by Don Jaucian
Di Ingon Nato (Not Like Us, 2011)
D: Brandon Relucio and Ivan Zaldarriaga
C: Franco Reyes, Mercedes Cabral, Rez Cortez, Donna Gimeno
The trees whisper in Di Ingon Nato (Not Like Us). Much like the howling of the wind, the film spends its time travelling, gradually lifting the idyll out of a sleepy Visayan town soon to be infested by zombies. The undead in the province is a strong enough concept to propel a film, no matter how shakily made it is. Its cast of helpless characters, a farmer and his family, the barangay captain and her daughter (who is also the town’s doctor), a priest and the barangay captain’s brave assistant, all falter into damnation. Instead of rooting for them to survive this mysterious zombie attack, we feel more inclined to watch them die one by one. It takes what feels like two hours for each of their paths to crisscross. The web gets more tangled, leading up to a convoluted finale with a rather chilling gesture for a closure.
The build-up to the actual zombie attack is glacial. We hear news of a young girl being attacked, a stranger from another town. Then we witness characters get bitten until they succumb to the curse of being undead. The origin of the illness is unknown. The albularyo proposes it is the manifestation of the wrath of the mountain spirits, while the town’s doctor Day (Donna Gimeno) looks for a rational explaination behind it all. The contrast between the two characters is the most intriguing, how a small town mixes its superstitious beliefs with the gradual introduction of science’s logic, something that is still apparent in most of the country’s barangays to this day. When the situation gets too unreal, we turn to our primal beliefs, hoping for a miraculous intervention.
But a miraculous intervention is also what one would hope for to salvage what is left of Di Ingon Nato. The film badly needs to be edited and its overbearing sound design doesn’t help much to sustain the momentum of the film. While the slow clumping of the zombies in the third act of the film leaves a nasty vision that sears into your brain, the film loses its track, choosing to opt for an almost gratuitous degree of gore to shock audiences away. The post-Romero type zombie attack works most of the time, but the clunky effects and sound design make it seem too forced.
Despite its indulgence in artsy Mallick-like shots, Di Ingon Nato can be somewhat a disappointment. It bears a distinctly Filipino worldview in the scheme of the zombie myth, but it instead trips, delivering a half-baked concept that needs more time hewing a stronger script and more likable batch of characters (it wasted an otherwise competent batch of actors). Directors Brandon Relucio and Ivan Zaldarriaga have a frightening monster in their hands. It just needs more polishing and sculpting.
A “complete version” of Di Ingon Nato is said to be screened on November 12, 2011. Check the CinemaOne Originals 2011 Facebook page for the festival schedule and other updates.