Saturday, December 27, 2014

MMFF 2014: Review of KUBOT: THE ASWANG CHRONICLES 2: Hairy Predicaments

December 27, 2014

I have not seen the much-acclaimed 2012 film "Tiktik: The Aswang Chronicles". Luckily, that whole film was up on YouTube, and even with the compromised video clarity, I can see why "Tiktik" had achieved a cult status of excellence. The graphic novel look and feel, the over-the-top language, loud rock musical score, nifty special effects and the effective campy combination of action and comedy made it stand out from other Filipino films. No wonder, people were all excited to watch its sequel.

"Kubot" starts exactly where "Tiktik" left off, after Makoy (Dingdong Dantes) and company killed off the Aswang leader and decimated most of his minions. While trying to escape Pulupandan in a bus, they were ambushed by a group of Kubot, led by Veron (Elizabeth Oropesa). These are a variety of female aswang with long, thick mass of powerful hair that they can will to do their commands. Makoy loses his right arm and much more in that unfortunate encounter that caused him to be in a constant mood for revenge.

Jump to two years later, Makoy is staying in with his nosy sister Nieves (Lotlot de Leon) in Manila. She works as a secretary for an OB-Gyne, Dr. Alessandra Baldivia (Isabelle Daza), whom she suspects to be an abortionist. It turns out that the doctor's mysterious nightly appointments were of a totally different, supernatural nature. 

Meanwhile, a Balikbayan aswang Dominic (KC Montero) is going against aswang conventions by seeking to turn humans into aswang by feeding them very tasty hotdogs made from human meat. When a plot to spread this deadly hotdog in a huge political gathering was uncovered, Makoy had to accept unexpected assistance to prevent this potential aswang epidemic from happening.

Dingdong Dantes cuts a very fine form as a brash action hero, very believable. This actor is a very natural and charismatic leading man, even if he takes on arrogant character like Makoy. Joey Marquez is consistent in his sidekick characterization of Nestor from the last film to this one. Isabelle Daza is an icy, classy beauty as we always knew her, but she has an awkward dancing scene that is so pleasantly out-of-character for her, it is delightful. Elizabeth Oropesa and KC Montero are convincing as sinister monsters. 

Standing out from among the supporting characters is Lotlot de Leon in a bold, loud and fun characterization of Nieves. Her memorable brazen declaration of her bravery received a round of applause and laughter from the audience. Also stealing scenes is Ramon Bautista, playing a totally different character in this one, after his previous character Bart died in the first film. Bautista's pairing with Bogart the Explorer as the wacky cop tandem of Justiniani and Macapagal was hilariously annoying even if it took some time away from the main story.

Director Erik Matti successfully maintains the elements that made the first film the success it was. He incorporated more elaborately choreographed wire-work stunts and imaginative visual effects for this sequel. That scene of the kubot Veron sucking someone's life force out and that scene with Dominic eating crows were absolutely exceptional in their execution! That robotic Swiss-knife-like right arm of Makoy was too cool.

Aside from the gore factor, the comedy factor were upped more, which made this one more entertaining. The concept of aswang having a council of elders and alliances were reminiscent of "Twilight", but this was integrated very well into the local context of this story and led to more interesting character interactions. The surprise appearance of an elegant aswang princess at the end promises another installment to look forward to next time. 8/10. 

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