The horror omnibus "Shake, Rattle and Roll" series enters its 10th installment with yet another trilogy involving vengeful "aswangs", a sadistic nun from the grave, and an "engkanto" slayer out to save her husband from the hands of a jealous mythological creature. This being the cash cow of Regal Films in recent Metro Manila Film Festivals (MMFF) recent editions, especially last year's, have suffered from the studio's pandering to suit the lowest common denominator of the audience, thereby compromising whatever artistic merits each entry has and essentially removing the campy horror quality the series has built itself upon during its heyday in the early 90s. Simply put, "Shake Rattle and Roll" stopped being scary.
Thankfully, "Shake, Rattle and Roll X" ups the ante especially with Topel Lee's "Class Picture". The whole article doesn't necessarily translate to a benchmark in the series, much less to Philippine horror, but it's honestly the first local film in heaven knows how long that IS actually scary.
First stop: "Emergency." Mike Tuviera's first of two films here is set in a hospital where it's business as usual. Sarah (Roxanne Guinoo) is tending to her patients while her nurse ex-flame Jay (JC De Vera) is unknowingly transporting an injured "aswang" (Mylene Dizon) to the hospital. The "aswang" wakes up only to find her unborn baby dead and blames humanity for their troubles. Together with her husband (Wendell Ramos) and a slew of other "aswangs," the murderous creatures start a vendetta with all the people in the hospital.
The film opens well and genuinely does have a relatively neat concept at its core, with "aswangs" substituting for zombies in a George Romero-like setting where a band of characters must hole up inside a building as they fend off their attackers from outside. But just as the events unspool, "Emergency" becomes less scary and more laughable what with cheap effects, hokey dialog, bad acting and one-dimensional characters that are hard to care for.
The second entry, Lee's "Class Picture" tells the story of a group of students who stay in their school campus overnight as they prepare for their approaching exhibit before they graduate. But when their friend Nicole (Niña Jose) mysteriously disappears, Joy (Kim Chiu) thinks this has something to do with an old picture of a nun (Jean Garcia) she stumbled upon earlier. With time winding down, she must figure out the mystery involving the nun and some missing students from their school 110 years ago before she also suffers the fate of her unlucky classmate.
Lee effectively utilizes the school backdrop to give an unsettling atmosphere, complete with flashbacks that are at the least visually authentic, without letting one to get comfortable with where they expect the jolts to jump out. Chiu, with her expressive eyes and innocent looks, manages to let the viewer in with her and her friend's plight and she wouldn't feel out of place with other Asian horror films, albeit in a Spanish colonial setting.
Rounding up is "Nieves", also by Tuviera. More fantasy than horror, the episode is the tale of Nieves (Marian Rivera), a young woman who has made a career of battling with spirits ("engkantos") while protecting her husband Adonis (Pekto) from those who dare take him from her. She loses her husband to them, nonetheless, forcing her to hang her "bakya" and retire, until new neighbors Kaysee (Jennica Garcia) and Junie (Buboy Villar) convince her to help them in solving a new mystery in town.
Tuviera proves money doesn't buy everything by getting around with cheap effects with inspired performances and a few amusing dialogues. "Nieves" joyfully delves into the dark corners of things that go bump in the night, and it's remarkably cheery as it pokes fun at Philippine mythology as it melds it with the local pop culture. Rivera seems to play her real-life persona here but it proves that reel is different from real because she comes off as ingratiating. "Nieves" though sputters towards the end in a forgettable climactic clash, but it's better to have worked partially than to have never worked at all.
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