MMFF 2015 REVIEW: Good acting saves Buy Now, Die Later


The 2015 Metro Manila Film Fest entry Buy Now, Die Later features five interconnected segments that tackle the five senses: sight, hearing, smell, touch, and taste.

Each of the lead stars represent a sense: Vhong Navarro represents sight, Alex Gonzaga the sense of hearing (“Dinig”), Rayver Cruz the sense of taste (“Sarap”), John Lapus the sense of smell (“Halimuyak”), and the mother-and-daughter team of Lotlot de Leon and Janine Gutierrez) the sense of touch (“Kanti”).

This writer means no disrespect to young director Randolph Longjas, but the MMFF 2015 entry Buy Now, Die Later feels like a film project that was given unlimited budget.

On paper, there must have been a very good story treatment. The plot revolves around a supernatural/otherworldly antique shop that caters to the needs of its clientele. The storytelling is episodic, involving the cross-cutting stories of the characters of Vhong Navarro, Alex Gonzaga, Rayver Cruz, John Lapus, and Lotlot de Leon.

TJ Trinidad plays the role of the cryptic shop owner. Each person has a desire to be fulfilled and the shop, Santi’s, conveniently (suspiciously?) has just the right item available. Taking off from the adage “buyer beware,” each character is made to sign an agreement before the purchase is final. But each is so seduced by their own aspirations that they seal the deal with blood.

The story is macabre and, to this writer, attempts to emulate classics like Night Gallery, Tales from the Crypt, Tales from the Dark Side, and to some degree, The Twilight Zone.

But the terms of each agreement come out as silly and preposterous, really. Too many situations are contrived. The motivations behind each character’s “need” are convincing. But the story proceeds comically, even when it is trying to be scary. True, there are bursts of humor and some situations are downright hilarious (especially in the episode of John Lapus); but it tries too hard to be sinister and fails.

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Indeed, the visual effects of the film are impressive. The prosthetics, makeup, and CGIs are a credit to the art department, who are very liberal in delivering the blood and gore to elicit horror.

The director succeeds in drawing out the full potential of Alex Gonzaga and Janine Gutierrez (as the young Lotlot de Leon), and they play their characters convincingly. The most engaging of the episodes are “Halimuyak,” which revolves around John Lapus, and “Kanti,” that shows the personal demons of Lotlot de Leon’s character, “Queen Mother.”

The “Sarap” episode also holds a lot of potential to be funny, but it suffers from wrong timing and bad acting. The best part of this episode was the montage of Rayver Cruz preparing various dishes.

The editing needs to be tighter, because the parts that want to induce shock and surprise became corny for lack of the right timing. Some parts of the story are inconsistent. Without giving anything away, some dialogue in a later scene contradict, or at least do not make sense, in the context of dialogue in an earlier scene.

The musical score and sound effects are done to the extent of overkill.

The production design of the movie is excellent. Angel Diesta put together the right elements to make the shop not only look like it is well-stocked—no, that would be too easy. Diesta succeeds in giving texture and adding an overwhelming sense of un-ease to the scenes.

The story, though, is commendable for planting a seed of doubt early on that persists throughout the movie and is, more or less, resolved but not in a neat package. This involves the character of Manolo Marquez, whose life touched at least three of the characters in the story. In the last part, without revealing too much, a lightbulb moment occurs for the viewer on the extent of Manolo’s links with the other characters.

If you enjoy a mix of jump scares and situations that will leave you chuckling, then Buy Now, Die Later is for you.

This psychological horror-thriller is one of the eight entries in the 41st Metro Manila Film Festival.

This and the other entries will shown in cinemas nationwide starting December 25, 2015.

(To learn more about the MMFF 2015 entries, CLICK HERE)

Ed's Note: The "PEP Review" section carries the views of individual reviewers and does not necessarily reflect the views of the PEP editorial staff.

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