The title of this Junn P. Cabreira movie, "Hostage Ko Multo" reminds me of the blood curdling Crisaldo Pablo diarrheic stool called "Kiss Meeh, Manananggal Me" that starred the ebullient English patient, Alyssa Alano. Is it as crass, unfocused and imbecilic? Come on, Crisaldo Pablo has really lorded it over the most execrable film works ever released commercially in the Philippines!
"Hostage Ko Multo" is a wee bit better, but not by much.
Isko (Smokey Manaloto) and Iska (Mariz Santiago) leave their humdrum lives in Bicol to seek greener pastures in Manila, but with hardly a plan or a place to go, they end up getting robbed off their money. Fortunately, they were mistaken as the new househelps in Don Emilio's (Jun Urbano) household. They find friends in Kikay, the mayordoma (Lea Ledesma), and Jinggoy, the driver (Jacob Medalla). What follows is a steady supply of "Bubble Gang" gags and harmless flirtations of the quartet. A perky musical number is even thrown in to showcase the voice of Iska and Kikay. But just when we were starting to think we were watching the 3rd world version of the "Sound of Music", they introduced another plot device - ghosts! Isko occasionally feels the presence of "ghosts". But they readily forgot this until a gang of thugs attacked the reclusive Chinese businessman Don Emilio - who's constantly shown trimming plants: grapes, hedges, trees, bonsai. Name your plant, he's trimming it!
The delightful household gets hostaged by gun-toting baddies (headed by Robert Miller). They are demanding P50 million pesos. Don Emilio's "chief security officer" (the new King of Over-acting himself, Roldan Aquino) - who's recently undergone circumcision - is helpless as he waits outside the gate. What becomes of the chirpy group of hostages? Whatever happened to the ghosts? If you have the knack of putting elements together, you can summon a good guess, and you just might get it!
Director Junn P. Cabreira's last cinematic venture was a sex drama - "Asawa Mo, Misis Ko" - starring Sheila Ysrael, Via Veloso and Patrick Guzman. This was shown 14 years ago! Prior to that, Cabreira helmed a lot of Joey Marquez sex-comedies ("Mahal, Saan Ka Natulog Kagabi", "Flavor of the Month", "Lover's Delight", "Mahal Ko Ang Mister Mo"). His 90's sensibilities filter throughout "Hostage Ko Multo" as he peppers the whole crap (did i say "crap"? ooopss!) with a hundred and one tired old gags, you'd think you were watching inferior vesions of "Banana Split", "Loko Moko U" or "Bubble Gang".
To illustrate these gags, here are just a few:
Isko (upon reading a sign that says "Wanted: GRO, Waiter, Driver"): "Tanungin natin baka puwedeng mag apply!"
Iska: "Tanga! Wanted ng mga pulis yan!"
Kikay: "Heto ang fried chicken. Kain na kayo."
Isko (taking the whole chicken for himself): "Di yan (Iska) kumakain ng kahit na anong hayop na may mukha."
A mongo-sized booger (kulangot) is seen just above Isko's upper lip. Kikay and Jinggoy tells him that he has rice above his lips. He proceeds by eating it, then he says, "Di naman kanin yun. Maalat alat eh!" (IMHO, Gross is never funny!)
Jinggoy (on Kikay): "Ang huling boyfriend nyan, namatay sa kahihiyan!"
Kikay (on Jinggoy): "Ang huling girlfriend nyan, namatay sa galis!"
When Iska complains of the lack of ventilation inside the maid's quarters, Kikay points to the refrigerator near them. She opens the ref and remarks: "Pag gising mo bukas, ice candy ka na!"
Kikay instructs Iska to place sugar at the salt container, and salt at the sugar container. When Iska asks why, Kikay replies: "Para wag langgamin!" (Huh?)
Isko asks Don Emilio the difference between "dinner" and "supper" - and why he keeps interchanging the two words. His reply: "Ang 'dinner', pag kumakain ako sa labas masarap kasi masarap ang pagkain sa restaurants . 'Supper" kasi I "suffer" pag kinakain ko ang luto ni Kikay!"
Some of the lines really scrape the bottom. When Jinggoy gives Kikay a bunch of roses, she remarks, "Nung huling binigyan mo ako ng rosas, ang dalawang buwang suweldo ko, inutang mo!"
Boy: "Ano ang tawag sa lumulutang sa dagat? Nasa letter S."
Boy: "Hindi siya babae."
Boy: "Di sya lalaki."
Boy: "Eh di Salbabida!"
Isko: "Ba't laging Chinese ang kinikidnap?"
Don Emilio: "Kasi pag Pinoy, hulugan. Pag Bombay, 5:6. Pag Amerikano, credit card. Pag Chinese, cash!"
Despite a trite material, Smokey Manaloto mines his comedic flair, making the tired inanities bearable. It also helps that editing is brisk, giving the gags and their punchlines perfunctory character. Awkward executions, common among indie directors, are kept to a minimum. This should be attributable to Director Cabreira's long experience in the industry. Even the newbies: Jacob Medalla, Lea Ledesma, Mariz Santiago, do their effusive best to catch up with Manaloto and Jun Urbano (who does his bit of Mr. Shooli here, with his tsinoy speak). The newcomers occasionally falter with insipid punch lines and unmoderated reactions, but there's really so much you can do with the material. At the very least, you could give them a pat for their enthusiasm.
This cinematic smorgasbord feels like a glorified and expanded TV gag show. An easy clue on its unfocused concept is flaunted by its title: "Hostage Ko Multo"! Taking the first person, it is obvious that the "titular" character ("ko") is either Smokey Manaloto or Jun Urbano, but why would either Isko or Don Emiliano hostage ghosts? They were the hostages, for Pete's sake! Not the ghosts! But "Hostage Ko Multo" rhymes, doesn't it?
Titular rhyming is sometimes more important than rational titling, right?