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Wednesday, 8 January 2014

Pagpag, Siyam na Buhay (2013)

Pagpag, Siyam na Buhay
[DISCLAIMER: I am a scaredy-cat, and I rarely watch horror movies. With this said, let it be known that most of what I'll say is based on very thin experience of watching horror flicks. Heehee.]

Pagpag, Siyam na Buhay is one the entries for this year's Metro Manila Film Festival. It's the only horror entry, and I'm quite glad that they offered us something that can terrify the lights out of our lives.

Leni (Kathryn Bernardo) runs a mortuary with her uncle (Janus del Prado). One day, they're tasked to organize the funeral for Roman (Paulo Avelino), who has a shady past involving satanism and death. During the funeral, Leni comes across Cedric (Daniel Padilla) and his friends who had an accident near the house of Roman and his wife. One by one, Leni and the rest fail to follow superstitions and take a step closer to their own graves.

The movie revolves a well-known superstition or pamahiin. Pagpag is the term used to mean going someplace else before heading home after visiting a funeral. It's said that the soul of the departed can follow you home if you won't do the said pamahiin. But it's not the only pamahiin tackled in the movie. With so many superstitions there is, there's enough for each character to break one and to be cursed.

I'm not sure if it's because I'm so easily scared, but I spent more than half of the movie hiding behind my hands. The scare tactics used in the movie are top-notch. It definitely doesn't look cheap anyway. They employ old school methods to derive tension and suspense throughout the movie. There certainly isn't anything new here. But I guess the thought of working and living above a funeral parlor can always give the much needed goosebumps.

Clarence Delgado as Mac-Mac the cutest
It's curious how the entire movie is incredibly well-lit, with some amazing cinematography in between scenes. The tone of the entire movie is actually a bit upbeat, but it still delivers the necessary scare. There's comic relief delivered expertly by Janus Del Prado in between jumpy scenes, but it maintains the tension throughout the movie. It's never anti-climatic.

Speaking of Janus, he's a hidden gem in the Philippine cinematic landscape. He's one of my favorite actors despite always playing small roles, but making them standout even in dreary scenes. I often wonder if he writes his own lines, because it seems to natural to him. Or maybe he's just a great actor that he can own any material given to him. Another gem in this movie is Clarence Delgado who plays Mac-mac, Leni's younger brother. I usually see him in comedic roles but in this one, he makes me believe that he's the quiet, ominous little brother. All his scenes are precious, okay.

But I think the selling point of this movie is how it combines horror with the hottest love team in the country right now. Horror flicks are always a blockbuster during MMFF, and it smartly uses the Kathniel tandem to gather more viewers. They may be lacking in acting prowess, but they definitely attracted more attention to the film than lesser known stars could. It's marketing, and we can do nothing about it. (Though I must say I'm a closet Kathniel fan, so.)

What makes Pagpag a terrifying watch is how it takes ordinary situations and make it horrifying. It also focuses on Filipino superstitions (there are tons!) so it's something that the audience can relate to. We're not given monsters nor does it really have to take place in a far-flung area. Funerals can take place anywhere, and any viewer has attended one. It's nowhere perfect, but it leaves a lasting fear to someone who failed to follow a superstition and also doomed to be haunted by Roman.

1 comment:

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