Mag-Ingat Ka Sa... Kulam (Jun Lana, 2008)
English Translation: Be Careful of... Witchcraft
After surviving a car accident, Mira (Judy Ann Santos) awakens not remembering anything from before her accident. She starts to reconstruct her memories from scratch with the help of her doting husband (Dennis Trillo). As fragments of her pre-accident life start pouring in, she becomes aware of the complexities of her life, including her stagnant relationship with her blind daughter, her decisive love affair with her office-mate (TJ Trinidad), and her incompletely forgotten twin sister Maria (also played by Santos), a witch who she took away to the mental hospital. A ghost resembling her twin sister and remnants of her hidden childhood spent learning the occult start haunting her as she struggles with her memories.
Jun Lana's Mag-Ingat Ka Sa... Kulam (Be Careful of... Witchcraft) is proof that the allure of Ringu's Sadako hasn't entirely faded. Lana's film is nothing more than a derivative of a foregone genre, an attempt to squeeze some profit from an overused formula. Above the staple elements of the genre, the film manages to include a plot twist, two of the biggest stars in the country as leads, and ample technical values. These tactics of the film's unscrupulous producers seem to have worked. Mag-Ingat Ka Sa... Kulam is doing good business, notwithstanding stiff competition from imports from Hollywood. It earned an "A" rating from the local film evaluation board, which is equivalent to a 100% rebate from taxes.
Unfortunately, notwithstanding the audience reception and the stamp of approval of the film evaluation board, Lana's horror flick is really not very good. It is a mishmash of elements from different Asian horror film. The plot twist feels like an imperfect modification of Alone (Banjong Pisanthanakun & Parkpoom Wongpoom, 2007). The occult references has already been used in a similar manner in Iain Softley's The Skeleton Key (2005). Some of the scares are repetitions of what has been done countless times before and there's a scene that seems borrowed from the Pang Brothers' The Eye (2002). Whether the similarities are intended or not, the result is unsatisfactory because the execution feels unduly cheap, obviously uninspired, and sometimes, downright idiotic.
I have no idea why it is insisted that the film include computer-generated effects (seriously, is it more expensive to have a real glass break?). Moreover, this insistence on including computer generated effects provide unintended humor (the "evil spirit" coming out of the car airconditioner is reminiscent of a Nickolodeon cartoon fart joke; Santos' make-up as a witch looks like a second-rate Halloween costume). The acting is pretty much flat and uninteresting, even from Santos or Trillo who have done decent work before. Moises Zee's cinematography is too glossy, too calculated to provide the right atmosphere for a horror feature. Von de Guzman, who seems to understand the nuances of horror, creates a musical score that seems to be the only thing correct in the film. Mag-Ingat Ka Sa... Kulam is an abomination. The film is an idiot's guide on how not to make a horror film.