Don’t Breathe (movie review)

Don't_Breathe_(2016_film)The film genre that I probably love the most is none other than suspense-thriller. The feeling of urgency and the sense of danger in these films give me a different kind of high. I feel like I become one with the characters of suspense-thriller movies. Whatever they do or whatever happens to them sort of extends to me in a way that I really get affected and this shows with how I react while watching. Never have I ever squirmed too many times in my seat, uttered too many verbalizations or covered my mouth (I actually don’t do this! Haha.) while watching a film! I did all these while watching Don’t Breathe! IT IS THAT INTENSE!

I will never be this affected if the movie only gives the thrills without having a solid backstory. Don’t Breathe offers an effectively simple yet horrifying plot: Three delinquents (Jane Levy, Dylan Minette, Daniel Zovatto) decided to break into the house of a blind army veteran (Stephen Lang) to steal money in the middle of the night. Little did they know that the old man might be blind but he isn’t a veteran for nothing. He turns to be the one hunting them inside his very own house. Thrilling, isn’t it?

I have to commend the writer-director of the Don’t Breathe, Fede Alvarez, for creating this unideal concept and successfully bringing it out alive on the big screen. I bet many people got interested with the trailer of the film but it’s really just a teaser, a teeny-weeny one, of what’s to be expected in the whole film. The actors delivered well all throughout despite the limited character development. The camera work and the editing are flawless, enabling lots of jolting scenes, which may make one shout or even scream! How about the sound and the music? Oh, they increased the dark mood brooding in the unexpansive setting of the old man’s house.

Gripping, thrilling and downright nerve-wracking, Don’t Breathe doesn’t really ask you not to breathe. It just makes you do.

Don’t Breathe’s movie rating by the pondering movie fan: 4.5 out of 5

 

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

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

Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones

Paranormal_Activity_-_The_Marked_Ones_2014_posterThis movie banks on the successful found footage horror film, Paranormal Activity. It is said to be a spin-off of the original franchise but the story of The Marked Ones cross with that of the original.

The movie is about Jesse, an eighteen-year-old high school graduate who lives in an apartment building with his dad, grandma, and a woman named Anna who everyone thinks is a witch. One day, Anna is murdered, and a former classmate of Jesse is suspected for the crime. He, along with friends Hector and Marisol, go and seek Anna’s apartment only to discover black magic rituals, book of witchcraft and a number of Jesse’s pictures. Things go awfully weirder when he wakes up with a bite mark in his arm and later on displays some inhumane strength. Who has bitten him? Why is he displaying some great strength? What is he got to do with the suspected witch called Anna? These and more would be answered when you watch the film…

…or just search online. I would really, really recommend great, or just even good, horror movies for people to watch but The Marked Ones isn’t just one. Yes, it shows a lot of freaky and frightening stuff but ultimately, it just fails to live up to the hype of that first Paranormal Activity movie. The highly intense and frighteningly scary last minutes where Paranormal Activity movie is known for is still here in this movie, though. It’s just saddening how absurd the writing is especially during these last scenes, making the whole story really implausible.

I wish Oren Peli and the rest of the creators of the Paranormal Activity franchise get sick of milking a starving cow from getting something out of a very thin script. What could have been an opportunity to turn things around, tie storylines better or do something different for found footage genre is wasted with this film. I hated the camerawork, and giving a reason to make it shaky and all to make it more believable is just very annoying. Nobody in their right minds would video something they think is important and not make it look good. And who even carries around a camera to record videos of their banal moments or even those times when they could get killed? So much for a found footage, I’ll tell you.

Nevertheless, Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones still got the usual scares that people loved or hated to watch. If you want something freaky, scary and funny to talk about with friends and family who care about these things, then watch it. If not, don’t. I just don’t want any other people wasting their money to buy tickets and find disappointment later on.

Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones’s movie rating by the pondering movie fan: 2 out of 5

Carrie

Carrie (2013) posterI had high hopes for the remake of this Stephen King story ever since it was reported to be done with Chloë Grace Moretz in the title role. She’s done a lot of great movies even at a young age and she was praised in each and one of them. It also didn’t hurt that Julianne Moore, a seasoned actress who made impressions with her previous movies Hannibal and The Hours, was cast for the role of Carrie’s mother. I have guessed that they would have a good chemistry as the problematic mother-daughter pair in this movie. And I was not wrong. Chloë Grace Moretz lived up to her famous role as Carrie White, a high school outcast who found comfort in her psychic abilities and hope in the hands of a few, good people. Her eyes made the audience feel her shyness and naivety at the start of the movie. The very same eyes made them uneasy during her vengeance to the people who wronged her towards the end. Julianne Moore held her own as the crazed ultra-religious mother of Carrie, making the audience cringe with her self-injurious behaviors and abominable hatred against her daughter.

Beside Moretz and Moore, a couple of actors in the supporting cast were good. Judy Greer displayed both toughness and softness with her role as the gym school teacher who looked after Carrie in school. Ansel Elgort, the school’s Alpha guy, was endearing as Chloe’s date in the prom night. Portia Doubleday whose wicked acts and ways made the audience hating her all throughout the screening of the movie, was very effective as the villainous classmate of Carrie.

I’ve seen the original and with today’s advanced technologies I thought many aspects of the story that require special effects could be enhanced in many ways. However, the movie has only fairly achieved in this aspect. While striking awe at times, the special effects displayed when Carrie was using her powers could have made a better mark. Kimberly Pierce, the movie’s director, could have used these visual effects to inspire awe and wonder to the audience. But she was not able to do so, thanks to uneven editing and seemingly uninspired directing.

With many American horror films banking on the obsession of today’s youth in hyper-sexuality and pop culture, the movie has teased some skin, insinuated wild intentions and mentioned a lot of pop culture references. It would be a good guess that this was one way the director wanted the movie to be relevant. She succeeded in a way, but ultimately failed. I understand that she has a lot on her shoulders doing a remake of a beloved horror classic but she was lost in trying to put her own footprint in this movie. It felt like the movie tried to be so many things all at the same time. The director may have wanted to retain the good of the original while trying to be so relevant. The result was a coercion that did not pan out smoothly. There were potentials for some scenes to achieve greatness status and yet each one was drained due to lack of amazing wow factor. I had goosebumps while watching the original but in this movie, I almost always had one but came short every single time.

Carrie’s movie rating by the pondering movie fan: 3 out of 5

The Conjuring

The ConjuringThe Conjuring was hyped up to be a very frightening horror picture weeks before it graced the Philippine theaters. And you know what? It was worth the hype. Filled with jolting scenes and scary antics, The Conjuring is a good horror movie that deserves to be watched on theaters.

The Conjuring is not that simple of a movie yet not that complicated not to understand, too. You just need to have an open mind to things you thought are not possible to happen. The movie is based on the true story of demonologists Ed and Lorraine Warren as they help the Perron family overcome the haunting they are experiencing after moving into a new house. Demonologists are paranormal investigators and they help people who experience paranormal activities. The movie’s able to show what they usually do: research, investigate, gather evidences and perform procedures appropriate to the event or situation. In the case of the Perron family, what they needed is exorcism.

This horror movie joins the roster of great American horror movies in recent years: InsidiousCabin in the WoodsSinister and the first Paranormal Activity. The suspense here is undoubtedly real. Simple haunting and scary tricks make their way early in the movie, setting the pace of what is to come. You will then feel several jolts in the middle part until you feel the intensity of the terrifying climax. The Conjuring’s director, James Wan, is surely becoming an important personality in the horror genre. (FYI: he’s also the director of Insidious and Saw).

The music and sound used are very effective in setting the mood and the period of the film. They carry with them that haunting atmosphere all throughout the film while reminding the audience the story happened back in the 70’s. The visual effects are so solid you’d believe what you are seeing onscreen. The people behind these effects should also be commended because of the good dose of terrifying scenes they helped realize in the film.

Vera Farmiga is outstanding as Lorraine Warren, whose clairvoyance is believed to take emotional and spiritual toll on her. Her acting showed her character’s genuine personality: caring and empathic to people who are being disturbed by other-worldly beings. Patrick Wilson is quickly becoming a staple of horror movies as he proves once again how effective he is in this movie genre no matter what character he portrays. He is very good as Ed Warren, the other half of Lorraine. Lily Taylor is brilliant as Carolyn Perron, the person possessed in the story. Believe me, she has the nastiest and most horrifying scenes in the movie and yet she’s able to pull them all through. The rest of the cast is good, and they are able to do what they had to do to pull off what I would like to call being scary or being scared performances.

There’s news that The Conjuring is going to have a sequel. After knowing the hype was worth it for this film, I am actually excited for what’s to come next.

The Conjuring’s movie rating by the pondering movie fan: 4.5 out of 5.

Shake, Rattle and Roll 14: The Invasion

 SRR 14 movie posterShake, Rattle and Roll 14 was thoroughly enjoyable from the first episode to the last. However, unlike previous SRR movies, no episode stood out as really scary or horrifying.

Honestly, each episode could have stood on its own as a single movie. There’s a downer, though. Albeit better than many of the episodes from previous SRR installments, each one came up short. The director, Chito Rono, must have exhausted all his efforts to make each episode good. However, as each episode’s limited time did not allow for the story to develop, each lacked in character and plot development. It seemed like each episode was rushed (with the exception of the third one wherein I’d like it to finish soon enough! Haha, just kidding).

I liked how majority of the actors portrayed their roles. Almost everyone in the episode called Pamana was good, though Janice de Belen took the cake for being the best. A handful of the actors was believable in their roles in the Lost Command episode, though it was Royet Padilla who has perfectly said his lines, may they be serious or not. In Unwanted, Carlo Aquino might just have been the most credible despite his short stint in the episode.

I also liked the movie’s special effects. Even though not that consistently good, at least they were good enough to establish the eerie atmosphere that was needed in a lot of scenes.

If you have been an SRR fan ever since, you would find this movie a lot better than the previous installments. If you just want to be entertained, watch this and you won’t regret it. But if you’re looking for something to really scare you, skip this film.

SRR 14 movie rating by the pondering movie fan: 3 out of 5