Star Cinema's horror film record is a story of hits and misses. ABS-CBN's film arm has, of course, produced brilliant and unforgettable movies in this genre, from the remake of the classic Patayin sa Sindak si Barbara, to the box-office success Feng Shui and the unjustly underrated Wag Kang Lilingon (co-produced with Viva Films). There were of course, a few disappointments like Villa Estrella, which oddly enough, bears the name that is the Spanish word for "star."
With Cinco, Star Cinema's latest foray into the relatively lucrative genre, we can again observe if the film is going to sink or swim. The good news is, there are signs pointing to the latter. For starters, moviegoers can look forward to this for different reasons. Fans can be happy with the army of stars involved in this spectacle. Supporters of the local movie industry can get excited about the new generation of directors tasked to helm the project. Followers of the genre can have their imagination piqued by the film's use of five episodes instead of the trilogy that seems to be the norm.
That's right: five episodes, one movie in its regular running time. Will the storylines suffer? Or will it hasten the pace leaving no time for things to be "dragging" --the common word used by regular movie fans like us when a certain movie tends to bore us. So like the movie, let's start our rapid fire, straight to the point review of each episode.
BRASO. The first one in the series of body-part named episodes is Director Frasco Mortiz' "Braso." Starring AJ Perez, Sam Concepcion and Robi Domingo as fraternity neophytes challenged to stay in a morgue as part of their initiation rites, this episode sadly is a weak opening for the film. Bordering on silliness and slapstick (maybe because of its intentional humorous tone), "Braso" relies on music and sound effects for the scares. Probably the highlight of this episode is a crotch-grabbing scene, which would probably make male viewers looking away
It does not have much story to tell, leaving you with just the kind of fright you get when you enter a horror house--just de gulat (Also, the props are just as fake as those in horror houses). What this episode does good, however, is carefully establishing the mood of the viewers, preparing and helping them appreciate the next four episodes.
PAA. The second episode "Paa" by Director Enrico Santos follows suit and what a difference it is from the first. Simply viewing it can make you imagine the difficulty of filming this episode. The locations and the situations will make you feel sorry and uneasy for Jodi Sta. Maria, the mother who is being haunted by a vengeful ghost. With a theme and subject that can be stretched out to a full-length film, "Paa" is cleverly edited to tell the story in an exceptional manner, time constraints notwithstanding.
MATA. This third episode "Mata" by Director Ato Bautista may either be a little too highbrow or slightly too vague in its telling of a story that is open for several different interpretations. In this episode, Maja Salvador is the girlfriend of an ill-tempered guy (Rayver Cruz) who at first refused to confess her boyfriend's crime to the police, making her relive (or dream, it wasn't really clear) the killing scenario over and over again. Of all the episodes, "Mata" is the one that needs longer time in order to be more effective. A longer running time could have made the element of the déjà-vu like time confusion and the different consequences of different actions (a la The Butterfly Effect) more compelling.
MUKHA. Director Nick Olanka's "Mukha" also stands out in the quintuplet as the episode that presents a mean character being given the fright of her life. You can either feel sympathy for the character or you can enjoy her get what she deserves. Mariel Rodriguez is a ruthless, screaming advertising boss who fires the janitor for, of all things, a bad photocopy job. This factor will latter be explained by the frightening use of the copying machine and freaky photocopies of the janitor's face in the part where Mariel's character gets herself screaming and running scared out of her wits. The episode superbly mixes a good story, defined characters, a new scare device, and an interesting twist to give the viewers the feeling that the story, despite the limited time, has been told efficiently and completely.
PUSO. The movie's finale, director Cathy Garcia Molina's "Puso," is the most Pinoy horror-influenced among all Cinco's episodes, using devices that are part of the Filipino horror culture.
With shades of Shake, Rattle & Roll, "Puso" combines Pinoy elements like the perya (local carnival) and gayuma (love potion) that led to a humor-laden zombie chase. Pokwang is a horror house superstar (because of her non-traditional look that makes her scary even without costume) who's madly in love with the perya hunk played by Zanjoe Marrudo. Her sorry obsession with the guy earned her ninang's pity so she concocted a love potion which Pokwang's character overused. A sudden twist of events led to the deadly situation that they did not expect.
Puso's director alone sets the standard high for this chapter, and she sure manages to exhibit her skill of mixing comedy harmoniously with any other genre. It ends the film in a light state because of this effective humor and also, reveals the "part" that leads us back to the first episode.
ACTING STANDOUTS. With all these happening in the film, it will be easy for an actor to get buried in a mountain of other performers and ideas. Standouts are of course, Jodi Sta. Maria (who must be applauded not only for her superb acting but also the physical demands of her role), and surprisingly, even with their small roles, Ketchup Eusebio (of Mukha) and Empoy (of Puso). Mariel Rodriguez, whose frightened screams somewhat reminds us of Kris Aquino's in Feng Shui and Sukob, also effectively acts as the tormented villainess, and Pokwang, of course, is a reliable comedienne who delivers and owns her "ugly" role.
Cinco has its highlights and its lowlights, and generally, it just stays in the middle--not the best that came from Star Cinema. The different points of view used per episode is evident, and it is a good thing especially for a collection of stories with varied situations and different tones. Story-wise, the claimed intertwining of the five stories is not strongly supported, as this particular element (revealed in the 5th episode) can be taken away and the movie will still work.
For those who will watch the movie just for bonding with friends or to have a good time, you will be happy to know that you will have your needs met after the movie. But for horror fanatics who could have been given by the movie's promo plugs that is it a serious horror masterpiece revolving around a very serious subject of death and its repercussions, do not expect much.
Like many horror movies in the country's filmography, Cinco conforms by being as family-oriented as possible, using religion as resolution, and having the need to always have a "moral of the story." Fright and fear are two different things. And Cinco offers the former.
Cinco is currently being screened in cinemas nationwide. It is graded "B" by the Cinema Evaluation Board and rated PG-13 by the Movie and Television Review and Classification Board.