Monday, December 31, 2012

Chito Rono's Shake Rattle & Roll 14 The Invasion - Not So Scary Tales

PAMANA (Writer: Ricky Lee)

A mysterious uncle leaves a P20-million inheritance to four of his relatives whom he hasn’t seen in ages: Donald (Herbert Bautista) is a mild mannered former priest who’s financially hard up. Myra (Janice de Belen) is the intemperate business woman with abusive streaks to his husband’s son. Faye (Arlene Muhlach) is Myra’s congenial cousin. The fourth cousin is Tisoy aka Benedict Collins (Eri Neeman) who’s vaguely interested with his departed uncle’s wealth. The dead uncle was once a popular comic book writer who’s done well creating macabre characters.

Once summoned by their uncle’s lawyer, the cousins troop down to a ramshackle house that reeks with malevolence. But what's important is the departed's millions, right? Unfortunately, the big stash carries a catch: Paintings of the uncle’s cast of popular characters – the vampire Man de Nado (Fabio Ide), hair monster Filomena (Dimples Romana), the mother-killer Tiyanak and piano-playing Rosalda (Snooky Serna) - are distributed among the cousins. They have to keep them for a month – and if they survive, only then will they be able to get their share of the 20 million.

This condition isn’t as easy. The characters come to life and Tisoy, who dumped the painting in a garbage, becomes the first victim. The gang rush back to their uncle’s house, taking their family with them: Myra’s husband Benjie (Dennis Padilla), Benjie’s son Felimon (Gerald Pesigan), Faye’s daughters Cynthia (Empress Schuck) and Gladys (Anna Vicente), and Cynthia’s suitor Emerson (Ivan Dorschner). Once inside, doors shut and they find themselves trapped inside. What’s worse, the comic characters start to appear, wrecking havoc all around. And the only one to stop them was a fifth character, heart-eating Buboy, Ang Munting Diablo (Rain Papa). But why would Buboy help them when all he wants to do is play with his victims before consuming their hearts? Will the gang survive their uncle’s monsters?

LOST COMMAND (Writer: Rody Vera)

On cursory surveillance, a group of soldiers head into the dense jungle of Barangay Putotan. They’ve heard of the mysterious disappearance of folks and the wandering creatures that go bump in the night. Is the ragtag group of former soldiers responsible for this? The platoon soon begins to lose their men cryptically seized in the silhouettes of the woodland. With briskly dwindling numbers, Martin Barrientos (Dennis Trillo) decides to follow Linda (Ella Cruz), a blind girl, who takes them to her “Itay” (Ronnie Lazaro) said to be able to help them. What they find instead is more bewildering – former soldiers and comrades have turned into the undead, and they’re being recruited to be part of this group. With the help of Corporal Upaon (Paulo Avelino) who’s been fed the flesh of others and Private Conde (Martin Escudero) who steers the undead away from Barrientos, the platoon leader is taken by Linda's father to where he could jump to his freedom. “Kunin mo lang ang anak ko, at ilayo mo sya dito,” pleads Itay. But the jungle is treacherous and the path is long. What becomes of Barrientos?

UNWANTED (Writer: Roy Iglesias)

A catastrophic earthquake separates Hank (Vhong Navarro) from his pregnant girl friend Kate (Lovi Poe) who’s lost in the rubble. Upon gaining consciousness, two days after the incident, people are still trapped as they find their way out. Hank finds other survivors, Ming (Eula Caballero), Neil (Albie Casino), and their Uncle Tom (Eric Tai); there’s Rex (Carlo Aquino) and a loud gay man (Chokoleit). Each one eventually fall prey to the peculiar creatures similarly trapped in the rubble. When Hank finally finds Kate, they scamper out of the building, only to discover that the world they once knew had ceased to exist. Space ships hover in mid-air; dinosaur-like creatures saunter across them, and they’re approached by unidentifiable beings who soon take their semblance.

Director Chito Rono seems to be the perfect person to handle three disparate stories for the 14th installment of the horror trilogy. In fact, there’s something nostalgic with the return of Janice de Belen, Arlene Muhlach and Herbert Bautista into the series since their first appearance 18 long years ago: Bautista for Peque Gallaga’sManananggal”, De Belen for her iconic role in Ishmael Bernal’sPridyider”, and Muhlach for Emmanuel H. Borlaza’sBaso”. But while these three old tales were compelling to watch, Rono’s new age fables are emotionally distant and uninteresting. There’s nothing much in its exposition that draws you in. More importantly, the element of suspense is tepid, if non-existent.  

In a scene in “Pamana”, the group finds a spinning top in the middle of the room. Do you get: 1. Scared? 2. Perplexed? 3. Move away? Human instinct is basic, and when we’re accosted by something sinister, we either fight or “fly”. Instead, Janice and company stare and engage in a discussion. It was almost too funny. In both “Pamana” and “Unwanted”, Rono tried injecting humor - that both Myra and Faye got pregnant before getting married, for example, and there’s Vhong Navarro in “Unwanted” who refers to Chokoleit as “Di tiyak”. While Vhong is a brilliant comedian, fear and laughter are too unrelated, and fusion of both results into anything but harmonious. The end product: lukewarm exposition with an apocryphal emotional engagement. As an audience, we invest something into our viewing experience: Do we get sad and sympathize? Do we shiver in our knickers and shriek with fear? Do we laugh until we’re blue? Curiously, SSR 14 doesn’t induce any. We just didn’t care enough.

Lost Command”, on the other hand, feels like a spiritless version of the Korean movie, “R-Point”, about a band of missing soldiers, presumed dead, who sends a radio transmission to their base. But while “R-Point” is relentlessly gripping, “Lost Command” is languid with characters almost unrecognizable from the next. It was mostly successful in gathering some of the hottest soldiers in the cinematic universe: Dennis Trillo, Martin Escudero, Paulo Avelino, Alex Castro, JC Tiuseco, AJ Dee, Kenneth Paul Salva, Then Rono renders them disposable. What a waste of masculine meat. Tee hee.

SRR 14 was Rated A by that dubious ratings group, Cinema Evaluations Board (CEB). Considering that this is actually one of the worst installments from the series speaks oodles about the capacity of the CEB to rate quality films. How much government money is being spent to maintain this useless arm? Heaven knows this group badly needs to be scrapped. 

Paulo Avelino, Dennis Trillo, and JC Tiuseco

Kate and Hank are in a quandary: she's pregnant!

Survivors: Eric Tai, Vhong Navaro, Eula Caballero & our favorite baby-maker Albie Casino.

Dead Korean soldiers come to life in "R-Point".


Anonymous said...

isn't 'flee' the rootword of 'flight' in "fight or flight"? :D


Cathy Pena said...


Yes, you're right. The operative word to use should be "flee". It's more appropriate: People fight or people flee.

"Fly" is actually the "root word" for "flight" if we're referring to it linguistically; root word being a form of word after all affixes are removed. According to Word Detective, and I quote, "The root of flight is the prehistoric Germanic 'flukhtiz' which gave us the verb "to fly". Don't you just love linguistics? :) Thanks for that.

Anonymous said...

haha also, shouldn't the title of this post be THE INVASION instead of THE INHERITANCE? :D


Cathy Pena said...

Oh my goodness, Jason. Should I appoint you as my unofficial proof reader? :) Hated writing this post (too many stories to tell that weren't even enjoyable to watch) so I tried to do this as fast as I could.

Thanks so much for the correction. Mwah! said...

Akala ko ako lang nakapanood ng R-Point. :-)

Cathy Pena said...


And that was something to watch, di ba? :)