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2 out of 4 people found the following review useful:

Scare Tactics

Author: charliekoon from Philippines
30 January 2009

When a writer gradually tries a path in film directing, more so directing his own writing, I am certain that the director will deliver a well-written story over anything else. Jun Lana is nonetheless an acclaimed writer. I am not doubtful that his story has a good plot. There are inconceivable twists coalesced within the story. It is skillfully crafted with less abrupt contrivances. Mag-ingat ka sa... Kulam is an efficiently written horror film with a dash of dramatic overtones. This fine material fits well for a versatile actress like Judy Ann Santos. Despite the film's adequacy in writing, good production value and favorable performances from Judy Ann Santos and Dennis Trillo; the film's execution is unpromising. The film might be a success to most of the people who have seen it. On my part, I did not perceive any visionary schemes for it to appear exceptional.

Mira (Judy Ann Santos) remarkably survives a car accident. But she suffers the loss of memory. Strange things start to happen at their house. Even her husband Paul (Dennis Trillo) seems unwary with Mira's intuition that something eerie is going on. He believes that it is a result of the traumatic accident. It is also revealed that Mira is not close with her blind daughter Sophie (Sharlene San Pedro). She makes an effort to be close to her daughter but she is constantly distracted with the mysterious things recurring upon her. One day, she was visited by her business partner Dave (TJ Trinidad). Dave admitted that they had an affair in the past. He confessed a secret only the two of them knew. With his assertion to uncover Mira's past, she discovers more than she must not be aware of her true being.

Kulam is a result of malevolent incantations by witches and sorcerers alike. Its fusion in Philippine Culture is undoubtedly good material for film exploration, dissection and even exploitation. However, Mag-ingat ka sa... Kulam only scratches the surface of this fascinating world of witchcraft and sorcery. It resorted to familiar chants in gibberish dialect, maladroit representations of warlocks, and unflattering undertones of native myths, customs and rituals. Even the depiction of the evil spirit is not justified. I am certain that even in the point of view of a writer and director; he must have achieved a vision that accurately illustrates the evil spirit. It certainly makes an effort to use prosthetics so it's deliberated that the spirit must look horrible, but why? Are there clues for us audience to understand even on the basic level why on earth she appears like that? She looks like a leper, or did she acquire any skin disease of some sort? Or is it just for the sake of making a horror scenario creepier? An obvious prognosis for this delineation will entirely make an audience jump from their seats. Okay, for a horror film to sell, the wicked spirit has to be frightening. Evil usually equals scary ugly. It's an interesting point though. Mag-ingat ka sa... Kulam makes the mistake of jejune characterization, especially for the horror persona they have shown. But for a writer-director, the sin is twofold.

Another thing, there are spooky circumstances in the film that is terrifying but has not hinted any just rationalization. A tuft of hair in blood is found in the cabinet. Is a person's head bumped on that sturdy piece of furniture? The water in the bathtub boils and the evil spirit emerged. Even her hair is falling apart, implying that the spirit had cancer. It is spine-chilling but it has no purpose. It leaves empty scares. Even the suppose to be promising story in its essential level is made to clutter with the film's strive to bring about horror and a disturbing atmosphere without giving thoughts of its intention. Witchcraft is so vague and films have no purpose to conceal a story's progression. The film could be indicted of contriving the plot if found not adequate in its motivation of the characters.

Santos still has the imperative charisma an actress must possess. It definitely shows in the jam-packed theatre, despite the fact that the ticket rates are costly (roughly two hundred bucks). She did very well in her portrayal even though some parts were inexcusably dubbed (Regal do it in their films on purpose). Trillo as her leading man is quite a relief and a surprise. They make a good pairing and I would love to see them again in future films, possibly in a drama feature. I have said it in the past that I am not a TV guy, but I am dumbfounded with Neil's (Mart Escudero) role in the film. Is he the male evil spirit? Or is he the newest heartthrob sensation in showbiz? And yeah, I have been acquainted with Kris Bernal in her 'tomboy' role in Loving You. She might have done a delightful stint in that film so she had a role in this movie even though her character is uncalled for.

Mag-ingat ka sa... Kulam has been backed-up by a good production company that is why their output is nearly well-made technically. The film's story is cleverly made on the very basic level. Its crucial element in fusing witchcraft rituals is delightful but it is clear that it only dwells on an atmosphere we are accustomed and supposed to believe in. Lana's recent work has relied on sound cues to mangle our breath with scary enchantments. The story's twists are quite fine; praising it exclusively on its own is well deserved by Lana. But I will not buy the evil spirit inspiration because it is merely a fixation for horrible things to look more horrible. The film also lacks good execution in elevating horror without being overshadowed by emotional cues from its musical scoring. Its subject matter on its own is creepy and only a clear vision is the tool to make this material work in a film's standpoint.

Rating: 2.5/5

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