CHAIN MAIL (Adolf Alix, Jr., 2015)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Chain Mail:

1. Some of my all-time favorite Filipino films (Mater Dolorosa, Isda, and Adela come to mind) were directed by Adolf Alix, Jr. so I was completely surprised with this mess of a movie. It was like he gave up midway through production and finished it with a “Pwede na ‘to” attitude. The final product was just so far off from his usual technically-proficient films.

2. In the opening scene, Nadine Lustre (in a “special role”) got run over by an out of control jeepney that rammed the computer shop where she was checking her email. Everything was supposed to have a supernatural feel with the requisite gore but the clunky setup just made it look funny. And why was she in full party mode red dress just to check her email anyway? And why was she immediately killed if she just opened and read the chain mail? What if she had no access to Wifi or 3G at home to check before the 9th day? I therefore blame Globe for her death.

3. This chain mail thing probably would have been scarier 20 years ago. It just felt so dated. Like watching The Ring and its cursed VHS in this day and age of Piratebay.

4. A lot of people got killed in the movie. I barely knew them (both the artists and the characters) and I didn’t really care much about them. I mean how could you invest on someone that got trapped in a car and her first instinct was to tap loudly on the window? Sure she might have been in a state of panic but if she only reached for the door handle…

5. The faceless creature with blasted areolas looked like it came straight out of Pan’s Labyrinth. (I apologize to Guillermo del Toro for including his classic film in the notes of this dreadful movie.) Later on it was explained that the girl victim cut off her nose (yes, her entire nose with scissors) and she had time to slash her entire body and cut her hair before actually going into shock.

6. So many scenes were so badly-lit it reeked of lack of budget.

7. In a cheering practice…

M! A! B! U! H! A! Y! Mabuhay!! (Repeat 10x)

Head cheerleader: Ok from the top.

Scene continued without any sound coming from the squad. What?!

8. All the kids in this movie checked their email every single time like it was Twitter. Do people really do this? Are they waiting for an email from LiNa?

9. The characters here were so sosyal. A post office worker and a high school teacher both lived in these lavish houses in posh subdivisions. Did they have a cut in the pork barrel as well?

10. 80’s icon Bernardo Bernardo played an albularyo that probably would have been funnier if he were flamboyant and in full Oda Mae Brown mode.

11. One schoolgirl got killed in the bathroom (the creature came out of the toilet while she was peeing) but it was classes as usual on the same day for the rest of the students while they mourned their dearly departed classmate. Seriously, in what crazy school does this happen?

12. In another scene, the manager of Project Pie got locked in the walk-in freezer for two minutes before turning into a literal malamig na bangkay.

13. Terrible, horrible, god-awful performances all around. The only real source of horror in this horror flick.

14. One character almost drowned in the pool because she kept flailing around and didn’t bother standing up. Seriously.

15. Nadapa si Ate Shy Carlos sa kalsada. Dinala sa Ospital ng Maynila. Naka-wheelchair sa susunod na eksena. Na-confine. Que horror!

16. The school gossip (the gay teacher of course!) got killed when a ceiling fan rotated on his neck (sorry, that’s the only way I could describe it). He even had time to scream before it fell on him. Blood spurted out of his sliced neck. In succeeding scenes, a character kept saying that the gay teacher was “napugutan”. Since I didn’t see any rolling head, apparently, he didn’t know what the word meant.

17. In one sequence with a continuous real-time conversation, a character kept changing places after every line while the background turned from day to night. How long exactly was that discussion?

18. Rain effects. Overhead shot of the car moving on the road. And then you see the dry spot where the car used to be. Paano nakakalusot ang mga ganitong bagay?

19. The movie ended up as a cautionary tale on viral sex videos. And pedophile teachers.

20. And the Best Performance by a Pamintang Durog goes to…

Rating: ★☆☆☆☆

(Originally published July 23, 2015.)

THE DEBUTANTES (Prime Cruz, 2017)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on The Debutantes:

1. I still haven’t forgotten about the clunky twist of last week’s Last Night and now we get another movie that hinged on the big reveal of an ‘imaginary’ being. Are our writers running out of original ideas to surprise the audience?

It probably would have been more acceptable if the said twist wasn’t so obvious the moment you see young Jona Soquite (or at least who I thought was her). Seriously, why would ‘siblings’ with a huge age gap have that twinning kind of severe BANGS (yes, nagsusumigaw) anyway? The only mystery left was whether she was the evil side of Carrie, er, Kate (a competent Sue Ramirez), or a completely different entity altogether (answer: sadly, the latter).

2. I had this discussion recently with a filmmaker friend on the lack of creative main titles in recent films (especially Star Cinema ones). We would usually see the same old cast names in red (or white) Times New Roman or Comic Sans fonts that clearly revealed the lack of originality or how much the final product was rushed.

One good thing about this movie was that it had a good opening credit sequence with blood flowing/dripping endlessly on various objects like a flower (cattleya?) or on the lips that would figure prominently later on. Reminded me so much of the Emmy-winning design for Six Feet Under.

3. Although the bullying and the public humiliation reminded me of Carrie, the similarity ended there because it was hard not to sympathize with the Mean Girls when this was obviously not an outright revenge flick. How could I cheer for the eventual deaths of young, irritating girls when Kate wasn’t the one doing the killings?

I never really rooted for a maligno, except for this one time when the Undin hid in the toilet bowl and preyed on the loudmouth landlady played by Vangie Labalan.

4. Speaking of Mean Girls, I couldn’t get why Ivy Aguas wannabe Jenny (Jane de Leon) was considered the Queen Bee. She didn’t look or speak the part and Michelle Vito as Candice had more of the Regina George vibe (although the latter was also a terrible actress so maybe that was the reason?).

To be fair, the Jenny character was a hoot. I laughed out loud when she said, “Hey guys, as you all know it’s my birthday. Yeeeees! Happy birthday to meeeee!!”.

5. I also couldn’t understand how Miles Ocampo ended up with this group of bitches considering that her Lara character seemed like the typical goody two-shoes. Sure, she lived alone in a humongous house and had an annoying fringed bag that screamed social climber, but her personality just didn’t seem to fit with the group. Was it because she was too dumb to know the difference between Geometry and Calculus and the group needed a budget Karen Smith?

6. Why would Kate agree to wear a revealing halter top when she had visible scratch marks on her back? Also, why didn’t she even bother to check how loose those strings were prior to attending a party full of privileged brats?

In this day and age of social media prominence, who would still post a public status of them embarrassing other people? Have these kids already forgotten about Ate Amalayer, or the Kuya that threw a hissy fit in Alfamart and got knocked down by a loaf of Gardenia, or the Sisteret that wanted to hog all the chairs in Starbucks? A documented case of bullying sounded like an instant lawsuit to me.

7. This was a Prime Cruz movie so of course it looked good. I really loved the use of saturated colors and I hope that it wasn’t just a product of SM Cinemas’ poor projection. I kinda missed his cool soundtrack though and the songs were mostly utilized during the end credits.

8. I really don’t get how these onscreen characters would cut their own hair and they’d always end up with salon gorgeous looks after. If I were to handle my own haircut, my mother would most probably ask if I recently had ‘tipus’ (uhm, thyphoid fever).

9. Why would a traumatized Kate immediately attend the wake of one of her bullies? Was it because we needed a scare scene involving a coffin? And why was Candice wearing a stylish cover-up and pekpek shorts there? Jenny should really have risen from the dead and slapped her silly for stealing the limelight (and for lack of respect, naturally).

10. Most of the horror elements were familiar tropes (they basically replaced the hair braid coming out of Naomi Watts’ throat in The Ring with a necklace; the jump scene when somebody would open a fridge and a person would be standing behind it was used twice, the other with a locker; the setup where the ghost would pull on the blanket of a sleeping person looked straight out of The Conjuring) and even impressive scenes like when the engkanto came out of Kate’s mouth looked similar to the one in The Possession (or one of the Ouija movies). I spent most of the time chuckling at how bad the death scenes were staged.

11. That was one dirty toilet bowl. Candice, please ask your maid to check the Coke hack on Facebook pronto.

12. This was the type of horror movie where a person in a pool would see the moo moo and decide to swim to the other side instead of getting her ass out of the water and fleeing for dear life. Congratulations Shayne (Chanel Morales) for winning this month’s Darwin Award!!

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

RINGS (F. Javier Gutierrez, 2017)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Rings:

1. Huge advancements in technology had not been kind at all to this tired, old franchise. Fifteen years ago, a long-haired girl in a white kamison crawling out of a television screen might have been considered scary. But very much like VHS tapes, this type of horror now felt very much outdated (and definitely not vintage).

Besides, in this day and age where one could update his Facebook status on a watch, who else would be using a VCR (or even had one that was still working)?

Even more absurd, not a single click-hungry site (not BuzzFeed, not TMZ, not even Snopes!) picked up the urban legend of a killer video. I actually expected it to be the most viewed clip in YouTube and Samara’s/Sadako’s biggest problem would be how to properly schedule the deaths of millions of people that watched. Surely, she would rather jump back in the well out of sheer exhaustion.

2. If you hadn’t seen The Ring or Ring Two (or their far superior Japanese source Ringu), let me do a quick recap. Adopted child drowned in well for having witch powers wanted to seek revenge on mankind through a cursed video that killed its viewers after seven days and the only way to escape death was to create a copy that somebody else needed to watch.

Yup, it worked exactly like a chain letter or an ambush multi-level marketing scheme in Starbucks. Scary, huh?

3. This entire lore was completely thrown out the window when Samara basically chose whoever she wanted to kill and towards the end of the movie even turned into a virus and started sending her own video to everyone on a character’s contact list. I was guessing part of her rebirth consisted of becoming the ultimate social media famewhore. (Also, sorry bitch, but the terrible Feng Shui 2 beat you to it.)

4. I definitely missed Naomi Watts who brought a certain depth in an otherwise standard fright flick. In this one, she was replaced by some college kids that didn’t know how to act scared or even let out a proper scream. Nobody could authentically pull out an incredibly long and chokeable foreign matter out of one’s throat (you pervert!) like Naomi and she did it first and much better in The Ring.

5. In one scene, a girl entered a projector room and disturbed everyone else that was seated when she crossed their path to get to the other side. It reminded me so much of my terrible viewing experiences in Greenbelt 3 Cinemas 1 and 2 where people would treat the last row of seats as if it was an aisle for them to get to the bathroom (and of course, they would return to their seats the same way and bother you a second time around). Hmm, I should probably start listing down my cinema pet peeves.

6. Hala biglang naging Don’t Breathe! What the fork!

7. If you were the type that get easily scared by umbrellas that loudly open, you would enjoy this one. As for me, na-sad ako. (Whee! I’m so punny!)

Rating: ★☆☆☆☆