Sunday, September 23, 2012

Rico Maria Ilarde's Pridyider - Malevolent Souls

Uncertainty cloaks Christina Benitez’s (Andi Eigenmann) homecoming. It’s been 20 years since she last set foot on the home she once shared with her parents (Joel Torre and Janice de Belen) before the gruesome events that eventually overtook the household. She had since been taken by her aunt (Lui Manansala) to San Francisco where she was raised - beautiful (she is plagued by talent manager Dick – played by Baron Geisler), talented (she finished culinary and is cooking up dishes for a restaurant she plans to open in the Philippines) and conflicted about the fragmentary, albeit sketchy anecdotes she keeps getting about the demise of her mother – and the disappearance of her father. “Bakit nila ako iniwan?” she naggingly asks herself. But she gets no answers.

Home turns out to be a dilapidated house in a desolate fogbound subdivision on the throes of commercial development. Dust has settled long ago as it has been deserted in years. Lights flicker irregularly and a silhouette seemingly hovers around the dark corners. She arrives to an empty abode filled with fading photographs and clunking appliances that have seen better days. Among these is a giant refrigerator – ang “pridyider”.

Tina stays by herself, mostly immersed in experimental dishes. But at midnight, she discerns a presence, and tumbling sounds that bump in the night. And she is made acutely aware of the historical conundrum that inundates her past. She has to know more about her parents. She needs to know what happened to them. Was mother the crazy woman she keeps hearing about? Where was her father? If he were dead, why didn’t they find his body?

The unpalatable answers unravel gradually. Her father was an amorous man who sought the affection of other women while her mother was constantly enveloped by jealous rage. Her love for her husband so consumed her that he made a pact with the devil to summon his affection. She was to perform a ritual involving body parts of all the women he’s had affairs with, capped by the blood of her husband. Unfortunately, she wasn’t able to complete the ritual. To avoid getting caught by the police authorities, she hid inside the refrigerator – and died! Since then, the mother’s sinister spirit has possessed the refrigerator. She habitates the household.

To face her dilemma, Tina enlists the help of nosy neighbor Celine (Venus Raj) and her girl Friday Agatha (Bekimon); her childhood friend James (JM de Guzman); a petrified priest, an albularyo and a creepy anophthalmic former investigator, Detective Albay (Ronnie Lazaro) who has lived the life of a recluse after dropping the unsolved case.    

As Ilarde’s story is seamlessly told, the cast renders an engrossing performance all around. Andi Eigenmann limns her character with emotive panache. Her thespic control is remarkably fine tuned, and this is nothing short of admirable. There are no excesses there. Acting prowess must really be genetic. JM de Guzman, stripped of the need to sentimentalize his scenes, is adorable and enjoys great screen chemistry with Eigenmann, which is quite unexpected. Ronnie Lazaro recreates his Inspector Albay with indecipherable stroke reminiscent of his character in Richard Somes’ “Ishmael”. Even Venus Raj is interesting as she is quirky. Joel Torre, one of this year’s busiest actors, is likewise engaging. But it’s really Janice de Belen who runs away with her sinister presence. Malevolent and doomful, De Belen reminds me of Carmina Villaroel’s creepy turn in Yam Laranas’The Road”.  Seeing her stand frozen with chopping knife makes you wanna hide in some cave in the far reaches of Vanuatu!   

Pridyider” pays homage to the original “Shake, Rattle and Roll” (1984). In the original film, Ishmael Bernal directed Janice de Belen for the trilogy’s 2nd episode with similar title.  In the current version, De Belen’s iconic scene (she opens the ref’s door and thrusts her sweaty body deeper into the refrigerator) is reenacted by Eigenmann. Though the story is different, the narrative arc is similarly engaging.

The cinematic elements work well: the setting renders a spooky atmosphere; Teresa Barrozo’s music eerily lingers unobtrusively; Mackie Galvez’s cinematography sparkles with clarity even in dimly lit scenes; the CG effects are more than commendable as well. In fact, those tentacle-like monsters move with visceral feel. They don’t look artificial. Baron Geisler’s scene (he was being devoured by the ref) was particularly eye-catching. Ilarde and Onay Sales’ script avoids the unnecessary excesses customary in ardent horror flicks. All these result to a coherent story that moves with due pacing.

There are minor cracks in the story that could have been secured and adjusted: if Tina’s father really cared for his daughter, what kept him from making correspondence with Tina? Surely, a snail mail with an explanation could have prevented Tina from eternally wondering why she was “abandoned”. In this age of new technologies, there’s really no logical explanation for staying away from a loved one unless 1) you’re dead; 2) you were swallowed by a Black Hole; 3) you’re all lip service and the truth is, you just didn’t care enough. Twenty years is a long time to be away.

The scene at the hidden basement (or was it a “cave”) was reminiscent of a scene in Katie Holmes’Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark”. With victims’ heads indiscriminately appended on walls, Ilarde fabricates a gruesome world of the restless undead. This disturbs more than many other horror scenes from the recent past.

Pridyider” could have floundered in high camp. Venus Raj’s humorous turn is akin to this temperament, but her character was beautifully moderated that her presence didn’t feel importunate to the plot. Otherwise, it could have provided a “major major” debacle. More importantly, Raj provided some welcome quirkiness to an otherwise sedate predisposition. Every aspect of “Pridyider” is well tempered making it one of the year’s most engrossing horror ride.

James fixes Tina's electricity woes.
Inspector Albay aka Ronnie Lazaro aka "Ishmael."

Making pact with the devil - and more.

Tentacled monster and Alfred the cat.

Attack of the hungry refrigerator.

Now what do you call this?

Daughter and father scream for help.

Creepy mama is fueled by her jealousy.

Victims at the basement.

Albularyo fights with the evil spirit.

Andi Eigenmann (above and below)

JM de Guzman (above and below) as James. He manages an electrical shop.

Venus Raj as nosy neighbor Celine

Baron Geisler is Dick., a Hollywood agent. He's attracted to Tina. 

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