By Don Jaucian
Shake Rattle and Roll XVII (2010)
D: Zoren Legaspi (Mamanyika), Topel Lee (Isla), Jerrold Tarog (Punerarya)
S: Shaina Magdayao, Ricky Davao, Andi Eigenmann, Rayver Cruz, John Lapuz, Carla Abellana, Sid Lucero
The Philippines is a country steeped in rich mythology. We have anitos, aswangs and dwendes, all of which are sadly turned into cliche when they are depicted in horror films, much more when they are tossed in as secondary factors to highlight the supposed talent of budding stars and youngsters.
For its past few incarnations, Shake, Rattle and Roll has turned into a quagmire of low-quality horror stories that serve as vehicles for the stars of Regal Films. But we’ve been getting a few signs of life, particularly with Richard Somes’s Ang Lihim ng San Joaquin in Shake, Rattle and Roll 2k5. And for the 2010 installment, we have Jerrold Tarog’s Punerarya.
The episodes that precede Punerarya represent the tired tripe that have been present in the series. Zoren Legazpi directs the first segment, Mamanyika, where a feral doll wreaks havoc in a broken family just so she could play her mother role and get her revenge. Much of the plot doesn’t make sense, but it gives some pretty surprising scares, particularly with the doll’s scary-as-shit face. It could have actually worked, but the doll actually talks, also in an attempt to humanize her plight: “Selosa ako! Bakit mo ako pinalitan!" Then she proceeds to murder the other dolls owned by the little girl she has set her eye on.
Next is Topel Lee’s Isla. Lee has been a director of the series since 2006. Isla, however, has obvious Guillermo del Toro influences, melding the creature from Pan’s Labyrinth, the ents in The Lord of the Rings, and the Na’vi in Avatar to create a new “engkanto.” Engkantos have been notorious for their penchant for kidnapping (see T2). Lee’s segment isn’t particularly engaging, unfortunately, and it’s marred by the clunky visual effects.
Then we come to Tarog’s segment. For a forty-minute episode, it packs a mean punch. It smartly uses its scant time frame and delivers what probably are some of the most unforgettable scenes in a Filipino horror movie. Heads get based on a tiled floor, a little girl is slammed on a concrete slab with protruding stakes, and Sid Lucero’s head is chopped off with a rusty cleaver.
Punerarya tells the tale of Diane (Carla Abellana), who is hired by Carlo (Lucero) to teach his children. Father and kids happen to live in a funeral home. We get a The Others-esque vibe here: the kids and pretty much everyone else in the house cannot be exposed to daylight and strong lights. Plus, the creepy caretaker (Odette Khan! Odette Fucking Khan in all her creepy glory!) tours Diane around the funeral home and tells her where she should not set her foot in. Of course, Diane defies these rules, especially when things get suspicious.
Abellana’s Diane, however, isn’t your typical helpless horror chick. When shit hits the fan, she takes charge and holds back the waterworks (well, she does cry but she isn’t hysterical) to actually find her way out. Abellana surprisingly gives a strong performance. She isn’t afraid of taking on these aswangs and she willingly throws herself into harm’s way (but we know she has a plan; she’s smart after all).
Watching Punerarya will get your hopes up for the series. It’s a perfect end to an otherwise dreary muck, perhaps serving as a preview of the better episodes to come. Browsing the Wikipedia page of the film series, though, is enough to get your hair raising. Whether the future installments (until 2015!) are true or not (yes, the reek of bogusness as if it’s a work of a bored guy who doesn’t have anything better to do), we’re sure to flock to the theaters when a new film comes out. After all, we all like some hilariously entertaining scares come Holiday season.