Review of local horror films this year

June 19, 2019

- Part One

SIX local horror films were shown in the first half of 2019 and they clearly demonstrate that it’s really hard to do a horror film that really works. Sorry to say that not one of them succeeded in scaring us, from “Second Coming” starring Jodi Sta. Maria, “Eerie” with Bea Alonzo and “Maledicto” with Miles Ocampo to “Kuwaresma” with Sharon Cuneta, “Banal” with the Biguel love team and now, “Clarita”, once again starring Jodi Sta. Maria. Let’s review here the first three flicks.

‘SECOND COMING’ is the first mainstream film of Jet Leyco, who did indie films like “Bukas na Lang Sapagkat Gabi Na” and “Matang Tubig’’. You’d think the title has something to do with the Lord’s return but his film is a confused mish mash of scare tactics that don’t work. Simply told, the plot is about that now familiar, worn-out horror flick story of a ‘naghihiganting multo na humihingi ng katarungan’.

Jodi is stepmom to Marvin Agustin’s daughter who behaves mysteriously and whose mom died under mysterious circumstances. It turns out that Marvin himself has something to do with it. Sorry to say but this plot twist, which was borrowed from “What Lies Beneath” with Harrison Ford as Michelle Pfeiffer’s husband who harbors a horrible secret, was already copied by another local movie, “Segunda Mano”, with Dingdong Dantes as Kris Aquino’s deceitful husband. Shoddily made, “Second Coming” is a big disappointment, ridiculous instead of being scary, so it’s not surprising that it’s a big box office flop.

“EERIE” is the first horror flick of Mikhail Red, who did the fairly impressive “Birdshot”, but just like “Second Coming”, it is another disappointment. To begin with, it doesn’t even live up to its title and is not eerie at all. The scare tactics are so derivative from past horror films and the most annoying technique to frighten us is when Bea Alonzo undergoes what is ostensibly a terrifying experience but then she wakes up and it turns out be just a dream.

This was resorted to several times and we feel like saying, enough already. Sobrang gamit na gamit na siya.

But Star Cinema succeeded in marketing it and it’s a hit, but the storytelling rambles and drags on and is actually so confused. It leads us to believe that Charo Santos as the head of a Catholic school, where students die mysteriously, has something morbid to do with it, but it turns out she has nothing to do with it at all and Charo’s role is more of a red herring. The ending where a character who’s still up and about but turns out to be already dead has also been used in other horror flicks several times, ever since Bruce Willis turned out to be one in “Sixth Sense”.

“MALEDICTO” is about demonic possession and exorcism. The lead character is Fr. Xavi (Tom Rodriguez), a psychologist who lacks faith but surprisingly enters the priesthood. He is trained in Rome to be an exorcist but is actually a skeptic who doesn’t really believe in demonic possessions. So how can they expect us to sympathize with this conflicted character?

It turns out he had his own sad experience with his sister (Inah de Belen) who had a tragic fate and his case with the nephew (Martin Escudero) of Cardinal Martinez (Menggie Cobarrubias) also did not go well. A young nun, Sister Barbara (Jasmine Curtis Smith), then asks him to help Agnes (Miles Ocampo), a bright student in a Catholic school who suddenly changes and becomes violent. She thinks Agnes is possessed by evil spirits but he thinks this is caused by prohibited drugs, which is also the opinion of the Archbishop (Eric Quizon).

And to make the story a bit even more complicated, there’s also mysterious cult led by Manang Sisa (Liza Lorena) that is introduced. It turns out Sisa is connected with the Archbishop and a group led by Sr. Stella (Nina Ricci Alagao.)  

At times, the movie seems episodic and you feel like it’s meant to have a sequel or be a pilot for a TV series, but since the movie is a flop at the box office, we doubt if they’d still go on with their original plan. As directed by Mark Meily, the movie uses the usual tropes of the possessed victim levitating in the air, contorting and arching her body, elongating her tongue, etc. The technical aspects are above par, but as a whole, it just fails to scare us.