ANNABELLE: CREATION (David F. Sandberg, 2017)

E54F3BF2-96E4-4F08-8453-CDBA07D79554

SPOILER ALERT!!

Worked very much like the first Conjuring movie with a bunch of young girls getting terrorized in a haunted house.

The first half was actually a good origin story with a few well-thought-out jump scenes (if you’re expecting the usual cheap scares, you’ll probably fall asleep during this part).

The second half was a bit of a disappointment, with the movie recognizing that it needed to up the fear quotient and bombarded the audience with standard horror movie cliches.

Created the right mood and atmosphere with some fine performances by the kids. The movie also successfully connected itself to the whole Conjuring-Annabelle-Valak universe.

Ooh, and the real Annabelle doll! Cool easter egg.

Rating: ★★★☆☆

(Originally published August 24, 2017.)

THE NUN (Corin Hardy, 2018)

7FE9E888-3B11-43A2-B231-07DCF25ED87D

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: ★★★☆☆

DOTGA: DA ONE THAT GHOST AWAY (Tony Reyes, 2018)

FFFCBA32-3F93-44A0-A144-64AEB3E8278D

SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on DOTGA: Da One That Ghost Away:

1. I was surprised that Vhong Navarro wasn’t included in the cast given that he headlined the last two horror-comedy films of Star Cinema (please note that I didn’t consider the unintentionally comedic horror films of Kris Aquino, like Segunda Mano where she pissed her pants in terror for buying a secondhand Prada bag).

In terms of comparison, this one was less like Bulong (actually a guilty pleasure) and more of Da Possessed (which had the gall to make fun of Vhong’s rape case). I already expected tons of corny jokes and lame slapstick humor, but even with my IQ lowered and in full babaw mode, I could only muster one giggle in all 100 minutes (again, I only counted the intentional one because I spent the entire movie hysterically laughing at Enzo Pineda’s acting that he equated with wide eyes and flaring nostrils).

2. Carmel (Kim Chiu) and Jerald (Ryan Bang) were ghost hunters slash con artists that brought along their team dressed as horror film characters (Ghost Bride, Chucky, Tiyanak, etc.) to terrorize and pretend exorcise haunted houses. She used a magical triangle (yes, the musical instrument in the percussion family) and shouted nonsensical chants (“Mother Ignacia! Sergeant Esguerra! Papuntang Abra!”) as part of her ritual. I was surprised that there were people who actually fell for this kind of silliness (although their first victim was a Krizzy impersonator and we all knew how gullible she could get).

3. This movie was rated PG because the MTRCB thought that parents could easily explain what Carmel meant when she said “Sabi na di ako nagpi-pinger eh” after using a dating app called PinGer. Or why she kept emphasizing the name of Enzo as JACK COLmenares (just in case it still wasn’t obvious enough, his name was written exactly like that on a white board). Should we expect the Colmenares sisters to be named Jaja, Nadia, and Gina? Seriously, this type of Pinoy green humor hadn’t been funny since my high school days circa ‘90s.

4. Terrible, terrible editing. In one scene, Serrah (Maymay Entrata) was looking at her compact mirror and asking “What is that ghost I see?” and then it abruptly cut to her and Chire (Edward Barber) walking to school. What was that about?

(Also, as a huge #MayWard fan, please give them a good film that they actually deserved! Sayang talaga sila!)

5. Oh, Jerald also worked as a language teacher in a school called Fil-Eng-The-Blanks. Wala na bang ikaka-corny pa ang pelikulang ito?

6. The only funny scene that I mentioned earlier was a brief gag where Carmel hugged a sweaty Jack, then wiped the wet part of her cheek with her left hand, and smelled it like she was endorsing the newest Downy fabric conditioner. It was a testament to Kim’s charm and sharp comic timing that a throwaway moment like that would actually work.

7. If Enzo acted like his life (or career?) depended on it, on the other end of the spectrum was Ronnie Alonte who didn’t even feel the need to act at all (was it because it was just a cameo role?).

8. Tabako vs Sadako? Bearable. Valak vs Halak? Meh. Black Panty vs Black Panther? Wala na maisip??

9. I felt bad for the extras in the scene where they pretended to freeze as part of a spell (think Mannequin Challenge only without music). Carmel had this really lengthy monologue (“Oo nasaktan na ako lola. Shinota niya ang best friend mo!!”) and you could actually see some of them in the background starting to shake (as in nanginginig na sa sobrang ngalay). I could have subbed for any of them because I had always been a master Statue Dancer.

10. Carmel: “Ikaw pa rin ang DOTGA ko!”

Jerald: “Da One That Ghost Away?”

Carmel: “Da One That Gusto Ako Pero Baka Maging Gusto Ko Rin!!”

Huh? Isn’t that DOTGAPBMGKR?!

Kimmy, pinapainit mo ang anit sa ibabaw ng ulo ko!!

Rating: ★☆☆☆☆

ILAWOD (Dan Villegas, 2017)

img_1009

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: ★★☆☆☆