MANILA, Philippines - Among the MMFF 2012 movies I’ve seen so far, Shake, Rattle & Roll (SRR) is the most watchable and most entertaining.
With Chito Roño helming all 3 episodes of the film, there is a general standard of filmmaking. He knows how to set up shots, he knows how to push things forward and his skill benefits the entire film. There are moments where the scripts might fail him, but at the very least everything here is entertaining (or at the very least attention-grabbing).
The first segment is also the best-made of the 3. “Pamana” is a period piece, and allows Janice de Belen, Herbert Bautista and the rest of the segment’s cast to act and play off of each other in often funny ways.
What I like most about “Pamana” is its embracing of camp, its acknowledgement that its characters are stuck in a situation based on campy horror and they are acting in similar ways. Penned by Ricky Lee, the story offers us the death of a famous horror writer and the family that he is bequeathing his worldly possessions to. P20-M hangs in the balance, to be split 4 ways among his descendants.
If any of them die within the month, then there will be fewer people to split with. Sounds fine, ‘til his creations come to life and begin attacking the descendants and their families. In super-smart horror fashion, they decide to go back to the writer’s house.
What make "Pamana" interesting are the family issues that come to the foreground as the characters attempt to survive and fight off the monsters that come to attack them. There’s even a funny quip about how why they are bothering to bring up their family issues when monsters abound.
The cast does well as a bickering family, and you buy into the whole thing for the most part. The horror writer’s creations are also sufficiently campy to raise the level of fun and self-awareness that “Pamana” plays on. The problem is that it goes off the rails at the end, providing a rather disappointing end to an otherwise great segment.
Too bad then that the next segment doesn’t take as much time with its characters. From the relatively small and contained cast of “Pamana,” we move to the massive “Lost Command.”
Now I know that there are a lot of considerations when it comes to casting. But when casting a Recon platoon, it might be wise to actually get dudes who could be mistaken for soldiers, because for the most part here what we get looks like a casting call at a modeling agency. There is no way that I could believe those dudes are in the jungles of Mindanao day in and day out, having encounters and hunting down dudes.
Also, if you are going to have people carry around guns, it’d be important to teach them how guns are meant to be held when fired, as it does take away from the suspension of disbelief.
“Lost Command” sees this company of soldiers being led into the jungle to square off against a bunch of aswang. There are a number of problems here: it’s an old set-up, which would have been fine if there were a new twist to it. But there isn’t. They just go up against a lot of aswang, and Roy Vinzon shows up as a "Captain Kurtz of aswang" to provide an info dump.
We don’t spend substantial time with the characters so that we care about them; so what happens is that when the aswang attack, we don’t have any idea who’s who, and the soldiers are basically fodder for nasty scenes. Once again, the ending resolution doesn’t bring the story together to a satisfying close; instead, we’re left with a not-too-effective creep out.
The last segment is the most ambitious, but also the one that is most unwieldy and does not seem to really come together. “Unwanted” is the only thing that has to do with invasion, but it’s an odd invasion. Suffice to say that if it were subjected to the demands of sci-fi logic, this could not stand up.
It starts with a good enough situation to begin a horror story with; it gives us a true and very terrifying thing: a couple who is knocked up, heading to tell the parents. Definitely scary.
But then, on their way, some cataclysmic thing happens while they are in a mall, the mall falls in on people and the couple have to fight their way out of the mall. They are fighting against sea-animal-themed things (I am pretty sure some of ‘em are like mutated crawfish, and others are like mixes between whales and electric eels). I don’t know.
They are aliens of some kind. Not really explained.
But still fun!
Which is the problem of the 3rd segment. I am not asking that the whole blueprint be laid out for us, but I would like enough information to be there for the premise to make sense. I don’t want to spoil it for you all, so I am holding back here, but I just felt that this 3rd segment lacked thought and development. There should have been more happening, and more reasoning behind things happening. It lacked a logic to serve as foundation for the whole thing.
If nothing else though, SRR is definitely entertaining. I was laughing a lot through it (though I don’t think all of those were intentional) and I had a fun time, despite the narrative failings of the stories.
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The 38th Metro Manila Film Festival will run from December 25, 2012 to January 7, 2013 in cinemas nationwide. For more information, visit the official MMFF website.
(Carljoe Javier teaches at the UP Department of English and Comparative Literature. He has written a few books, most recently the new edition of The Kobayashi Maru of Love available from Visprint Inc. and the upcoming Writing 30 available as an ebook at amazon, ibookstore, b&n and flipreads.com.)