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Seth (Vilma Santos) and a group of people are talked into visiting a mysterious healer due to all of them having family members with serious ailments/illnesses seemingly having no hope to be cured in the near future. However, the old woman renowned by locals as the miraculous healer suddenly tells them she refuses to perform any more "healings" soon after their arrival. All their ailing relatives are cured completely once Seth and the others finally convince the healer otherwise, but they did not know the healer's warning about having to repay in equal kind everything which has been taken would manifest in terrifying ways. Written by
The Healing has all the earmarks of a fairly typical Filipino horror movie. It takes some element of our local folklore (in this case, faith healers) and brings it to horrific ends. But the movie turns out to be much more than that. Though it stalls the action a little too much, the film is still undeniably fun. It cleverly works in a bit of humor within all the grisly action, and adds a plethora of stylistic touches to make everything feel just a little bit different.
Seth (Vilma Santos) takes her stroke-stricken father (Robert Arevalo) to see a faith healer. The next day, he miraculously recovers from his ailment. Amazed by the recovery, Seth's neighbors all implore her to take them to the healer. Her son from an annulled marriage Jed (Martin del Rosario) also asks her to help him take his stepsister Cookie (Kim Chiu) to be healed. When they arrive, the healer refuses to see them due to her own sickness. But they all insist, and the healer eventually relents. Everybody soon recovers from his or her afflictions, but it turns out that the healing comes at a price. Seth's entire community is thrown into chaos, and she has to figure out what went wrong.
The movie suffers from a very common horror movie complaint. The characters are entirely too passive about serious problems. The characters figure out the connection between violent events and the healing quickly enough, but it takes them forever to do anything about it. Movies tend to need characters to be active, trying to solve their problems with whatever resources are available to them. Having said that, the movie does a great job of surrounding the central conflict with interesting little details. There's a funny, subversive edge to the way the community is written, and a genuinely crushing dilemma complicating the eventual solution.
The film isn't afraid to get a little goofy, offsetting the violence and darkness with tinges of humor. What could've been generic horror movie stuff is enlivened by a slight satirical bent that takes to task the very concept of healing. And the film thrives on its relationships, building real stakes out of few well-placed lines of duologue. The production looks quite accomplished, and the film makes room for quite a few stylistic touches. Most noticeably, the film marks its movements by having the characters dress in the same color. It's not entirely clear what the point of it is, but it does make the film more visually interesting.
Vilma Santos is really quite exceptional in her more mature roles. Despite being who she is, she still somehow manages to disappear into the role, latching on to little bits of character that tear away the veneer of glamor and celebrity. She is an every woman in this role, struggling to understand a dilemma that's far beyond her capacity. A strong ensemble cast backs her up. Robert Arevalo plays her father with an endearing lack of vanity. Allen Paule shines while playing the constant skeptic. Janice De Belen proves yet again to be one of the finest players in the industry today. The cast as a whole is able to make the more clever bits of script really work, and that's a fine achievement.
The Healing could a little tighter. The characters spend too much time not doing anything about their predicament, which makes it feel like they're just courting danger. But if one can overlook that little wrinkle, the movie is just a whole lot of fun. It has an inspired sense of self, a personality beyond what we've come to expect in every horror feature. I would note that people ought to seek out the R18 version of the picture, which is the more complete vision of the film. A film that strives to be so unique ought to be given that consideration.
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