Oh, the (digitally-enhanced) horror!
MANILA, Philippines - All the millions of pesos that went into its creation are as clear as daylight while we behold Tiktik: The Aswang Chronicles.
From start to finish, the movie is an eyeball dazzler, thanks mainly to its digital format as well as to writer-director Erik Matti and company’s widely-hyped green-screen approach. These lend the finished product clarity and sharpness absent from the traditional film format.
The visuals are more vivid than usual and stunning all over, despite being noticeably artificial.
On that score, Matti and his main cohort, executive producer Dondon Monteverde, along with the post-production houses involved led by Postmanila, have succeeded in showing that we on these shores have what it takes to generate eye candy a la the Resident Evil and Underworld movies.
But on top of that, thanks to its glints of sarcastic humor stemming from Matti’s mind, Tiktik is actually more entertaining than either of those two Hollywood horror franchises.
Thus, The Aswang Chronicles ― that subtitle itself a wink at franchise possibilities ― is more comparable to the (non-digital) horror-comedy likes of director Edgar Wright’s Shaun of the Dead, which had married suburban British comedy with urban zombie lore.
Matti explained in a Q&A in the movie’s comic book version (that costs nearly as much as a Tiktik ticket) that his central figure is the mythology of the Visayan aswang bird ― a Filipino cousin of the werewolf, if you will, the “tiktik” being the sound that supernatural Pinoy creature supposedly makes. (No allusion to the tabloid Tiktik in this flick, though.)
Made in the Philippines
That is the one other thing that makes Tiktik: The Aswang Chronicles worthy of attention — its local flavor.
Not only is the plot set in some remote barrio where a fairly modern two-floor house can still sit amid plots of vacant land, and that all of its dialogue is in Tagalog ― the movie is rich in Pinoy details big and small, tangible and otherwise.
The sight of a tricycle, an “owner” jeep and a sari-sari store, the predictable use of the Boy Bawang garlic snack and the less expected use of Lipps candies, the heaps of salt and garlic to ward off otherworldly foes, a soundtrack culled from the Mike Hanopol and Wolfgang school of Pinoy rock, the appearance of a seemingly backyard-bred pig and the decorative giant spoon and fork that adorn our dining rooms ― these are nifty touches that accentuate Tiktik’s Filipino factor but minus any overt drumbeating.
Best of all, much of Tiktik’s anticipated humans-versus-monsters face-offs take place inside and around a house, with either side of the fight comprised by family members ― a superb touch there, suggesting how the family unit is integral not just to our homes but to our very identities as Filipinos.
Dark movie, dark comedy
Much of Tiktik’s humor is attitudinal in tone, as suggested by its nifty promotional blurb: “Ang pelikulang may puso… bituka, atay at iba pang lamang-loob” (“A movie with heart… guts, liver and other innards”).
Essaying such wry wit largely falls on the shoulders of lead star and co-executive producer Dingdong Dantes, whose character, even with all the freaky mayhem around him, maintains a fearless, like-I-give-a-pluck air about him that Robin Padilla can pull off in his sleep.
If asked for Tiktik’s comic peak, some viewers might point to a ghastly bit involving Joey Marquez and an aswang casualty’s extracted internal organ; others would prefer a laugh-out-loud high point where a giant fork becomes a utensil for some, um, intestinal spaghetti.
If only Tiktik: The Aswang Chronicles managed to sustain such creative craziness and refreshing originality.
This and that look familiar
Matti’s narrative stew includes storytelling points and visual cues that echo a number of Hollywood output, some of them not even horror in genre.
Certain broad strokes call to mind the likes of Twilight (the marriage of horror and romance) or 30 Days of Night (a platoon of ghouls lap up residents of one hapless setting after another).
There is a going-into-labor bit involving Dantes’ Makoy and Lovi Poe’s preggy Sonia character that would have been funny were it not already done in Cameron Crowe’s Jerry Maguire.
Then there’s the oft-promoted sight of the leggy Poe briefly wielding a machine gun ― a B-movie image recently essayed by Rose McGowan in Planet Terror, director Robert Rodriguez’s Grindhouse feature.
Perhaps most obvious is Tiktik’s sometime use of split screens to heighten tension, which had been utilized to the hilt in TV’s 24 and Ang Lee’s Hulk ― but which of course has its roots in comic book art.
Tiktik is also saddled with a flaw of many an action-packed flick, horror or otherwise: being visually compelling, emotionally uninvolving.
There is hardly a scary moment here, the movie teeming instead with violent, hollow grossness.
The trouble is also evinced by Dantes and his Makoy role: the anti-hero character is too fearless to be true, acts too invincible to be believable, while the actor himself seems to be part-in-the-movie, part-looking-in-the-mirror, rather self-conscious as to be truly immersed in this gig.
Welcome back, kidder
The one Tiktik cast member who takes the acting cake is the comebacking Marquez.
Pretty much every Tiktik moment featuring the actor-turned-Parañaque politico is a treat. He even shows a bit of range by transforming from a passive, henpecked husband into an enraged aswang fighter.
Fellow cast member Ramon Bautista, a formidable talent in his own right but who mostly gets sidelined this time, is quite fortunate to be in the older funnyman’s sphere.
Given the right material, this newly minted tandem of Marquez and Bautista could make for a comedic goldmine.
And if Tiktik does manage to yield a sequel, here’s hoping that, on top of its exhaustive digital effects, it would be scarier, funnier, fresher.
More brains, less innards. - Rappler.com
Catch Tiktik: The Aswang Chronicles in cinemas this week.