Feng Shui 2

Feng-Shui-2-Movie-PosterIf there’s a rare opportunity that I get to spend time watching a movie with a lot of moviegoers, it is during the Metro Manila Film Festival (MMFF). I rarely want to watch with many, many people inside the movie theater because I don’t want distractions while watching. Much more when the people who are watching with you are really noisy and unintentionally funny. However, I actually liked it while me and my family are watching Chito S. Rono’s Feng Shui 2.

Ten years after the first Feng Shui film haunted the Philippine audience, the “promised” sequel finally  arrived this year as one of the eight film entries in MMFF 2014. Still helmed by acclaimed movie director, Chito Rono, Feng Shui 2 pitted brilliant actors Coco Martin and Cherry Pie Picache with the remaining cast of the first film Kris Aquino and Jonee Gamboa. As soon as I heard that the well-loved horror film from a decade ago would have a sequel, I immediately put it on top of my must-watch movies this time of the year. After watching some great things and not so good ones in the film, I could say that I actually enjoyed it.

Now, what everybody should understand is horror movies are tricky. The types of thrill or suspense they give the audiences are based not only on the type of horror movie they are (i.e. ghost or supernatural movie, gory movie, horror/comedy movie, war movie, etc.) but also on the assembly of the cast and crew that they have.  Feng Shui 2 is backed up by a great cast and production team (Star Cinema, no less) and one should have a feeling that after buying the movie ticket that they are in for a great ride. Did I get to have a great ride after watching the movie? In a word: yes.

Even though Kris Aquino said that this film is not a sequel to the original, Feng Shui 2 is undoubtedly a sequel (she insisted it is only a continuation of the story; hence, a sequel). Anyway, flashbacks of scenes from the original were shown at the start: Aquino as Joy losing her family and eventually destroying the bagua. A new family was then shown to fall victim to the bagua’s horrifying curse and what I got was an immediate feel of rising tension in my bloodstream, which is, of course, a good thing when you’re watching a horror movie. Most of the first half of the film is about Lester (Coco Martin), a 32-year-old hustler who lives with his mother in a dilapidated house along the river. One assignment that he had was to retrieve a bagua from a fall victim. Unbeknownst to him, looking at the mirror of the bagua belies a curse that could kill everyone who looks at it after him. To his horror, he found death around the people he knows and loves comes by one after another. One fateful day, he met Joy, now a very successful real estate agent, who realized the ghost behind the bagua was coming after her again. With the help of Lily (Cherry Pie Picache), a survivor of the bagua curse, and Hsui Liao (Jonee Gamboa), a Taoist priest, will they ever save themselves from the curse of Lotus Feet, the ghost haunting the bagua?

Early on, the signature touches that Chito Rono gives to his horror movies are evident in this film: a creepy atmosphere, a set of strongly written characters and a definitive setting. I liked how he playfully toyed with colors, set up most of the scenes and stylishly showed the contrasts of being lucky and unlucky in the film. Unsurprisingly, there were solid scream-worthy or shout-inducing scenes thanks to great editing and camerawork. Evidently rising up to his role in the film, Coco Martin is impressive as Lester (though some of his speech sounds while shouting in one scene troubled me; excuse me, that’s me as a speech pathologist speaking hehe). Leveling to Martin’s brilliance is Cherry Pie Picache who in her relatively short stint in the film made a greater impression than Aquino. But not to worry, Aquino did well in the film (and this is a relief), much like the rest of the cast that includes Carmi Martin, Rez Cortez, Beauty Gonzalez, Ian Veneracion and Ian de Leon.

However, a Filipino scary movie (heck, let’s make that a Filipino movie) without loopholes is pretty hard to come by. Feng Shui 2 is a good horror movie as it fulfills many standards being looked into a horror film, but it isn’t lacking with holes in its plot. For one, the immediacy of deaths of the characters was baffling. Moreover, the ways these characters died were somehow forced to fit in whatever Zodiac year they were born in no matter how senseless they might be. Meanwhile, the supposed fun of guessing how the characters would die was taken out here as opposed to the original. Items or objects that would link the characters to their possible way of death were either easy to guess or obviously presented. In short, it was highly predictable. Nevertheless, thanks to Rono and his editors, the movie’s consistency of good story-telling bypasses all these shortcomings.

Combine a great cast to a great director with a consistent albeit far-fetched story and what you have is still a pretty solid movie. Add to that screaming males and females, both old and young in the audience and what you have is a good movie experience.

Feng Shui 2’s movie rating by the pondering movie fan: 4 out of 5

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T’yanak

T'yanakT’yanak is said to be a remake of the classic horror movie about evil babies called tiyanaks. Helmed by the directors of the original Tiyanak, Peque Gallaga and Lore Reyes, T’yanak tries to impress with a similar storyline starring one of the best actresses in the country, Judy Ann Santos. Are they successful in doing so? Let’s find out.

T’yanak started with a good mash up of scenes: a soon-to-be bride named Madie (Solenn Heussaff) was jogging in the woods, a husband (Sid Lucero) and his pregnant wife were walking in the woods after buying some goods in the market and Madie’s soon-to-be sister-in-law named Julie (Judy Ann Santos) was doing yoga at home.Things started to get unusual when suddenly Madie and the couple heard cries of a baby in the woods. Curious as to where it was coming from, the pregnant wife tried to find the baby. One thing led to another resulting to the wife being killed, the husband getting crazy, Madie finding a baby inside a nearby cave and Julie acting up as a real mother to the said baby after Madie took him home.

Great switching up of the scenes, bracing musical score and passable acting and directing provided a good introduction. Unfortunately, the scenes went downhill after that.

Inconsistencies in writing and inefficiencies in editing are apparent all throughout the film. The audience would be puzzled at times how one scene led to the other here (e.g. the couple, Madie and Mark as played by Tom Rodriguez, were seen lying on the bed sleeping; after a short while, they were seen talking to some people in a different place for the preparation of their wedding… at the same night!). There were some good dialogues, especially ones concerning how one mother is willing to sacrifice everything for her child or how the tiyanaks came to be. It’s just a wonder how these lines came from a tiring screenplay that took so much longer than the audience to realize where it was going. More so,albeit advances in technology transpired after decades since the original, it isn’t seen much in this remake. In fact, you’ll miss the tiyanak from the original one.

If there’s one thing that is undeniably good about the film, it is its lead star, Judy Ann Santos. She is excellent in her role as Julie. The movie’s few great moments are due to her exemplary performance as a wife who doesn’t want anything more than having a baby. You’d still like her despite her character’s irrational decision-making and questionable sanity. Liza Lorena (as Julie and Mark’s grandmother) and Sid Lucero (as the vengeful widower) provided good support, while Rodriguez and Heussaff could have tried much, much more to prevent themselves from being caricatures in the film.

I feel regret after watching the film. Dragging and hyped to attract audiences (it was Graded A by the Cinema Evaluation Board), T’yanak is an unremarkable remake of a successful 1980s horror movie. It relied on its actors’ performances more than anything else where it could have certainly excelled.

T’yanak‘s movie rating by the pondering movie fan: 2.5 out of 5

Annabelle

AnnabelleAnnabelle is a spin-off of the successful The Conjuring movies. But unlike its predecessors, its frights and scares came short. To be honest, I would say nary a real scare came out of this film. Many of the supposed scary scenes were just those jolts that you feel when you are surprised.

Annabelle is about a doll that was possessed by a female member of an occult who killed herself during a home invasion. The owners of the doll, John (a resident doctor) and Mia (who has just brought a baby daughter into the world) soon experience supernatural occurrences in their home. Even when they moved to an apartment in the city, the paranormal activities continued. They soon find out what’s causing these troubles. Heeding help from anybody they think who can help, would they be able to stop Annabelle? What are they willing to give just to protect their baby daughter?

The first part of the film is actually good. The back story is well told, and the characters are adequately developed. The scary scenes on this part could shock you a bit but you’d want to expect something more. I am a fan of horror films and I’ve seen a lot. This one I did not like. After that good first part, the story moved on without upping the suspense. I liked The Conjuring and its sequel but this supposed prequel and spin-off to those two movies is a fluke. A lot of people say that they got scared of this film and I really wonder how and why. I might have enjoyed more a repeat of the horror films that I liked watching before than watching Annabelle.

I like how the lead actors did their part (especially Annabelle Wallis as Mia) in the movie. However, no matter how they performed in Annabelle, they won’t be praised as a consequence of the film’s subpar quality. Their efforts are easily overshadowed by the fact that this movie is devoid of anything new, from the story itself up to the scare department. I can’t help but think that the decision to push thru with this spin-off is just all about the money.

If you were to watch a horror movie that’s still showing out there, avoid Annabelle at all costs. Just rent a tried and tested horror classic and watch it in the comforts of your home.

Annabelle‘s movie rating by the pondering movie fan: 2 out of 5

Insidious: Chapter 2

Insidious: Chapter 2

Insidious 2 is a solid horror movie that gives the chills with its memorable dialogues and scary antics.

I liked the first Insidious movie. I remembered it as starting slowly, then building up to tell a suspenseful story and ending superbly well.

Insidious 2 continues the story of the original and augments it with flashback scenes. Josh Lambert (portrayed by Patrick Wilson), the husband and father who is revealed to have the gift of astral projection in the first movie tries to start a new life with his family. He is cleared from the death of Elise, the clairvoyant woman who helped them take back his son who’s lost in the spiritual realm. However, Josh’s wife Renai (Rose Byrne) still experiences some supernatural things that make her doubt everything around her. With the help of Josh’s mother and Elise’s friends, she tries to unravel the truth about the events surrounding her family.

I like how the writer and the director intertwined the stories of the two movies as they tried to make sense of some scenes from the original. But this doesn’t mean the sequel is all crystal clear. Like the first movie, some of the scenes in the sequel are blurred or confusing to say the least. There are also parts when nothing seems to be happening and everything is just a ho-hum. But when things begin to make more sense and some more frightening things start to happen, the movie is so much enjoyable (or cringe-worthy, depending on how you react to these kinds of movies) until the satisfying end.

Majority of the cast is good. Patrick Wilson, who seems like a part of every horror movie being shown in the theaters, is at it again. He is able to set himself as the hero and villain in his portrayal of Josh Lambert. But the artists who really stand out are Rose Byrne, Josh’s wife who’s terrifying reactions to terrible scenes are worthy of a second look; Danielle Bisutti, the horrifying mother of the ghost possessing Josh; and Tom Fitzpatrick, the crazed ghost possessing Josh, Parker Crane. In terms of casting, the only memorable gaffe is the bad comic timing of the two actors who are supposed to provide the comic relief. Sometimes, their scenes board on awkwardness that doesn’t bring out the laughs they intended to bring.

What I like best in the movie is its screenplay. The writer, Leigh Wannell, produced memorable dialogues that could still be remembered for years to come (most memorable: Marilyn). The plot is not original, but the twists in the movie are so good you would want more (Last time I checked, there is going to be a 3rd Insidious movie, so rejoice if you’re a fan!). In the hands of the acclaimed horror director, James Wan (Saw, Insidious, The Conjuring), the intertwining plots of the past and the present are brought to life in scary and crazy good ways. The turnover of scenes is good and the execution of the scary scenes is crazy good. If both writer and director are still in the third Insidious movie, count me in because I would certainly be watching.

Insidious 2‘s movie rating by the pondering movie fan: 4 out of 5