‘Binhi’ Review: Far from unique
MANILA, Philippines – Pedring Lopez’s Binhi opens with a scene that’s been used and abused for decades. From Ishmael Bernal’s Pridyider in the first Shake, Rattle & Roll (1980) to Jerrold Tarog’s Ulam in Shake, Rattle & Roll XV (2014), we’ve witnessed couples and families joyfully arrive at their second-hand homes which will later on present various horrors they would have to face to survive.
In Binhi’s case, we have Dan (Joem Bascon) and his pregnant wife Cynthia (Mercedes Cabral) relocate from Manila to a lonely mansion located in the fringes of Baguio City. It all seems nice and dandy for the couple at first, until the ghost of a little girl starts to make her presence felt. Things get worse. You know the drill.
The biggest problem of Binhi is that it is a film that is averse to innovation. Right from the start, it already applies the most common of tropes that have plagued Filipino horror cinema to the point of stagnancy. It is a haunted house flick that offers absolutely nothing new to the frustratingly familiar narrative. There seems to be no ambition at all, with Lopez only peppering the film with needless flourishes to hide the grave absence of having anything novel to say.
Even the characters are molded from stereotypes. Cynthia’s pregnancy is nothing more than a ploy to heighten the stakes, to push the tension, and to evoke a certain sense of helplessness during the film’s sporadic haunting. Again, it’s been done before, and within the Shake, Rattle & Roll lore, more specifically in Richard Somes’ Ang Lihim ng San Joaquin (2005) and Chris Martinez’s Rain, Rain, Go Away (2011), the pregnant heroine has appeared to cue the same kind fragility in the face of danger.
Right from the start, Dan is portrayed as a man who is harboring some form of secret from the past. The mystery of Dan’s former life renders the film’s narrative predictable, linking whatever horror the couple is facing to the secrets Dan has been hiding, which of course will be revealed in an unsurprising exposition near the end.
Lopez’s method of scaring is also far from unique. The film’s pacing is painfully deliberate, with the ghost appearing in the corners of the frame, usually in the reflection of the mirror, telegraphed needlessly by ominous scoring. This is repeated so many times, that the scares are rendered ineffective and cloying.
It is all style with very little substance. Lopez spends too much time meticulously measuring the visual and aural design of the film that it becomes nothing more than a showcase of all the tricks a horror filmmaker would use if he has become creatively bankrupt.
The experience of watching Binhi can be likened to the experience of watching a horror film for the nth time, where all the scares, the twists, and revelations have become moot out of sheer familiarity. It is quite a pity since both Bascon and Cabral turn in worthy performances, and the film itself is technically sound, with Lopez aptly utilizing the unique atmosphere of Baguio City to create an otherworldly flavor to the otherwise mundane events.
A test of endurance
Binhi is just a film that requires too much endurance to sit through. However, the rewards of any endurance the viewer has invested are frustratingly so meager, they are negligible. –Rappler.com
Francis Joseph Cruz litigates for a living and writes about cinema for fun. The first Filipino movie he saw in the theaters was Carlo J. Caparas’ 'Tirad Pass.' Since then, he’s been on a mission to find better memories with Philippine cinema. Profile photo by Fatcat Studios