Kim Chiu top-bills The Ghost Bride, a horror movie about a little known Chinese practice called ghost marriage – a ritual that allows a deceased Chinese man to be married to a living Chinese woman. In exchange, the woman receives dowry money and a monthly stipend from the dead groom’s family.
Once married, the bride is also required to fulfill the spousal responsibility of regularly commemorating the memory of the would-be husband.
Simple enough to do but Kim’s financially desperate character Mayen bit off more than she could chew when she enters a deal with Angie Lao (played by Alice Dixson).
In exchange for a hefty sum of money aimed to provide for her ailing father and poverty-stricken family, Mayen begins to experience unexplainable phenomena.
Realizing that she sold her soul to evil, Mayen tries to disengage herself from the agreement. Little did she know that by doing so, she inadvertently drags her family and loved ones to unspeakable horror. How will Mayen free herself from her ghost groom?
Directed by Chito Roño, The Ghost Bride is an engaging treat that makes full use of an excellent ensemble cast of acting luminaries and vibrant new talents.
Led by a feistier and more mature Kim Chiu, the movie sees her deliver vulgar lines and emotionally wrought scenes that display her fearlessness in letting go of her quirkily cute “princess chinita” tag.
In this PG-rated movie, Kim is able to utter the word “bayag” with a straight face as casually as a street-smart kid.
Performances of veteran artists Luz Fernandez and Nanding Josef, seasoned theatre thespians Isay Alvarez and Robert Seña, multi-talented comediennes Beverly Salviejo and Cacai Bautista; and actors Alice Dixson, Ina Raymundo, and Mon Confiado; complement the raw and vibrant talents of Matteo Guidicelli, Christian Bables, Victor Silayan, Bea Saw, and Jerome Ponce.
Special mention goes to Beverly Salviejo whose portrayal of Mayen’s grandmother deftly captures the nuances of the changing moods of an old woman with dementia, specifically in scenes which require her to be silent more than wild or rowdy.
All of them though don’t seem to mind playing second fiddle to the real star of the movie—the story’s even pace laid out in a manner that almost effortlessly draws audiences in.
This allows viewers to easily immerse themselves in Mayen’s world enough to empathize and go on a journey along with her.
Though Mayen impulsively decides to become a ghost bride, you completely understand why. You’d even feel you’d do the same too if you were in the same circumstances she was in. It is also easy to feel confused, scared, and happy along with her.
Though predominantly a horror movie, The Ghost Bride offers a skillful balance of “hugot” scenes between Kim Chiu’s Mayen and her boyfriend Clinton (Matteo Guidicelli). The touching dialogues between Mayen and her father (Robert Seña) are also earnestly heartfelt. These help elevate the movie to become not just a thriller, but an effective family drama as well.
The Ghost Bride is grounded in pragmatic details thus adding to the story’s believability. The informal lesson on Chinese superstition and beliefs blended in seamlessly with the plot.
This movie produced by Star Cinema is not a scream-fest. The horror flows in an uncontrived way and the suspense is not forced.
Still, expect to be startled in your seat with nerve-wracking scenes that could make your hair stand on end.
The final part of the movie seemed similar to the Hollywood film Insidious, specifically when Mayen tries to escape her situation.
However, this environment resembled little of hell but more of a poor man’s version of a horror house found in local carnivals.
Though more than half of the movie was solidly frightening, the final act’s resemblance to a low-cost video game fantasy world, unfortunately, diluted any elements of dread.
The Ghost Bride will keep you on your toes with few lulls in between.
Direk Chito Roño elevates Philippine horror to a standard that can be at par with Asian or Western counterparts. His masterful control of his actors and the sharpness of his visual storytelling skills further cement his status as a master director.
The Ghost Bride is graded A by the Cinema Evaluation Board.
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.