Warning: Spoilers ahead!
I cannot remember my life before Shake, Rattle & Roll.
Since the first film came out in the 1984 Metro Manila Film Festival, Shake, Rattle & Roll has become one of the most important Filipino anthologies ever created. Over the course of its transformation, the franchise has not only reflected changes in Filipino filmmaking but also the sociopolitical conditions and culture-specific phobias that continue to haunt us.
Now that Regal Entertainment has decided to reupload one Shake, Rattle, and Roll film every day until November 8 on their Youtube channel, I cannot help but look back on the franchise that shaped what it means to be afraid and to be brave.
Here are five of my favorite episodes (in no particular order):
‘Tulay’ from Shake, Rattle, & Roll VI (1997)
Directed by Frank G. Rivera, written by Tony Perez
Around the time I first watched “Tulay” as a child, there were a series of kidnappings in our locality. Rumors about the missing children spread like wildfire: their organs sold off to a black market or sacrificed as part of a padugo to strengthen the foundation of a nearby construction site. In the hopes of protecting us from a similar fate, we were kept indoors in the afternoons and evenings.
While not the scariest of the Shake, Rattle & Roll episodes, “Tulay” leaves an imprint because of these tales, referencing legends surrounding the construction of the San Juanico Bridge during the Marcos era. “Tulay” follows three children — Lilian (Ice Seguerra), Marice (Matet de Leon), and Sunny (Ara Mina) — who are attempting to figure out why a ghost has been haunting the bridge leading out of town, causing accidents to happen.
Shedding its elements of horror and malice, “Tulay” anchors itself in childhood loneliness and the burden placed on the youth in strengthening society. In the process of putting the boy’s soul to rest, the trio turn to religion to offer some form of comfort and companionship – the promise of a forgiving God causing everything to resurface, bones and all.
‘Pridyider’ from Shake, Rattle & Roll (1984)
Directed by Ishmael Bernal, written by Amado Lacuesta Jr.
During the penultimate scene of “Pridyider,” Virgie (Janice de Belen) enters the kitchen late at night and pauses, almost as if she sees a lover. Instead, we see the refrigerator. She caresses it and opens its doors. The cold air greets her amid the blistering heat, causing her to close her eyes and throw her head back from pleasure. She begins to pant and move along with the refrigerator, almost as if having sex. Just as it seems that she is about to climax, she begins to scream: the pleasure replaced by pain; the scene turned into sexual assault; consummation and consumption inseparable.
This sexual openness is what separates “Pridyider” from many of the later films in the franchise. A symbol of the rise of the middle class, the titular household appliance, once a source of comfort and satiety, is revealed to be inhabited by the soul of a rapist and a murderer. The horrific murders it commits are blamed on the lascivious but innocent Dodong (William Martinez), even as the testimonies of Lorna (Charito Solis) say otherwise. It is no incident that the first film of the franchise was created during the country’s worst recession due to the Marcos administration.
‘Nanay’ from Shake, Rattle & Roll III (1991)
Directed by Peque Gallaga and Lore Reyes, written by Dwight Gaston and Peque Gallaga
It is hard to think of a favorite from Peque Gallaga’s ten films in the franchise. The titular “Aswang” and “Manananggal” come to mind, as they are some of the franchise’s best. But it is one of his collaborations with Lore Reyes — “Nanay” — that sticks because of how it introduces us to a character that is difficult to replicate — the acid-spitting sea monster called the undin.
The perspective of the episode alternates between the undin and Maloy (Manilyn Reynes) — a young, introverted, and naive science enthusiast. Maloy possesses a sense of wonder in every discovery, even in the horrific: she looks at the undin eggs taken by her best friend Sally (Candy Pangilinan) with the same curiosity she proffers towards her disemboweled peers later on. “Nanay” shifts from coming-of-age tale to horror to comedy almost within the same scene, and these jarring tonal changes make the horror more pronounced and unexpected.
As the characters kill the undin’s offspring, it unveils the most interesting aspect of “Nanay”: that the monster can be humane, and that the humans can be monstrous.
‘Punerarya’ from Shake, Rattle & Roll XII (2010)
Directed by Jerrold Tarog, written by Rona Lean Sales
Jerrold Tarog has consistently produced some of the strongest work in the Shake, Rattle & Roll franchise by exploring the crucial connection between horror and trust. Malevolent entities take advantage of the fractures within these relationships and turn them inside out: friendship becomes rivalry in “Parola” and family becomes foreign in “Ulam.”
In “Punerarya,” he follows Dianne (Carla Abellana), a part-time tutor for the Gonzales family’s two children Sarah (Anna Vicente) and Ryan (Nash Aguas). The red flags begin to appear: a sensitivity to light, a special diet, restricted sections in their home. Though Dianne slowly pieces together the family’s true nature, her brother does not believe her claims until it is too late. The family’s efforts at repressing their cannibalistic desires are overpowered by their distrust for Dianne and their need for self-preservation.
Like Tarog’s later work, “Punerarya” delves deeper into the human condition and how, at our cores, we are all capable of monstrosity – reminding us that all efforts at resistance only bring us closer to our true, horrific selves.
‘LRT’ from Shake, Rattle, and Roll VIII (2006)
Directed by Mike Tuviera, written by Enzo Valdes
As a kid who grew up in the province, Manila, even just the idea of it, has always made me anxious. The city’s darkness and expansiveness makes it a big mystery; it seems easy for anyone there to get lost. And if you disappear, will anyone care?
“LRT” was formative to my construction of Manila. Thirteen commuters are on the train’s last trip when it suddenly stops at an abandoned station. Noticing that the gates are locked and the staff gone, they quickly discover that they are being hunted by a blind, heart-eating monster. The completely mundane situation becomes a source of urban horror: transforming the train station’s infrastructure into a labyrinth and turning everyday humans into rats desperate to escape.
Seeing it as an adult, the fear has shifted from the monster to the police. “LRT” reveals our complicated relationship with the police, given their history of taking advantage of their power, monopolizing violence in the service of self-interest, and demanding trust even in their untrustworthiness. It’s a loaded sociopolitical allegory of how monsters are birthed by men, nurtured and protected by the community, and sustained by structures that thrive on silence.
This episode has been seared into my mind, and years later, it still keeps me quietly rushing home at night.
An episode of Shake, Rattle & Roll will premiere every day from October 25 to November 8, 2021 on the Regal Entertainment Youtube channel. – Rappler.com