January 6, 2013
"Pagpag" is the lone horror movie offering in the 2013 Metro Manila Filmfest.
"Pagpag" is the Filipino custom of dropping by another place first before going home after visiting a wake. This was done so that you will not bring the spirit of the dead back to your home. The subtitle "Siyam na Buhay" refers to the belief that one needs to exchange nine souls to be able to bring one dead person back to life.
Leni (Kathryn Bernardo) manages the Heavenly Touch Funeral Parlor which she had inherited from her parents. She was hired by Lucy (Shaina Magdayao) to arrange the wake of her recently-departed husband Roman (Paulo Avelino).
Cedric (Daniel Padilla) is a spoiled rich kid. One day while out on a drive with his friends, he he lost control of his car and almost runs Leni down. While waiting for the tow truck to come, they all wait inside the room where Roman's wake was set up.
Of course, these careless young people act inappropriately at the wake and do not make "pagpag" before they went home. So, as is customary in many horror films, people begin to die one by one. As the death count escalates to seven, Cedric and Leni have to stop the curse before they become the Souls #8 and 9 needed to bring Roman back to life.
Admittedly the way this film was told, it reminded me very much of "Feng Shui" and "The Healing" (my review here or here) as it employs superstitions to trigger the horror. At the wake, each one violates some superstition about behavior in a wake (sweeping, no crying over the coffin, no wiping the coffin, no taking out food from the wake, no looking at mirrors, etc...). Then they would die in a most violent bizarre manner related to the funeral faux pas they committed.
Since the leads of this film are the most popular teen stars in local show business, the target audience will be teenagers, hence the terror factor is not too high. In fact this film was even quite funny at times. However, it does not mean that it does not deliver the blood, the creeps and the jumps. It surely did!
Daniel Padilla and Kathryn Bernardo both did well in their lead roles. They had charming chemistry together, They knew how to play for their "My Princess and I" and "Got to Believe" fan base with their "kilig" scenes. Their characters were more reactive than proactive though.
Matet de Leon (as Lucy's knowledgeable Ate Eva) and Janus del Prado (as Leni's bumbling drunkard Tiyo Dencio) stand out in their supporting roles. Clarence Delgado was very cute as Leni's adopted brother Macmac. Paulo Avelino plays yet another brooding and tormented character as distraught family man and ghost, Roman.
There were some noted lapses in continuity (Are Leni's roses on the car hood or on the street? Why the inconsistent number of stick figures on the sheet of paper?) or annoying advertising for Kakao Talk, but these can be ignored.
Overall, I thought this was a very well-made horror flick, with above-average (by Philippine standards) ideas and special effects when it came to the gruesome death scenes and ghostly apparitions. Director Frasco Santos Mortiz does well to balance the horror and the comedy elements into one entertaining film, not only for its intended demographic. 7/10.