Txt (Mike Tuviera, 2006)
It's quite unfortunate that the only Filipino films that will ever make money from the local box-office are teenybopper romantic fluffs, and horror films stylized after the J-horror boom. Mike Tuviera's Txt manages to combine the two factors together by casting real-time lovers Angel Locsin and Oyo Sotto in the same movie --- attracting both fans of the horror genre and the indefatigable hordes of love team adorers. The main come-on established by big studio Regal Entertainment, at least to those who do not get excited over celebrity romances and eat up every piece of horror film that gets released, is the fact that the director is the only Filipino graduate of a prestigious film school located in California. Fine, fine, I'm convinced so I slugged it out along with the tens and hundreds of other moviegoers; sat there alone in the dark moviehouse awaiting something revolutionary out of the so-called film school graduate. The movie ended, and I left the cineplex disappointed.
The plot is similar to Takashi Miike's One Missed Call (2003), only this time the haunting is not caused by familial abandonment but by a psychotic lover who insists on his romantic endeavors beyond the grave. Roman (Sotto) died during a car accident which was supposedly caused by his girlfriend Joyce (Locsin) since she was the one driving the vehicle. Joyce gets picture and SMS messages from Roman even though Roman's phone was destroyed during the accident. Along with Alex (Dennis Trillo), Joyce tries to find out the cause for the haunting of Roman, who now kills those who try to separate him and Joyce by calling the cellular phones of his victims at the same time of his death.
Txt is not bad at all. It's actually better than most of the othe Filipino horror films that got released this year. It's not as good as Erik Matti's Pa-Siyam (2004) or Yam Laranas' Sigaw (The Echo, 2004). It edges out Chito Rono's Sukob (The Wedding Curse, 2006), mainly because it doesn't have Kris Aquino to distract you from the chills and the scares. Yet, with all the hoopla surrounding the first-time director, there's really nothing new he offered with this film. I did like the fact that there is restraint in using CGI effects. Tuviera manages to do away with the cartoonish sub par computer graphics to enhance his scare tactics. Instead, he manages to control the lighting, the camera movements, the editing to churn out whatever he had in mind. The only downside to Tuviera's technical ability is his inability to restrain scorer Jessie Lucas who comes up with background music (or noise) that pulls away whatever intrinsic horror factor from the scenes by blowing your eardrums out with industrial music (the score would've been effective if Txt was a shocking gore-fest, but it's not).
Txt is well-acted enough. Sotto and Locsin manage to make their incredulous relationship believable (I couldn't come up with an excuse to rationalize why good-girl Joyce managed to fall in love with occultist Roman, despite his wealth). Julia Clarete, who plays Joyce's best pal and co-worker, is a joy to watch. She's one of those few horror film victims who is actually believably strong-willed and independent, even in the face of death. I thought the film would've fared well if Clarete's character was the lead instead of Joyce, who is far too ill-conceived and fickle-minded to provide an interesting center to this horror film.
Tuviera borrows a lot from other horror films. He practically stole a scene from Kiyoshi Kurosawa's Kairo (2001). As mentioned above, the plot is closely similar to Miike's One Missed Call. My main gripe about the film is that there's not much variance in Tuviera's scaring technique. It's all well-directed and shot but if each and every single death scene is the same, with only bits of modification, the result is a tiring and virtually repetitive horror feature.
The biggest turn-off however is the rather stupidly contrived ending. I'm not the type of person who needs happy endings to convince me that a film is good. I am all for depressing endings, shockers, plot twists, and whatnot. What I don't like are endings that signify a white flag of surrender, especially if it's the fault of the writers why the ending is such, since they piled contrivances upon contrivances that the only way out, the only logical path to end the film, is to risk a surprising turn-of-events. Txt's ending is not really surprising, although it is indeed a risk. The risk didn't pay off well, as I was more bewildered and amused than shocked and scared.