Agatha Christie is the queen of whodunits. Though she's been dead for 35 years, her legacy lives on as she is survived by her bestselling novels and a play (“The Mousetrap”) that holds the record for the theatre’s longest initial run: it opened at the Ambassadors Theatre in London on November 25, 1952 and as of 2011 is still running after more than 24,000 performances. More than this record, she was known to have written nail-biting stories of murder surrounded by a milieu of suspense and a mastery on plotting and characterization. She presents a lineup of characters, seemingly normal and others eccentric, and then lets her audience/readers guess: who’s the killer?
G.A. Villafuerte’s “Bahid” subscribes to such artifice to tweak his Pink Film ouvre, albeit with grievously disappointing results.
When lovers Glen and Vivian (Lawrence Manalo and Honey Lopez respectively) visit her godfather in Pampanga, she didn’t except her ninong to have come out of the closet. They were grandiosely welcomed with open arms, but they have discovered in ninong a boisterous aristarch who nags and complains about everything. Michael has become Madam Michelle who is loud and detested by the people around him. In this “mansion”, we are introduced to a cadre of characters which includes a trio of gay friends (Kahlel Urdaneta, Rjames Villaran, Jay-r Alcaraz), a sexually ambivalent gardener Lando (Miguel Alcantara, who appears half naked most of his screen time), maids Clara, Rosario and Magda, the driver Mang Dante, and house custodian Nanay Lydia (Tart Carlos).
Plot thickens when people start disappearing. In fact, Madam Michelle is soon found murdered on his bed. Who has a motive to these crimes?
You start getting concerned with the intellectual capacity of these characters when, despite all the killings or disappearance, no one leaves the compound. What were they waiting exactly? We later find out, of course, when the story climaxes in a dark basement. The lost characters have been found: blindfolded and tied down, but not gagged. Otherwise, this would inhibit the staging of a rather rambunctious, annoying and ultimately noisy scene when the perpetrator finally meets the victims.
The film divides its focus between perfunctory couplings, really trite unimaginative bed scenes, involving our characters (and showcasing Miguel Alcantara’s enviable physique as he lures both men and women to his bed) and the whodunit chapter. Unfortunately, there isn’t much aptitude involved in the film making process, and the actors are left to their own devices, giving way to the annoying excesses of some actors, particularly the one playing Madam Michelle and, more importantly, Tart Carlos’ Nanay Lydia who deserves a crown for her histrionic turn. Yup, there’s the “nanlilisik ang mata” staple here; the harsh and heavy-handed delivery; the demented witch countenance, and the excruciating swagger of thespic desperation! This was her 10-seconds of fame. She might as well get noticed! LOL
And wait for an intriguing epilogue that would put the befuddling “Inception” or even DiCaprio's "Shutter Island" to shame!
Madam Michelle (center) chastises everyone: "Nasaan si Magda? Ba't hindi s'ya nagpapaalam. masakit na ang tumbong ko sa katatalak!"
The performances are cringe-worthy and stumped. They either sleepwalk, summon a monotonal delivery or appear perplexed (Reference #1: basement scene; Reference #2: When they found the missing cellphone at the driver’s quarters). I could swear that the driver has more intuition than all of the characters combined.
The production is also hobbled by inaudible delivery of lines that are mostly muddled by room tone: a dog that keeps barking, a nearby hammering, the frolic of children playing, a motorcycle passing by intermittently. These transient sounds were largely ignored as though they wouldn’t make it in the final cut; a testament to the film maker’s carelessness and indolence, or his discombobulation to the medium.
What’s the best thing about “Bahid”? Aside from finally leaving the cinema hall? The theatrical posters! There are a couple that would have you believe that this was a sophisticated production, and that people behind it knew what they were doing. See what the delusion of appearance imparts?
In a scene representative of its inattention to detail, a maid picks up a tray, looks at the camera like she sees the Holy Grail, and leaves with a nonchalant, “Iwan ko muna kayo riyan”. How can you resist such utter ingenuity?
Miguel Alcantara (above and below)
Who do we crucify?