Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Shake, Rattle and Roll X (2008)

Shake, Rattle and Roll X (Topel Lee & Mike Tuviera, 2008)

Shake, Rattle and Roll X, the tenth installment to Regal Films' horror trilogy franchise that started in 1984 and has become an annual Christmas tradition since 2005, is definitely better than its predecessor, which really isn't saying alot. Shake, Rattle and Roll 9 (2007) is simply one terrible film, where audiences are forced to care for a family terrorized by a carnivorous Christmas tree, a love-obsessed girl stuck in a perpetual nightmare she concocted, and a group of goth kids menaced by a murderous enchantress. The problem with Shake, Rattle and Roll 9 isn't so much the fact that the tales have become outrageously ridiculous, but that the directors and studio executives have concentrated more on filling the screens with talentless teen idols and pathetic special effects than actual storytelling. One only needs to revisit Fridyider, Ishmael Bernal's episode in the first Shake, Rattle and Roll (1984) about a murderous and sexually-charged refrigerator, to see an outlandish concept done right.

Shake, Rattle and Roll X opens with Emergency, directed by Mike Tuviera. The story involves a hospital that is suddenly attacked by a horde of aswangs (in Philippine folklore, monsteres who feed on babies and human entrails) when an injured pregnant aswang (Mylene Dizon) is mistakenly taken in as a patient and inevitably, suffers a miscarriage. Two ex-lovers, a doctor (Roxanne Guinoo) and a paralegal (JC De Vera), restore their romance as they try to ward off the aswangs from killing each and every one of them. Emergency is simply disposable entertainment. Whatever attempt at storytelling or characterization is drowned by the film's inability to really determine what it wants to be. The horror is truncated by the romance, and vice versa. The attempts at gore (or even a mild showing of blood) is prevented by shameless commercialism. On the other hand, Richard Somes' Ang Lihim ng San Joaquin (The Secret of San Joaquin), the third episode in Shake, Rattle and Roll 2k5 (2005) which also tackles aswangs terrorizing a man and his pregnant wife in a small town, succeeds, despite the thinness of its plot, because of directorial integrity. The film showed that Somes knew what he was doing, meticulously injecting the film with throwbacks to horror classics and in turn, creating an effective horror picture that is distinct from its inspirations. Sadly, such is not the case with Tuviera's Emergency.

Class Picture, directed by Topel Lee, fares better. Yaya (Nanny), the second part of Shake, Rattle and Roll 8 (2006) about a little boy who takes it upon himself to protect his family from an aswang masquerading as his little sister's nanny, shows Lee as an effective conjurer of atmosphere, creating a remarkably ominous coming-of-age little tale out of what essentially is a run-of-the-mill scenario. The story of Class Picture is worse than run-of-the-mill, it's actually cliche. A group of students, who were required to sleep in their school during the weekend to finish an exhibit, are haunted by the ghost of a vengeful nun (Jean Garcia) from one of the antique photographs they discovered in the school storeroom. Before all of them die, Joy (Kim Chu) needs to figure out how to stop the demented nun from exacting revenge on them. Lee succeeds when he isn't required to forward the story, sprinkling the film with clever setups, most probably to salvage whatever brilliant idea (a crazed Catholic nun on a murderous spree) from the grips of commercial storytelling. Unfortunately, whatever is left of Lee's ingenuity (after coming up with such disappointing films like Ouija (2007), My Kuya's Wedding (2007), I have less confidence in his talents) cannot really defeat the idiocy of the ensuing events in Class Picture.

Tuviera returns with Nieves, about the titular character (played by Marian Rivera) who fights engkantos for the benefit of her small village. When Adonis (Pekto), her beloved husband, is kidnapped by one of the engkantos, she swears to stop fighting engkantos. However, when a needy little boy asks for her help, she is forced out of retirement and discovers that there is something more than impish engkantos that is happening in their small village. Surprisingly, Nieves is the most fun episode of the three (the first two being tiring to watch). Perhaps it is the air of ridicule and irreverence (and seeing Rivera play the Filipino equivalent of a blonde bimbo, without the oozing sensuality unfortunately) that made the little film charming. While Nieves can be delightful at times and admittedly watchable, it still suffers from the typical quips of current Filipino mainstream filmmaking, which is the inability to maintain a brilliant idea to the end. Thus, Nieves becomes redundant midway and just annoyingly silly in the end.

The Shake, Rattle and Roll franchise seems to have lost what for me, it stood for: the infusion of new talent into the flailing mainstream film industry. Since it was revived in 2005, it became the springboard for several filmmakers (Somes, Tuviera, Lee, to name a few) to penetrate the industry. Shake, Rattle and Roll X proves that the optimism I reserved for the franchise is totally unfounded. The franchise, I concede, is nothing more than a Yuletide cashcow for its devious investors. If a good segment comes along (and as I've mentioned, there are good segments like Ang Lihim ng San Joaquin, Yaya, LRT), it is more of an aberration than a trend.


Anonymous said...

The last paragraph is dead-on.

I watch this franchise year after year hoping that it would improve (I was actually hoping it would be like the older versions in terms of quality).

But instead, the stories get more and more comical, ridiculous, and boring (except for the very few good segments). I agree that this is just being made a yuletide cash cow. They know that since this franchise is very popular, audiences would just swallow whatever they're fed.

If the trend continues, then I suggest that the next iteration be classified as a pure COMEDY instead of horror. That way, we won't be expecting too much.

bonjang said...

I wouldn't touch that franchise with a 10 foot pole. Kudos to actually reviewing it.

Oggs Cruz said...

Thanks anonymous and bonjang,

Bonjang, you're missing out on some of the better episodes, which I think is worth the minutes being tortured by the not-so-good episodes. There's Richard Somes' Ang Lihim ng San Joaquin and Rico Ilarde's Aquarium in Shake Rattle and Roll 2k5. There's Topel Lee's Yaya in Shake Rattle and Roll 8. As for the 80's and 90's Shake Rattle and Roll's, there's a lot of good stuff too... Bernal's Fridyider, Gallaga's Manananangal, etc.

celinejulie said...

Hi, I’m a fan of your blog, though I haven’t commented here before. I’d like to tell you that you are awarded a Dardos, because the information about Philippine cinema in your blog is very useful. You can read the details about this award at my blog. :-)

Anonymous said...

I'm the "Anonymous" one in the first comment. I'll try watching the next installment of this series within the week (I'm 99% sure that it will S*CK).

Hopefully, at least one of the episodes will be good. Looking forward to your review.

Unknown said...

Great review. I'm watching "Shake Rattle & Roll X" right now, about halfway through. I also have to agree, Emergency Room had some creepy, fun moments, then in the last act, the effects (CGI smoke was terrible, among other make-up effects) and corniness just drove the segment off a cliff (and I have a high tolerance for corniness). I remember when I first discovered an installment in the new releases section of Scarecrow video, saw it was an anthology movie, figured I couldn't go wrong, and rented one of the collections. Not one of the good ones, either. I hadn't heard about it but thought 'Shake Rattle & Roll' was such a kick-ass name for a horror franchise, and back then I lumped Asian horror into one category (though I know the Philippine cinema is a stretch to call Asian). I think that I rented the one with the killer Christmas tree, either way I rolled my eyes more and more, used up my patience waiting for something cool and scary to start happening. I rented the collection with 'YaYa' on it and was impressed, then did some research and found the series was hit or miss. Some would have a good premise, then the "special effects" would be so cheap and obvious (usually very, very bad CGI) that the whole story would screech to a halt. Sometimes the whole movie would screech to a halt. Also, I'm all for comedy mixed in, but I can only watch so many she-males/cross-dressing caricatures run around 'comically' and squeal. Plus, it's distracting sometimes watching them and wondering, "is that one of the ugliest women I've ever seen, or one of the most unconvincing, clueless cross-dressers I've ever seen?" I chalk it up to a culture difference, but after a while I just lost my patience and it grates on my nerves. As a rule, I found the ones with aswangs were the closest to being scary (and I learned something about Philippino culture when I researched the topic). I have had trouble online finding pieces that sum up the franchise and the direction/s it has taken, so I really appreciate this article, especially from someone who has followed the series from the start. Thanks again!