Thursday, June 29, 2017

Review of ANG PAGSANIB KAY LEAH DELA CRUZ: Jagged and Jarring

June 28, 2017

Once in a while, a Filipino horror film comes along that manages to exceed all expectations. This is not a common thing as many just fall short of even the most modest of expectations. I can't say exactly why, but I like Filipino horror films. I try to catch most of them when they are shown on the big screen, and so far I had been lucky with those I do get to watch. Despite the giveaway title, count this new film as one of those that passes muster.

Police officer Ruth Liwanag has relocated to Barangay Dalisay. She is not on active duty due to the tragic aftermath of a case gone wrong. While walking home from church with Gabriel, the charming young son of the caretaker of her new house, they passed by the house of pretty Leah, a girl on whom Gabriel had a huge crush on. Just then, Leah suddenly stepped over the railing of their balcony and jumped down and landed in a crumpled heap on the concrete below. This basic premise leads to a nightmarish 90 minute exploration of evil in a small town. 

I know her name, but I had never seen lead actress Sarah Labhati act before, until now. She is certainly statuesque and fiercely beautiful in this role. She was very no-nonsense in her attack, so brave, and we believe it. This gimmick was new for a local horror film. Instead of a ghostly figure chasing a damsel in distress, this time the fearless policewoman was boldly approaching and chasing the ghost down through that spooky old library building. The ghost was actually running away from her, not the other way around. Her screen presence was that strong and that intimidating.

I totally did not know who Shy Carlos was until this film in which she took on the title character Leah. She has that type of angelic innocent face that screen demons want to possess. She nailed that difficult scene when the camera was focused tight on her face as she was reacting to different voices she was hearing in her head. In that single scene, Ms. Carlos ran the entire gamut of emotions in both subtle and florid psychotic display. 

Julian Trono was quite charming as Leah's puppy love Gabriel. The story required him to to establish a brotherly bond with Ruth, and he makes this angle work. Again playing one of her quirky weird roles is Angelina Kanapi in the pivotal role of Leah's guidance counselor Sister Eloisa. They should have chosen a younger actress to play her character in the 1989 video. Jim Paredes interestingly gets cast to play the parish priest Fr. Lucas. 

Leah's parents, the secretly lusty Marite and her unsuspecting husband Oscar, were played by Olive Nieto and Michael Rivero. They felt awkwardly miscast in these important roles, and it was not only because they look nothing like their daughter here. Micah Munoz played a libidinous security guard Mario. His death scene (no big surprise) was disappointing, and could have been more interesting than what was shown.

My one beef about the script (written by Charlene Sawit-Esguerra) was that the major clue to the mystery was revealed within a scene with a major error. An intubated person cannot produce a voice because the breathing tube goes between his vocal folds. The patient was even on a ventilator at that time. This was an unfortunate lapse in factual accuracy in a very key scene which could have been easily avoided by asking any medical doctor.

With a heart-pounding musical score and suspenseful editing decisions, the story by Erik Matti was told by director Katski Flores in a style so engaging in its relentless tension. The sound design immersed you in the whispering voices the characters were hearing in their heads. That cult footage and backstory was eerie and sickening. Unlike most Filipino horror films, this one is dead serious from beginning to end, with hardly any leeway given to humor. But despite that, it did not fall flat, with the threads all fitting in place. I was completely hooked in. 7/10. 

No comments:

Post a Comment