Thursday, December 29, 2011

Shake, Rattle and Roll 13 (2011)

Shake, Rattle and Roll 13 (Richard Somes, Jerrold Tarog & Chris Martinez, 2011)

In Chris Martinez’s Rain, Rain, Go Away, the final episode of Shake, Rattle and Roll 13 which was touted by its producing studio as the last and the best of the horror franchise, water, more than the predictable ghosts that appear every now and then, is the main source of chills. Martinez, who is probably the cleverest writer and director actively working for the mainstream today, mines the collective paranoia of floods brought about by the horrific experiences during recent rain-related calamities the country barely survived from.

In the episode, reliable comedienne Eugene Domingo plays the wife of Jay Manalo’s businessman whose plastics business moved from its former flood-prone factory to a safer location. Brought about by experiences from the onslaught of typhoon Ondoy which caused her a miscarriage, among other traumas, the littlest instance of abnormal weather causes her to wilt in terror, forcing her to fear even the most unlikely and ordinary of objects.

Martinez’s episode is most likely to be the most relatable, considering that while it still deals with supernatural elements and relies heavily on the easy shocks of sudden apparitions of stock ghosts, it stems from a horror that is very close to home. Martinez has a knack for creating stories around very real experiences in the screenplays he writes like in Chito Roño’s Sukob (The Wedding Curse, 2006) where the sordid entanglements caused by marital infidelity is the actual curse. With Rain, Rain, Go Away, Martinez has crafted a predictable but effective ghost story that has greed and guilt in the midst of calamity as its heart.

Dealing also with greed, not by the upper-middle class businesspeople of Martinez’s morality tale but by people who are desperate for survival, is Richard Somes’ Tamawo. Somes’ episode, which opens the film with the type of otherworldly fantasy that usually dictates the franchise, is inspired from the Hiligaynon myth of elf-like creatures that inhabit strange places. Somes masterfully creates a rural landscape that serves the setting of both the coming of age of a young boy (a very expressive Bugoy Cariño) who struggles to win the affection of his stepfather (Zanjoe Marudo) while taking care of his blind mother (Maricar Reyes) and the horror tale of the titular creatures who would do anything to take back what the human occupants of their town have taken from them.

Irresistibly pretty at times, with sequences that are intelligently shot and directed, the episode shows a master craftsman at work. There are certain scenes, such as when the blind mother is being stalked in her house by the tamawo and Somes only reveals the monsters’ eerily white faces and menacing bodies partially, that emphasize the very raw horror of being absolutely vulnerable. And the episode is really about vulnerability, of the young boy who only wishes to belong to a family, of the mother whose lack of sight makes her more prone to danger, of the stepfather whose desire to provide for his family forces him to make questionable decisions, of the tamawo whose existence is being threatened by humanity’s interference.

Jerrold Tarog’s Parola (Lighthouse), the middle episode in this triptych, is also about vulnerability brought about by adolescence. Lucy (Kathryn Bernardo) and Shane (Louise de los Reyes) are best friends whose friendship is suddenly threatened when during their school trip to an abandoned lighthouse, two rival witches (Julia Clarete and Dimples Romana) decide to use their bodies to continue their feud. The plot, while admittedly convoluted, is thankfully just a frame for an otherwise atmospheric and moody exploration of teenage paranoia.

Tarog, through telling scenes that are remarkably observant of juvenile conflict, creates an atmosphere of subtle disturbance that is only enunciated by the premeditated acts of cruelty that the witches’ interference allowed the young girls to do. Tarog successfully turns what essentially is the normalcy of high school life into something seductively sinister, like a Freudian nightmare. Immature infatuations, corridor-set insults, chemistry experiments, menstruation, and friendship bracelets are fascinatingly turned into threatening objects and occurrences.

Sparingly paced and ominously quiet, Parola weaves the commercial intentions of the franchise’s shrewd producers with Tarog’s creative integrity and exquisite craftsmanship to create what possibly could be the entire franchise’s crowning achievement --- a truly harmonious mix of all the bad (the hackneyed storylines and stretches in logic) and all the good (the surprising invention some of the intrepid directors manage to sneak into their films) that Shake, Rattle and Roll is most known and loved for.

(Cross-published in Twitch.)

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