Matakot Ka Sa Karma (Jose Javier Reyes, 2006)
English Title: Be Afraid of Karma
Matakot Ka Sa Karma (Be Afraid of Karma) is writer-director Jose Javier Reyes' fourth consecutive Metro Manila Film Festival horror offering. He copies the Shake, Rattle and Roll format (he directed an episode Anino (Shadow) for Shake, Rattle and Roll V (1994) back in the early 90's) and presents three ghost stories in a single film. The concept that drives the three stories together is not new material: Three women would chance upon a piece of antique furniture that has a tragic past; such past would resurface in the present by the ghosts that would start haunting and wreaking havoc in the women's homes. Cursed haunted objects have always been a bountiful device for horror filmmakers (Ishmael Bernal turns the trusty ice box into a sex-crazed and murderous monster in Fridyider (Frigidaire), Rico Maria Ilarde puts a nightmarish curse upon the innocent aquarium in his own Shake, Rattle and Roll 2k5 epiosde Aquarium). Reyes opts to connect the antique pieces by giving them a singular origin: an antique shop (this vaguely reminded me of an American television series entitled Friday the 13th wherein a shop would sell cursed items to its patrons) that specializes in original pieces sourced from different parts of the country.
The first tale concerns an antique bed that lands in the home of a mother (Gretchen Baretto) who singly takes care of his son; the antique bed has brought to the house the spirit of a disgruntled mother. The second portion concerns a closet that lands in the home of a young couple (Rica Paralejo and Derek Ramsey); it turns out that the closet was formerly used to hide a deformed youth. Lastly, a rustic dresser becomes a gift by persistent suitor (Rafael Rossel) to her object of affection (Angelica Panganiban). It turns out that the dresser contains a necklace that becomes the device for a Jack-the-Ripper-type wraith to know his next victims.
Matakot Ka Sa Karma's failure can largely be faulted to the unimaginative writing ability and the craftsmanlike directorial advances of Reyes. You can observe that the cinematography is actually quite good; the visuals provide a discomforting polish to the incompetent tales of upper class horror. The production design is also quite nice (the antique pieces are very beautiful and rustic (to the point that you can really imagine respective stories behind them)). Unconvincing and criminally grating is Jesse Lucas' looping musical score --- which at first was eerie and haunting but upon the umpteenth loop became unbearable and overused.
Three tales. Three repetitive tales that have no bearing whatsoever. It becomes very predictable that each and every tale will end in an abrupt and shallow tragedy as Reyes is too incompetent to infuse such tales with any emotional or at least societal weight. Characters are introduced and have no room for unique personalities or deep backgrounds. Each tale drives no point, no philosophical undertones, no cultural significance, or even artistic merit that the entire exercise becomes utterly repetitive and tedious. The result is a triptych of skin-deep scenarios that achieves nothing but pedestrian and juvenile scares.