Sukob (Chito Roño, 2006)
English Title: The Wedding Curse
Philippine cinema belatedly joined the Asian horror bandwagon with the successful release of Chito Roño's supernatural horror Feng Shui (2004), about a young mother who by chance, discovers a magical ba gua that brings good fortune to her family in exchange for death of those unfortunate enough to peek into the mirror in the middle of the mysterious home decor. With the boxoffice returns of the film, which is a surprise for a Philippine film industry that is reportedly dying due to the invasion of popcorn entertainment from Hollywood, other film studios followed suit with films with trite storylines, scary ghosts, and a handful of shock moments. Of course, there are exceptional films that came out of the bandwagon. There is Erik Matti's Pa-Siyam (2004), a tale of a vengeful mother who is haunting her children before the traditional nine days of mourning ends, and Yam Laranas' Sigaw (The Echo, 2004), about a man who unfortunately shares his apartment floor with a mysterious couple who spends restless nights fighting. Asian counterparts are slowly getting tired of the horror craze, but the Philippines seems to enjoy the genre so much that big film outfits aren't thinking twice in shelling out money to fund these films.
Chito Roño's Sukob (The Wedding Curse) is about Sandy (Kris Aquino) who is preparing to get married to Dale (Wendell Ramos), her boyfriend for two years. During their wedding, Sandy starts seeing a young girl, blackened and rotten, wearing a wedding gown. Every time Sandy sees the horrible wraith, her friends get killed and their corpses replaced by one of the traditional symbols and instruments of the wedding ceremony. Sandy and Dale begin an investigation to find out why their wedding is cursed, when they've followed each and every precaution that will prevent misfortune in the couple's married life. While Sandy's wedding is happening, visions of another married couple are shown. This time it is Diana (Claudine Baretto), recently married, who is suffering from the same visions and misfortunes. Roño is playing a trick here, deceiving the audience as to how Diana's storyline is connected to Sandy's. Roño makes it seem that Diana's storyline is a flashback: a memory that is triggered so that the curse can be explained and a solution, discovered. Later on, we learn that the whole thing is merely a clever deception so that Roño can develop a rather ingenious theme in the film.
It is never explained why the ghost, the visual representation of the curse is a little girl. The image is frankly, quite haunting. Roño's scaring style becomes repetitive and predictable; he seems to be using each and every trick that has been done before. In fact, somewhere in the middle of the film, Roño reiterates Ringu gag where the ghost somewhat transports itself from the window of a neighboring haunted house to a resort cottage far away, done in a similar, if not exactly the same, technique that was utilized by Nakata. It will inevitably come to a point wherein every attempt to shock becomes utterly fruitless.
To be fair, Sukob is technically sound. The cinematography enunciates the film's atmosphere and the musical score is unobtrusive. Kris Aquino reprises her scared, worried, terrified, mortified facial expressions that gave her undeserved positive critical assessments for her performance in Feng Shui. Unfortunately, her act gets tiring. Thus, it is quite fortunate that the other half of the story focuses on Claudine Baretto, a much more formidable actress than Aquino. The supporting castmembers are much more impressive. Ronaldo Valdez plays Aquino's father and provides the picture with a slight touch of humor that is flawlessly drawn by Valdez without being too out-of-place.
Roño bases his tale, co-written with Chris Martinez, a wonderful writer who penned Bridal Shower (2004) and Bikini Open (2005), two exquisite comedies directed by Jeffrey Jeturian, on old wives' tales of misfortunes dawning upon couples who wed within a year after the death of a loved one, or the wedding of a sibling. It's an ingenious concept, one that allows Roño to examine the hypocrisies of the wedding ceremony, using Martinez's script that warns against infidelity. It is this irony that makes the film worthwhile despite its unoriginal trappings. Having said that, is is still hoped that Roño doesn't stay rooted into making horror films.