Kuwaresma goes head to head with Hollywood blockbuster John Wick 3: Parabellum and romantic drama Between Maybes starring Julia Barretto and Gerard Anderson.
But does Kuwaresma have the firepower to compete in the box office? I’m afraid not.
Reality Entertainment’s Mother's Day horror offering is an attempt at psychological terror cheapened by the liberal use of jump scares, poor character development, and an outlandish plot turn that destroys the suspension of disbelief.
Kuwaresma starts off strong enough with an intriguing exposition and haunting atmosphere, only to falter as it progresses until it is finally forced to a screeching halt.
In 1985, university student Luis Fajardo (Kent Gonzales) is summoned by his father Arturo (John Arcilla) to their family home in Baguio as his sister Manuela (Pam Gonzales) has passed away.
Despite his insistent questioning, neither of his parents would tell him how his sister died. He is extremely bothered not only by this stubborn silence but also of the continued deterioration of the relationship between his domineering ex-military father and his passive mother Rebecca (Sharon Cuneta).
He is not the only one. From the first day he returned home, Manuela haunted him consistently and violently, blaming the absence of Luis for her demise.
Driven by desire to get answers and comfort his emotionally-abused mother, Luis prolongs his stay, blind-sided by the horrors that await him.
Kuwaresma is technically sound, with all elements contributing to the creation of a foreboding atmosphere.
In the hands of Erik Matti, Baguio city is transformed into a mysterious mountain city draped in bluish-gray light.
The use of American-style houses in the city contributed to the gothic feel, making these supposedly comfortable abodes happy death traps both at the physical and metaphorical level.
Newcomer Kent Gonzales held his own against two drama heavyweights, matching Sharon and John in screen presence.
John is, as expected, effective as a villain although it is a pity that his role was not developed as a well-rounded character.
Sharon shone in her first horror film outing, giving a subtle and nuanced portrayal of a woman afraid to own her power.
Kuwaresma is lost in its ambition.
In its mission to be so many things all at once, it lost its way in treatment.
Ultimately, Kuwaresma is meant to be a family drama disguised as supernatural horror.
Family dramas of any genre are meant to inflict a visceral pain as the terror is meant to be deep-rooted and personal.
But Kuwaresma failed to draw from this deep well of horror by giving too much emphasis on the supernatural elements instead of developing the motivations of its characters.
In an attempt to skirt predictability, it resorted to a plot turn that, in its absurdity and uselessness, dissolves the terror built up from the start of the film.
But Kuwaresma was already predictable from the start as the storyline and stock of characters are hardly original.
As the film already ended when it began, the saving grace could have been the journey of the characters in confronting the horrors of their past and present.
We’ve seen this build up of dread in a cult classic like The Shining and the deep-seated melancholy created by family drama in The Haunting of Hill House.
The jump scares were just that - shocks that fade when the trick has passed.
Even with use of religious allusion in the title, the filmmakers failed to tap into this rich cultural heritage.
Manuela was buried during Lent, a time when it is said that demons freely roam the earth and have the greatest power to influence mankind.
The significance of this religious season - a mine of inspiration - could have been tapped to localize the horror. Baguio City, after all, is rich in local lore mixing with Catholic tradition.
Even the relevance of the title is lost in the treatment. It was unjustified and viewers may not see its relevance.
Kuwaresma does not succeed in everything it wants to be but it does get several messages across, chief of which is that it only takes the silence of good men for evil to thrive.
It is also a feminist rallying cry telling women to stand up for themselves if they see themselves capable.
In a pivotal scene, Sharon confronts the demonic presence in her home with a resounding “Put*ng-ama mo!” a rejection of toxic patriarchy that cripples women no matter how accomplished they become.
There are two versions of Kuwaresma now available. One version is rated R-13 while another is rated R-16 by the Movie and Television Review and Classification Board (MTRCB).
Children should be guided because of foul language and mature content.
Ed's Note: The "PEP Review" section carries the views of individual reviewers, and does not necessarily reflect the views of the PEP editorial team.