The rejuvenated "Shake, Rattle, and Roll" series, which is now on its ninth installment, is like a package tour where you enjoy certain parts but have to trudge through those that don't. As an entire package "Shake, Rattle, and Roll 9" works if you have a taste for mindless entertainment and a couple of hours to kill.
The film starts rather weak with "Christmas Tree," a story of a family who decides to go to their grandmother's (Boots Anson-Roa) house for Christmas. The children have recently lost their father (Tonton Gutierrez) and specially affected is the son Stephen (Nash Aguas) who was in the car with his dad during the accident. But all is not well with the house, as the newly-brought Christmas tree comes to life during the evening, and it's certainly not to spread some Christmas love.
Directed by first-time director Paul Daza, this episode is pretty badly in search of an atmosphere. In some parts it wants to go into the way of drama (complete with father and son playing baseball), and in some parts it's unabashedly tongue-in-cheek. The pacing staggers from one set-up to another, and any attempt to humanize the characters are hampered by the fact that those have, at the most, an arbitrary bearing on the plot's structure, if at all.
Aguas, who was impressive in last year's "Yaya" segment of "Shake, Rattle, and Roll 8" fails to carry the drowning weight of this episode all by his lonesome. The supporting cast comprised of Anson-Roa, John Prats, John Lapus, Gina Alajar, and Lovi Poe merely sleepwalk through the duration of the episode. Even the Christmas tree, initially creepy yet riveting, becomes silly when the filmmakers decide that a bad CGI/costume would pass of as scary.
Then comes Mike Tuviera's episode, "Bangungot," wherein Marionne (Roxane Guinoo) is a young lovelorn woman whose man of her dreams, Jerome (Dennis Trillo), is set to marry another woman, Lauren (Pauleen Luna). Desperate for his affections, Marionne resorts to a seemingly nonsensical spell told to her by some high school students about how a chant can make her and her ideal man meet in a dream. The spell comes true as Marionne and Jerome are together in a peripheral dream, but now they are pursued by a mysterious figure in a red cloak, who is out to kill them.
Here, Tuviera returns to his style reminiscent of Asian horror films (which he all but abandoned in last year's "LRT" segment of, yes, "Shake, Rattle, and Roll 8"), and just as with some Asian horror films, "Bangungot" is unintentionally ludicruous, occasionally plodding (even with an abbreviated running time), confusing, and excessively self-aware of the genre it treads on. Tuviera's sledgehammer direction is cranked up at some points that mauls the viewer who expects some sort of subtlety and nuance and the scares merely pile on top of each other and never really gaining momentum. And when you thought it's over, then come the Big Twist, which raises more questions than it answers.
Still, "Bangungot" is still enjoyable for the fact that it has its moments, and that Guinoo, despite looking a little young for her role, manages to provide a sense of bitter longing to her demure character that makes her more sympathetic. Her character evokes images of female protagonists from some Korean horror films, of which I'm just a sucker for.
Capping the film is current Filipino horror It-Boy Topel Lee, with "Engkanto." A group of young band members (Melissa Ricks, Mart Escudero, Jewel Mische, and Felix Roco), with an assistant (Matt Evans) and their manager (Jojo Alejar), are on their way to a gig when they get lost on the road in a desolate province. After driving for hours, their transportation runs out of fuel and the group is forced to walk to find some sort of civilization. Eventually they stumble upon an abandoned resort where they decide to camp out for a while, but as night falls, a beautiful woman (Katrina Halili) appears and she has no intentions of helping the group get out.
Its tongue is planted in its cheek but by failing to present a gleefully fun camp, Lee's episode fails to keep the top spot among the three episodes. "Engkanto" is inferior to last year's "Yaya" episode (also by Lee) in terms of atmosphere and character build-up, although Lee shows he knows enough of the material well to employ a somewhat cheekiness to the proceedings. The production design gives a hint of uneasiness and the location lends an aura of mystery.
And despite having an uneven performance from the cast throughout, Halili lives up to her antagonist role. She doesn't attain the creepiness or the nuance in acting as, say, Iza Calzado, but she's definitely alluring, which may be the filmmaker's point. Or maybe not.
"Shake, Rattle, and Roll 9" is, as usual, a mishmash of works that produce mixed results. It's that kind of movie you're not rushing to see on screen but nonetheless may make you glued once you catch it on cable while channel-surfing. If only each part were consistently good, it may have fared better. Still, for the undemanding viewer, this package tour might well worth be considering.
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