What can I say about this movie that you weren’t already expecting?
Well, I suppose that depends on exactly what it is you expect from the nth entry into this signature horror series. I was expecting something ridiculous and fairly nonsensical personally, and … well, I certainly wasn’t wrong.
As is the tradition with SR&R, the movie is split up into 3 separate stories, each one with a different set of characters, director and overall tone. The first one is a real piece of work: fakey occultist Ai Ai de las Alas is hired by a poorly-coiffed (she’s wearing a nasty wig) Gloria Romero to contact the spirit of her dead grandson, who died a year ago in front of their house’s poso (hence the title). Ai Ai has a small team that helps her make her seances more dramatic, but they are picked off one by one, by the most terrible visual-effects glop that you are ever likely to see in a movie. I can’t stress this enough; the red goop that pours out of the poso and envelops the principal characters is like "Revenge of the Killer Strawberry Jam."
(Yasmine Kurdi, by the way, is particularly comely as Romero’s nurse-slave, not because she’s a good actress or anything, but because I like the idea of having a totally docile, completely obedient starlet for a housemaid. Not that that had anything to do with the movie, of course.)
The second vignette, Aquarium, features the fattest incarnation of Ara Mina known to man, made all the more obvious by the fact that beside her, Wilma Doesnt looks bereft of a third dimension. After finding an aquarium in their new condo, Ara Mina and her faithful husband Ogie Alcasid decide to keep it for their annoying prat of a son to play with. Never mind that a cataract-ridden old granny keeps coming out of nowhere to whisper threats and warnings, or the fact that in the middle of the aquarium is a paper-mache mask that would make Jim Carrey blush. (Yes, that was a spoiler.)
When a tubero is killed while trying to fix their condo’s pipes (which for some reason, requires him to climb a ladder and poke around in the crawlspaces above the room), the story pretty much fell apart for me. Not that it was all that good to begin with, but come on. Being strangled by seaweed is a stretch, even for a movie of this quality.
Given the caliber of the first two vignettes, I didn’t have a lot of hope left for the last segment, Lihim ng San Joaquin. Fortunately, the producers had the good sense to save the best for last (although I mean that relatively, of course). Lihim features Tanya Garcia and Marc Anthony Fernandez as a couple trying to start a new life in the countryside … a countryside that just happens to be infested with uruk-hai-like aswang. To say that this segment is more polished than the preceding two would be a vast understatement, but it does suffer from some of the same problems: an anemic special-effects budget and a plot that is little more than a mishmash of various other, better horror movies.
That said, the first half of Lihim, which introduces the landscape and principal characters, is expertly done and would probably work better as the first act of a full-length feature than of this 30-minute amputee.
So there you have it: another year, another filmfest. I should probably try to watch another one tomorrow to fulfill my yearly quota, but the available choices are a bit uhm, uninteresting. Maybe I’ll just watch Mulawin and get it over with, I don’t know.