Monday, October 25, 2010

10 Horrific Truths About Topel Lee's "White House"

A horror flick with smiling faces and a sexy pose. Go figure!

1. That the honeymoon period for comebacking actor Gabby Concepcion is over. In this movie, Gabby plays spirit expert Jet Castillo who inadvertently exposes his daughter Sien and wife Issa (Angel Jacob) to the nasty spirits that roam the hall ways of Baguio City’s “White House”. Mr. Concepcion’s performance ranges from the frowning Latin-spewing spiritist to the cinematic sycophant who grovels in front of the screen to please his “fans”.

Indeed, at times, we felt like he was performing to the peanut gallery crowd who would sigh at his every line. He was insincerely taking us for a ride the way he did his several ex-wives. No, Mr. Concepcion, you’re playing the character of a desperate father out to retrieve the sequestered soul of his daughter Sien, shanghaied inside the White House. You’re not performing before an adoring “The Buzz” audience who would giggle at your every grin. How could a charming actor evolve into middle-age blandness?

2. That Mo Twister, aka Mohan Gumatay (whose mother is of Indian descent) needs to spend more time in acting workshops than writing his idle thoughts on twitter, speculating whether he should watch a movie or just stay home and masturbate.

I’d have to admit I once had a huge crush on him, and I love his TV interviews (remember that classic tete-a-tete with a spaced out and clueless Ara Mina). Mo has a fast wit and a loud, sexy voice. His boyish grin lights up the screen. However, the same demeanor doesn’t translate well into a believable character. It was Mo Twister pretending to be, er… Mo Twister. His delivery appeared to be all hot-air with no hint of redemption – a 2-D cartoon character that belongs to a different medium. When he finally gets his comeuppance, it was such a relief to have finally gotten rid of him.

Mo Twister & Sarah Labahti

3. That Megan Young has such an arresting presence on screen. She plays a heartbroken writer whose boyfriend (the horribly self-conscious Chris Cayzer) proposes a cool off period so he could date her friend. This took her to audition for a slot in a reality-TV program called “Pinoy Horror House” where 8 persons will vie for P1 million. Whoever is left inside the house after 5 days of being sequestered inside shall win the prize.

4. Joem Bascon spoofs a habitual male pageant contestant, Dom Romero, whose rhetorics and trite replies during interviews (“Thank you very much for that question.”) provided some of the film’s few pleasurable moments. However, as the narrative strain progresses, his character stagnates into someone who’s disdainful and annoying. We somehow knew he was gonna start the eventual pile up of body count.

Iza Calzado

5. That director Topel Lee has finally used up all the straws I’ve reserved for him as a promising film maker. If you’ve seen “Imahe-Nasyon” (2006), an omnibus project featuring 20 of the country’s most prolific indie film makers, addressing the issue on national identity 20 years after the Edsa Revolution, then you would agree with me that Topel Lee’s work there (“Ang Manunulat”) was one of the few visually-arresting original ideas. He went on to direct Judy Anne Santos and Jolina Magdangal in the serviceable horror film, “Ouija“ as well as the earlier “Dilim” (a ground breaking vigilante movie with a twist). Lee is, no doubt, a visual director. Unfortunately, that alone doesn’t constitute a great movie.

In “White House”, he litters his moods with loud dissonant music and a hundred-and-one distracting drones that half-way into the film, his audience’s capacity for fright has but run out. In fact, despite those ashen faced children creeping inside refrigerators and cabinets, crawling under the beds, you end up with a sinking feeling that Mr. Lee has been watching too much generic kwaidans and those Thai horror movies, he’s actually run out of fresh ideas of his own.

6. When all the spirits pile out of Gabby’s body, it felt like a bad version of “The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus” instead of a troubling horror film. The only thing scary in this film was when a character actually remarked, ”This is better than your soap opera!” You wish! I’d say, this was more annoying that Simon Cowell. In White House’s TV ads, KC Concepcion is caught saying, “Come watch it. Kayo ay matutuwa!” What a smart girl! Then she suddenly realized this was an inappropriate phrase to describe a horror movie. She then corrects herself: “nakakatakot”! But hey, we’ve already got her real thoughts about her father’s movie. Atta girl, KC! We appreciate pretty girls who speak their minds. ;->

7. That after the abominable “Wapakman” and this banal “White House”, director Topel Lee should hibernate or revisit his indie roots where he thrived under less resources. In the mainstream world, Lee loses his inventiveness and ends up like the rest of GMA Film directors who are worse than mediocre.

Joem Bascon: ad model and male pageant contestant

8. That Sarah Labahti and Lovi Poe display their glaring limitations in “White House”. Enough of that gum-chewing persona, Miss Poe. That’s been done with great success in “Walang Hanggang Paalam. Redundancy of characterization only shows how lost Lovi was in “White House”. Not enough time to conjure a significant persona so she resorted to one that worked before.

I’ve known of call center agents, none of whom chewed gums like there’s no tomorrow. None of whom acted like Calamine-requiring sluts. Of course I am aware of studies showing how such call center agents have become exponents of the effective dissemination and propagation of the HIV virus, but let’s not be too obvious, Ms. Poe. As for Ms. Labahti, the only thing she imparted was the impression that she could be perfectly forgettable. Jeez, these GMA talents are in desperate need of coaching from rival ABS CBN whose actors are proficient performers many times over. Wala bang budget sa GMA to get better acting coaches? Remember Angel Locsin’s blandness before she jumped to the other yard?

Megan Young & Lovi Poe: writer and call center agent

9. That “White House” has succeeded in giving Iza Calzado her worst performance in her enviable career.

Not even that nauseating Indie flick Jowee Morel’sMona: Singapore Escort” was she this bad! (Do you remember how Iza allegedly walked out during the preview screening of “Mona”, which was about a Pinay who worked as an escort girl in Singapore?) The lovely Iza – one of my all-time favorite actresses – just looked out of place within the exposition. This was funny because Iza was the film’s major nemesis! She was the “Black Lady”. Why she wore black was never explained. Baka she was fashionably conscious as a ghost? LOL

I would then venture on the obvious. For making Ms. Calzado look bad, the film’s writers are a bunch of sniveling idiots.

10. That their idea of “spirit attachment” is suspiciously similar to flu-like symptoms that eventually progressed into meningitis. The child suddenly developed fever, was vomiting, became weak, then got stuporous and unconscious! Didn’t I say meningitis? And Gabby had to travel all the way to Baguio for this misdiagnosis! Makes me wonder who their medical consultant was for this film. Baka si Dr. Vicky Belo. Then it would be such a relief to come out from their shooting looking all thermaged and botoxed out! Dang!

Gabby Concepcion: middle-age blandness takes the form of a spirit expert (huh?)

Iza Calzado and Jesse Bradford: two of my favorite artists in the world!

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