Aurora is an ominous thriller that manages to engage viewers with its strong visuals.
This 2018 Metro Manila Film Festival entry is almost a triumph, if not for its flaws in storytelling that made it like a chore to watch towards the end.
In this MMFF 2018 entry, Anne Curtis is cast as Leana, a young woman who owns a small inn beside a gloomy beach.
Visible from the shoreline is a passenger ship, named Aurora, that crashed onto sharp rocks weeks ago. Many aboard the ship were killed in this accident, and most of their bodies have not yet been recovered. Leana hopes to recover these bodies, not only for her peace of mind but also because a cash reward is waiting for her for every corpse that she finds ashore.
Before long, Leana starts seeing apparitions of the dead around her inn.
When Rita (Phoebe Villamor), Leana’s sister, begins to act strangely, Leana has to fight to solve the mysteries of the ship before she sinks with it. Rita says the dead are coming; can Leana fight back?
Aurora’s biggest strength is its excellent cinematography and production design. The movie is able to give a menacing vibe just by its looks alone. Its first few minutes, where the camera rises from underwater and slowly zooms onto the beach, can already give viewers the chills.
Anne's performance as the lead actress is impressive. She disappears into the role of a quiet and repentant young woman. This is Anne’s third film in a row where she gives a remarkable acting performance, after playing Sid and Aya’s manic pixie dream girl, and portraying BuyBust’s brilliant action hero.
Anne's exceptional onscreen work makes the viewer continue watching even in the movie’s roughest parts.
Aurora shines in visuals and acting, and yet it sinks due its weak storytelling.
There’s too much repetitiveness. Information that has already been shown in a previous scene gets shown again minutes later. It is maddeningly tedious, almost like listening to an angry partner who would hammer you with the same sin over and over again.
Director Yam Laranas could have reduced this tedium by employing tighter editing.
Two scenes where Leana and Eddie (Allan Paule) were fighting over recovered cargo could have been merged. The story of a survivor (Arnold Reyes) could have been shortened because most of it will be shown again later on with Anne Curtis. These are only two examples, and there are more that Direk Yam could have adjusted.
Despite all this, the one question that needs to be answered is this: Did Aurora manage to scare MMFF audiences? The answer is yes.
Aurora brings a good amount of fright due to its good use of visuals, and due to the strong acting of Anne Curtis and her co-actors.
Viewers who are looking for a different kind of entertainment during this holiday season should give it a chance.
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.