MANILA, Philippines – Seeing the dead has become as tired a cliché as raising them from the ground. But in the context of Philippine horror, the ability to see the dead has long been assimilated into local myth. The idea of the “third eye” has since become a staple for local ghost stories, and the same goes for Philippine horror cinema.
In this case, Aloy Adlawan’s latest film Third Eye is a particularly deceptive piece of horror. Though it lacks the vitality to provide any lasting scares, it does manage to turn a rather conventional premise into a seed of its own interesting mythology.
Scarred by traumatic childhood events, Mylene (Carla Abellana) unwittingly gains the ability to see the dead. Though her grandmother (Boots Anson-Roa) manages to keep Mylene’s visions at bay, they come crawling back upon her grandmother’s death. As Mylene struggles with her grandmother’s passing, she discovers an affair between her husband Jimmy (Ejay Falcon) and his mistress Janet (Denise Laurel). But the real knife in Mylene’s back isn’t her husband’s betrayal. It’s that Janet carries her husband’s child; a child that Mylene couldn’t give him herself.
Rationalized infidelity aside, Third Eye begins as a wife’s pursuit for the truth. But after the film’s opening half hour, we realize that there’s more to the story than a simple dramatic haunting. A mysterious village decides to kidnap Janet, and Mylene becomes the sole hope to save both Janet and her unborn child.
Surprisingly, Mylene’s actual third eye has little bearing over the film’s unraveling story. While Mylene does occasionally come across the odd spirit, the story is more preoccupied with the ominous presence of the village and their plans for Janet and her unborn child. It’s an interesting twist that goes well beyond the film’s conventional premise. Unfortunately, the film fails to capitalize on its strength due to blatant exposition and cardboard thin characters.
Story without subtlety
Despite planting the seeds of an interesting story, Third Eye spells everything out with the subtlety of a sledgehammer. In the film’s opening minutes, a key scene between a young Mylene and her grandmother lays out the film’s entire arc in an clumy barrage of exposition that leaves little to the imagination of the audience.
But Adlawan’s need to be explicit isn’t out of a lack of skill but out of a need to babysit less attentive audiences. The film is guilty of excessive hand-holding, which ends up robbing more discerning viewers of any real insight. Instead of discovering the characters for ourselves, they are laid out on a silver, but rusty, platter. For a film that aims for the heart over the gut, there’s very little intimacy to be had among the film’s characters.
On the other hand, Third Eye spends little time detailing the mysterious village that becomes the source of the film’s horror. While the story leaves a number of unanswered questions, Adlawan is at least skillful enough to know just how much explanation is needed to urge the story forward. We are given little insight to the workings of the ominous village, but it’s still enough to build an intriguing world around Mylene. It’s disappointing that the same kind of restraint isn’t carried over to the film’s characters, leaving the film mostly inconsistent if not glaringly lopsided.
Competently made but inconsistently executed
But despite the gratuitous amounts of character exposition, none of the characters are developed with any satisfying depth. Mylene is never forced to come to terms with her reawakened ability to see the dead and Janet is never revealed to be anything more than a love-struck mistress. But it is Mylene’s husband Jimmy who becomes the film’s most grievous offender. His bungling attitude towards his own infidelity, and his inability to take any sort of decisive action, makes him that weakest link of the three.
Third Eye ultimately suffers from b-grade characters that end up distracting from the film’s more original ideas. Coupled with a badgering level of exposition, the film is competently made but inconsistently executed.
Despite Third Eye’s numerous flaws, there is something undeniably refreshing seeded in the film’s groundwork. We are given momentary glimpses into the horrific yet intriguing rituals of the film’s mysterious village. And gluttonous exposition aside, the characters are admittedly founded on very real emotion.
While it would’ve been interesting to see Adlawan’s approach to the material without the need to pander to commercial conventions, it’s hard to imagine how a film this is possible without commercial intervention. Ultimately, Third Eye ends up being far less eye-opening than it could’ve been. – Rappler.com
Zig Marasigan is a freelance screenwriter and director who believes that cinema is the cure for cancer. Follow him on Twitter at @zigmarasigan.
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