Ever thought a 1984 horror flick about a haunted spirit in a glass, a killer fridge and a visceral monster would spawn a dozen more sequels? I guess no one did but the movie-going audience made it possible, creating a strange Christmas tradition. Welcome to the Philippines where people spend cash for cinematic goosebumps during the merriest of seasons. Indie filmmakers are pumping much needed fresh blood to the longest-running horror franchise series in local cinema. For its 13th installment, directors Richard Somes, Jerrold Tarog and Chris Martinez delivered three stories that – I think – will ensure its continuation. Not bad for a horror series named after a popular rock ‘n’ roll hit.
EPISODE 1: TAMAWO
Director: Richard Somes
Cast: Maricar Reyes, Bugoy Carino, Zanjoe Maruo, Celia Rodriguez, Ronnie Lazaro, Rez Cortez, Ervic Vijandre
Summary: After his uncle (Ronnie Lazaro) died, Allan (Zanjoe Marudo) took over his job in the province. He brought his blind wife Isay (Maricar Reyes and her son Bikbok (Bugoy Carino) with him, promising a fresh and better start in life But an old mistake interrupted their future plans as murderous fallen creatures are out to settle a score.
Of the three episodes, this for me is the weakest since it is reminiscent of past Shake Rattle and Roll (SRR) stories. Not that it’s bad but kind of like a been-there-done-that product. There are apparent rehashed elements including a) the courageous kid and b) the undin plot line. Carino’s Bikbok is quite similar with Nash Aguas’ Benjo in the 8th installment. Both heroic kids protective of their mothers and infant siblings. Not to mention a penchant for slingshots. For those not interested in local pop culture junk, the undin is one of the most popular creatures in SRR lore. Taking a page from its stolen spawn plot, the wheels of tamawo revenge began turning when one of its unborn went missing. I am not sure if there is an existing folkloric basis for a tamawo but it looked like a big-haired ’80s rockstar with bad make-up and uneven alabaster skin. As explained in the film, “ang tamawo ay tinanggihan ng langit at inuwal ng lupa, halong maligno at diwata.” Suffering from over-acting – not including Carino – and an exhausting over-the-top ending, this episode is a disappointment. Flashing sculpted abs did not help its cause either.
EPISODE 2: PAROLA
Director: Jerrold Tarog
Cast: Kathryn Bernardo, Louise Delos Reyes, Sam Concepcion, Dimples Romana, Julia Clarete, Lloyd Samartino, Ina Raymundo, Ara Mina
Summary: Best friends Lucy (Kathryn Bernardo) and Shane (Louise Delos Reyes) had an accident in an abandoned lighthouse during a class trip. As if that is bad enough, their parents are in the middle of a messed-up affair. The last thing their shaky friendship needs is a pair of rival mangkukulam (Dimples Romana and Julia Clarete) out to end their age-old battle.
Tarog is a lock to make another episode because he directed one of the best in the storied horror franchise. I felt a conscious effort to come up with an original or a fresh take on the concept of kulam and ghost possession. Too conscious. Divided into three sets of characters of different age and generation, parallelisms are sewn using broken friendships as its main thread. However, in an effort to tie all loose ends, the weaving got convoluted. I mean, the ultrasound results?! SERIOUSLY. To end on a positive note, the ghosts are really creepy, especially the way they sneak up on people. I’d like to see a Ruana-Cornellia (the rival mangkukulam) spin-off. If the West has witches and wizards then let us make an epic mangkukulam film.
EPISODE 3: RAIN RAIN GO AWAY
Director: Chris Martinez
Cast: Eugene Domingo, Jay Manalo, Boots Anson Roa, Edgar Alan Guzman, Tess Antonio
Summary: Long-time couple Cynthia (Eugene Domingo) and Mar (Jay Manalo) moved to a high-rise condominium after a traumatizing experience during Typhoon Ondoy. Their new residence should keep them safe from floods. Unfortunately, it does not keep off wandering ghosts.
I like this episode because it made me think. I had to guess the identities of the ghosts, the reason for their continued haunting and the tragic incident that started it all. Using the recent natural calamities as backdrop, the film was able to include issues on environment, child labor and class differences. Despite touching important issues, do not for one second think it is complicated. It is just well-made. Something expected of a Chris Martinez-Eugene Domingo collaboration.
OVER-ALL RATING: B