CORAZON: ANG UNANG ASWANG (Richard Somes, 2012)

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I think that I’m in the minority when it comes to Yanggaw, the other “aswang” movie of Richard Somes. Maybe all the hype raised my expectations. I anticipated a full-blown horror movie and got a melodramatic tale of familial love instead. Corazon felt like a retread on the same themes, although it’s more of an origin story and has a bigger budget (read: beautifully shot). Erich Gonzales was fine in the lead role but she definitely didn’t get any support from the consistently bland Derek Ramsay. Most of the scenes were unintentionally funny (why, Tetchie, why?) and some were just downright crazy (and not in a good way). Neither scary nor engaging, I’m guessing half of the audience fell asleep before the closing credits.

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

(Originally published March 23, 2012.)

WE WILL NOT DIE TONIGHT (Richard Somes, 2018)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

Like a nastier, low-budget version of Buy Bust. I probably would have liked the senseless bloodbath more if the action scenes were at least staged/shot much better and didn’t look like mere rehearsals.

The scene where Erich Gonzales singlehandedly eviscerated several goons closely resembled the stairwell sequence of Atomic Blonde. Another one where she grabbed a young girl reminded me so much of The Lookout. Definitely not a good sign.

So after getting beaten close to death, her stuntwoman character still showed up on the film set despite everything that happened? Now that’s dedication! (And a brutal reality for our stuntpeople.)

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

(Originally published August 16, 2018.)

CRY NO FEAR (Richard Somes, 2018)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Cry No Fear:

1. In my recent take on the 2008 home invasion movie The Strangers, I expressed my frustrations on the idiotic decisions made by the lead characters in protecting themselves from their tormentors (running inside the house instead of fleeing as far away from it as possible, forgetting the most basic instinct of locking doors, etc.). Very much like in any Carlo J. Caparas massacre movie though, I still felt some sympathy for the victims because they were basically living their quiet lives before these monsters started violating them and their homes.

This movie reminded me so much of The Strangers, except that I was weirdly rooting for the strangers. Why should I even care about these spoiled, privileged half-sisters Kaycee and Wendy (played by Ultimate Kakaibabe Donnalyn Bartolome and Teen Dance Princess Ella Cruz, respectively) when they themselves wanted to kill each other? They even found the time to freshen-up before escaping from their killers because, I dunno, if they were to die they might as well be looking good?

Their poor father (Lito Pimentel) was working his butt off as a washed-up actor forced to dress up as Chewbacca and yet they couldn’t even respect him enough not to gouge each other’s eyes out over breakfast (didn’t they hear him practice the exact same three lines for hours inside his room while wearing that blue girdle that my mom bought from Home TV Shopping to help burn her fats?). I actually cheered when he finally had enough of their bickering and gave each of them a well-deserved spanking (as in pinatayo nya pareho at pinalo sa pwet, like they were a bunch of six-year olds). Go Tatay!!

2. According to Wikipedia, the male gaze is the act of depicting women as sexual objects for the pleasure of male viewers. It couldn’t have been more true here where probably 30% of the screen time involved the camera slowly moving up and down Donnalyn’s kakai-legs while she was in various states of undress. In one scene that doubled as a calamine advertisement, she was talking to her boyfriend on the phone while applying lotion on her (what else?) really, really long legs (made even longer by SM Southmall Cinema’s weird aspect ratio).

The rest of the film spent several minutes ogling the girls’ nubile bodies while wearing a bikini, panties in bed, and in the climactic rain scene (where they took off their shirts because they were fearless and invincible to pneumonia) matching baby bras. Was Viva Films actually paying homage to its early 2000’s soft-core flicks with Rica Peralejo, Maui Taylor, and the Viva Hot Babes where their characters were also allergic to all types of clothing?

3. Speaking of Viva Hot Babes, the maid here named Dory was played by Sheree who spoke with a slight twang and made me initially think that she was their mother. But then all she ever did was collect their dirty laundry (imagine the number of panties she had to wash every day) and cook (it was probably my first time to see characters actually eat breakfast, lunch, and dinner like any normal family).

There was one (terrible) extended scene where she screamed her head off because she couldn’t kill a rat, but I guess she would still be considered a super yaya for rising from the dead after several stab wounds and killing one of the strangers. In one bit, she went missing and the girls had to look for her and so the movie suddenly turned into Finding Dory.

4. My favorite scene in this entire mess though was when the strangers headed straight to the kitchen, brought out a loaf of Gardenia bread, and took a quick snack break. Nakakagutom nga naman kasi manloob ng bahay.

After the snack break, one of them felt the need to play a haunting piano piece while the rest continued to raid the pantry. Newbie thieves would go straight to the master’s bedroom to look for cash and other valuables, but these experts knew the essential items and started hoarding kitchenware and canned goods (plus, a ceramic vase for good measure).

5. I felt really sad when the first to get killed in this movie was the dog Tarzan. This movie should be endorsed by PETA because when the girls were terrorized by receiving Tarzan’s severed head wrapped in plastic, their first instinct was not to call for help, but to bring it back to its grave with the rest of its body (“Ibalik natin ang ulo nyaaaa waaah!”)

Aww, how nice! (Ay wait, pinanghampas pala nila yung ulo to kill one of the strangers in the end so…)

Rating: ★☆☆☆☆

RESUREKSYON (Alfonso Torre III, 2015)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Resureksyon:

1. The movie began with a chilling premise: that of a coffin being transported back to the country with the cause of death of the woman inside unknown and the words “BURN IMMEDIATELY” written on the boards. The story of a woman returning from the city carrying with her a mystery wasn’t a new concept (I kept thinking of Richard Somes’ Yanggaw) but it was still an interesting one.

2. Even with a strong 10-minute opening that set up everything we needed to know (flashbacks showing the reason why she left, stories showing the bond between the orphaned sisters, etc.), the remaining hour of the film was just too awful to watch. (A huge disappointment given that this was from the same director of Kabisera, one of my favorite movies of 2013).

3. The biggest problem started when the said woman (played by Isabelle Daza, the loveliest corpse since Dawn Zulueta in Patayin Sa Sindak Si Barbara) rose from the dead making all the neighbors and friends run out screaming and then…nothing. No furor about this miracle, no news crew or paparazzi hearing about this supernatural event, no YouTube videos of this modern day Lazarus, no invite to be the next Pastillas Girl of It’s Showtime, nothing. Like rising from the dead was such a common occurrence. Really? Even the family members didn’t question her on what happened as if their Ate/Nanay just woke up from a coma. Really??!

4. The backdrop reminded me so much of Dementia. I swear some locations looked exactly like Batanes. Such a lovely place for a horror hot spot.

5. And speaking of Dementia, this one took the easy route as well and had the typical cheap scares and loud sounds that would make your grandmother pee in her diaper. Another scene of a cat jumping out from the bushes? Groan.

6. Look, an extremely fake moon!!

7. There was a deliberately annoying Mayor’s wife and I kept wishing that she would be the first to get killed. Question: does a supposed alta really sit in the front of the car next to her driver? Anyway, my wish came true but then she returned as a vampire. Sigh.

8. Do vampires teleport? How did she get inside the locked car?

9. I pity Paulo Avelino. He was in full serious acting mode when the movie was nowhere near the level of his talent. At least he satisfied the eye candy part and made the rest of the time partly bearable.

10. In one scene, there was a white light in the corner of the living room that was turned on even if it was set during the day. Please tell me that wasn’t a technical issue.

11. The vampires in this movie had smoky eyes and smudged eyeliner. That should be an easy Halloween costume.

12. One character wanted to know how to kill an aswang so he…looked it up in Wikipedia! I’m serious.

13. Some lines didn’t even make any sense.

“San galing ang kapatid mo?”
“Nagtrabaho sya sa embahada ng Serbia.”
“Sa Central Europe, tama ba?”

Did we really need that Geography lesson? And the point was?

14. Here’s another one.

“Parating na ang mga aswang!”
“Saan?”
“Sa ospital!”

And then the next scene showed the aswangs/vampires attacking the hospital (virtually deserted except for our bidas of course). Hahaha!

15. One scene had a fake YouTube video playing with the timer on the bottom right of the screen not moving. Hay.

Never mind.

Rating: ★☆☆☆☆

(Originally published September 26, 2015.)

LIWANAG SA DILIM (Richard Somes, 2015)

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My notes on Liwanag sa Dilim:

1. A lot of Pinoy movie titles are usually famous pop songs that sometimes I wonder if people actually create a concept or screenplay out of them. This movie seems to be a prime example. I can only imagine the writer listening to the radio when Rivermaya’s hit song came on and a lightbulb went off for him to write a story about an aswang terrorizing a small village. I can’t wait for the serendipitous rom-com set in UP based on Sarah Geronimo’s Ikot-Ikot.

2. Jake Vargas played the son of Sunshine Cruz but he kept calling her “Ma’m”. I wasn’t paying too much attention so he might actually have been playing a houseboy.

3. Although this was a fantasy movie, did the characters really have to be complete caricatures? And why was everyone shouting their lines like there was no tomorrow? Terrible acting across the board.

4. Bea Binene had the unfortunate name of Bea Binene but she did look good onscreen. When she opened her mouth though, she gave a whole new meaning to “boses pekpek”.

5. One scene required Vargas to strip down to his boxers before swimming in a batis (actually a waterfall). It made me put down my tub of popcorn and re-examine all my baby fats.

6. Rico Blanco played a local cop and I could only assume that he was given the role for easier licensing agreements.

7. This was the kind of movie where a character would hide behind a rock to avoid the aswang but still loudly say “Please, please sana di niya ako makita!” just in case the audience was so stupid not to notice that he was fearing for his life.

8. Several scenes reminded me so much of Erik Matti’s much superior Aswang Chronicles. And those didn’t have a lot of laughable MMA-style action sequences involving an aswang in a chokehold. Seriously.

Rating: ★☆☆☆☆

(Originally published February 15, 2015.)

Cinema One Originals 2017 Scorecard

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Best Picture

1. CHANGING PARTNERS (Dan Villegas) – ★★★★★

2. PAKI (Giancarlo Abrahan) – ★★★★☆
3. HAUNTED: A LAST VISIT TO THE RED HOUSE (Phyllis Grande) – ★★★★☆

4. SI CHEDENG AT SI APPLE (Fatrick Tabada, Rae Red) – ★★★☆☆

5. NERVOUS TRANSLATION (Shireen Seno) – ★★☆☆☆
6. THROWBACK TODAY (Joseph Teoxon) – ★★☆☆☆
7. NAY (Kip Oebanda) – ★★☆☆☆

8. HISTORIOGRAPHIKA ERRATA (Richard Somes) – ★☆☆☆☆
9. BUNDOK BANAHAW, SACRED AND PROFANE (Dempster Samarista) – ★☆☆☆☆

Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role

1. JOJIT LORENZO (Changing Partners)
2. CARLO AQUINO (Throwback Today)

Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role

1. DEXTER DORIA (Paki)
2. ELIZABETH OROPESA (Si Chedeng at si Apple)
3. AGOT ISIDRO (Changing Partners)
4. GLORIA DIAZ (Si Chedeng at si Apple)

Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role

1. NOEL TRINIDAD (Paki)
2. SANDINO MARTIN (Changing Partners)

Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role

1. SHAMAINE BUENCAMINO (Paki)
2. ANNA LUNA (Changing Partners)
3. EULA VALDEZ (Paki)
4. SYLVIA SANCHEZ (Nay)

HISTORIOGRAPHIKA ERRATA (Richard Somes, 2017)

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Like a loud, annoying, and horny uncle in a family reunion that had one too many Red Horse beers delivered his unsolicited version of Drunk (Philippine) History. In his made-up story, Andres Bonifacio was played by Jett Pangan in a wig and baro’t saya, looking very much like John Lapus in drag and ready to battle the Moron 5.

His choice of metaphor for the rape of our country was Nathalie Hart with her permanent bee-stung lips literally getting passed around and pumped from all angles while delivering several variations of the line “Wag mong iputok sa loob!”.

Beware of this uncle. Tito Jo, wag po!!

Rating: ★☆☆☆☆