Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Segunda Mano (2011)

Segunda Mano (Joyce Bernal, 2011)

Joyce Bernal is more famous for the charming romances and comedies she made that took full advantage of her actors and actresses’ celebrities. For instance, in Kailangan Ko’y Ikaw (I Need You, 2000), she concocted a movie that pits Robin Padilla’s undeniably manly swagger with Regine Velasquez’s streetwise sweetness. In Booba (2001), Ruffa Mae Quinto’s voluptuous mammaries and seemingly lacking mental resources are the running gag of the movie. In Kimmy Dora (2009), Eugene Domingo’s unlikely star looks and impeccable acting skills are utilized to depict twin sisters whose personalities are as different as night and day.

Quite interestingly, Segunda Mano, Bernal’s latest and notably her first foray into horror (D’Anothers, while featuring ghosts, is more comedy than horror), has her evidently struggling with Kris Aquino, an actress who has claimed for herself the crown for having the most sellable scared face in the Philippines. Aquino plays Mabel, a simple woman who runs an antiques shop. One fateful rainy night, she runs into Ivan (Dingdong Dantes), an architect who was recently left by his philandering wife and is now left alone with his young daughter, Angel (Sofia Millares). They eventually fall in love, leading to mysterious apparitions by a bloodied woman (Angelica Panganiban) who seems to be linked to both Mabel and Ivan.

Written by Joel Mercado, who has penned or co-penned the screenplays of other horror films like Rico Ilarde’s Villa Estrella (2009), Frasco Mortiz, Enrico Santos, Ato Bautista, Nick Olanka, and Cathy Garcia-Molina’s Cinco (2010), and Dondon Santos’ Dalaw (The Visitor, 2010), the film initially tells the story of a woman who seems to have contented herself with second hand objects and persons. Ivan has been used previously by his previous wife, Angel by her absentee mother, her mother (Helen Gamboa) by her sister who drowned in the beach while she was still young. The film then sadly settles into a prolonged mystery derived from the many psycho stories told since the birth of cinema that has a twist that has been prematurely telegraphed by bad acting, predictable cinematography, unreliable editing, and uncreative writing.

The biggest problem with Segunda Mano is that there’s incongruence in Bernal and her lead star’s intentions. Obviously, Bernal, who has always been an intelligent and witty filmmaker and could not have allowed herself to be relegated into an overused genre, doesn’t take the film’s terrorizing stance seriously, what with a silly haunted designer bag, a ditzy social climber (Bangs Garcia) for an annoying sidekick, a loon for a spirit medium, and even a cameo appearance by the iconic Lilia Cuntapay as an unfortunate bag lady who meets death via a murderous hand springing forth from red patent leather.

Unfortunately, Bernal can’t seem to control Aquino. While the film erupts into a parade of self-conscious nonsense, Aquino remains drowned in boring seriousness. She is too concerned perfecting her unsubtle looks of terror to get into the joke of the film, rendering Bernal’s attempts to graduate the film from being droll derivative horror into something irreverently fresh frustratingly unsuccessful. The sorry result is this miserably confused film that at times attempts to subvert the tired genre by injecting a bit of humor into its proceedings but most of the time just satisfies itself with being just a knock-off bag full of second hand scares.

(Cross-published in Lagarista as 'Second Hand Scares.')

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