Of the eight entries in this year's Metro Manila Film Festival, should you reserve time to watch Shake, Rattle and Roll XII?
The answer is yes. The episode "Punerarya," helmed by indie director Jerrold Tarog, is probably the best local horror film that you would see this year. Unfortunately, it outshines the two other short films in Shake, Rattle and Roll XII.
The SRR franchise is the longest-running horror anthology film in the country. Produced by Regal Films, many of its episodes have carved their place in the Filipino psyche. Many of its monsters have also been immortalized in pop culture: the killer frigidaire, the clown that takes children, and the wedding gown jealous enough to kill.
This year, SRR has three episodes. The first is "Mamanyika," which is about a doll with murder on its mind. It is directed by Zoren Legaspi, and stars Shaina Magdayao, Ricky Davao, and newcomer Elijah Alejo.
The second episode is "Isla Engkanto," which is about a group of young men and women trapped on a mysterious island. Directed by Topel Lee, it stars Andi Eigenmann, Rayver Cruz, John Lapus, Richard Quan, Regine Angeles, Kristel Moreno, and newcomer Solo Kiggins.
The third and best episode is "Punerarya," which is about a home-school teacher savaged by aswang-like monsters. Directed by Jerrold Tarog, it stars Carla Abellana, Sid Lucero, Gaby dela Merced, Mercedes Cabral, Nash Aguas and Anna Vicente.
The element that bogs down the first two episodes are the tired story concepts. "Mamanyika" and "Isla Engkanto" do not add anything notable to the horror genre of killer dolls and dangerous islands. Both episodes also feel rushed and disjointed. Perhaps due to time constraints, characters appear in the middle of the episodes and die without any character development. Even the twists feel old.
Moreover, horror movies should be grounded on the laws of physics to be credible. This heightens the films plausibility, telling viewers that whatever is contained in the big screen could spill over to their own lives.
The doll of "Mamanyika" stopped being scary when it acted all god-like—in one continuous scene, the doll seemed to be in three places at the same time.
In "Isla Engkanto," on the other hand, viewers wonder why the all-too-powerful nemesis seems to wait a long, long time before making his deadly moves.
"Punerarya" is different. Its monsters are real. They have emotions, they die, and they have weaknesses. The myth is also believable, and the episode seems to have been taken from a whole full-length film.
In "Punerarya," we also see the actors in top form. I believe Carla Abellana, the lead star, should be nominated for Best Actress. Sid Lucero should be nominated for Best Supporting Actor. Nash Aguas or Anna Vicente should win Best Child Star.
The director of "Punerarya" is Jerrold Tarog, a musical scorer who has earned accolades both here and abroad for directing indie films. His mockumentary Confessional (2007) won Best Film in the First Features Section of 10th Osian Festival of Asian and Arab Cinema in India.
Perhaps Regal Films should give indie directors the chance to direct more SRR episodes, to ensure the series's greater success.