever get scared of a group (waddle? nyahaha!) of nuns especially after Sister Act, but this one came really close when they suddenly blew up in all directions (the Silent Hill-type scene that followed where they weren’t moving when Frenchie-Canadian entered the chamber was spooky, too). And then Sister Irene grew a burning parol on her upper back and I was laughing yet again (still not over all those Jose Mari Chan memes).

Another side note: I suddenly remembered that Netflix movie Veronica with the blind Mother Superior. Considering that I never had the traumatic experience of a nun hitting me with a ruler for wearing a skirt two inches shorter than the required length, I had always wondered why people were actually scared of them. Why would an image of a nun staring directly at you from outside your bedroom window elicit chills? And why would it be frightening if that same nun would now be standing right next to you while you were reading this? Don’t look!!

8. I usually hated watching with such a noisy crowd (seriously, everyone started screaming when the lights were turned off, even if it was just the Aquaman trailer that was played after), but hearing these straight guys pretend to be the bravest souls while clutching on to their girlfriends’ hands just doubled the entertainment factor. And yes, mas malakas pa sila tumili kesa sa mga date nila. Aliw lang.

Rating: ★★★☆☆

THE CONJURING 2 (James Wan, 2016)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on The Conjuring 2:

1. My love for horror films started during the Betamax (the videotape, not the blood gelatin) days. I think that with all the years of watching scary movies, I became desensitized to all imaginable frightening or shocking scenes, any jump scares, or just about everything that could startle a normal viewer. Sometimes I even just watched them to hear people scream their lungs out.

There have been quite a few recent good ones (e.g. Insidious) that made me double check the foot of my bed before going to sleep. The rest were just fun popcorn movies best enjoyed in a packed theater. This sequel fell in the latter category.

2. Director James Wan actually used the exact same template for this sequel that it felt like a retread of the original: a stand-alone opening story ripe for a spin-off (Annabelle in the first, Amityville here), the (re)introduction of the Warrens, a family of young kids (mostly female) with a strong maternal figure living in a haunted house and tormented by evil spirits, strong religious overtones, a demonic possession and a final climactic exorcism. In case it wasn’t obvious enough, he also brought back a spinning music box. Oh, and he borrowed the tent in The Sixth Sense (and most of the cliches in The Exorcist).

There was nothing wrong with sticking to a formula that worked (especially since he delivered on the promised scares), but one could still wish for a talented director like him to bring out something fresh to the old and tired horror genre.

3. I really liked how the camera moved to perfectly build up tension (swooping above and below characters, inside and outside rooms, around a central character, etc.) My favorite sequence (aside from that great transition from night to a rainy day) had to be the one where Janet (the talented Madison Wolfe) locked the door using a chair and it suddenly appeared next to her bed. The succeeding fake-outs (sister telling her nothing’s wrong, mother tearing up the Ouija board) and resulting scares (shaking bed, moving drawer) elicited the needed fear. It was perfectly capped off with the hilarious scene of the entire family running to a neighbor’s house.

4. For every genuine scare though (girl speaking in a different voice, old man’s reflection on the basement water), there were those that fell completely flat (the entire dog/Crooked Man sequence, the dragging Sister Marilyn Manson painting bit) or just plain bizarre (Patrick Wilson had a good voice but what was that Can’t Help Falling in Love sing-along?, also the I Started a Joke song was really off considering the building terror). If there was one song that upped the creepy factor, it was Hark! The Herald Angels Sing (this Christmas hymn will never sound the same way again).

5. Way too long especially for a horror flick. They could have easily chucked the entire Warrens plot and it would not have made a difference, but then again they would lose the needed star power (Wilson being the Kris Aquino of Hollywood horror). Also, that faux danger scene involving Ed Warren was exciting only if you never Googled his story after the first movie (he couldn’t die because he lived until the late 2000’s).

6. The scene where Janet tied her arms on the bed brought back a sad childhood memory. As a kid, I had severe asthma-related skin allergies and I usually woke up with huge scratch marks on my legs. To prevent this from happening while I was asleep, I used a blanket to tie my wrists on the bed posts (E.L. James, we need to talk). And then I learned about Caladryl and the rest was history.

7. I completely understood the old man’s fury whenever someone touched his remote. I always turned into that old man, especially when a favorite show was about to start and I still couldn’t find it. The only difference was that he wore dentures making less successful bite marks on his victims. My chunky front teeth could easily tear another person’s arm off.

Speaking of, was this the first movie where a ghost actually had pustiso? Even the great Lilia Cuntapay only had gums to show because she knew it would be scarier. Imagine her in a nun’s habit standing in the corner of your room. Now that would make a really scary movie.

Rating: ★★★☆☆