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MOVIE REVIEWS: Cinema One Originals Festival 2018 (Part 2)

Here’s the second part of our festival report on Cinema One Originals 2018, in which we cover A Short History of a Few Bad Things, Asuang, Bagyong Bheverlynn, and HospicioThe 14th edition of Cinema One Originals Film Festival runs from October 12 to 21, 2018 in select cinemas in Metro Manila.

READ MORE: Part 1 of our festival report

READ MORE: Guide to Cinema One Originals Festival 2018


A SHORT HISTORY OF A FEW BAD THINGS

Victor Neri in ‘A Short History of a Few Bad Things.’ Photo via Cinema One.

Synopsis: In the southern Philippine city of Cebu, a troubled detective struggles to solve a series of grisly killings, while a deep conspiracy works to keep the truth just out of his reach.

Review: Keith Deligero’s A Short History of a Few Bad Things is a full-length feature inspired by his wildly ambiguous short film Babylon which was released in Cinemalaya earlier this year. It’s quite comforting to know that the director has opted for a more straightforward approach this time yet that does not guarantee that this plot-driven mystery can sometimes feel a bit alienating. Frankly, I am not particularly invested in the case presented (a string of extrajudicial killings) because the opening act sets it up so perfunctorily with not much fright involved. Also, as a police procedural, this film lacks the sensitivity to let the audience remember the names of all the persons involved – that might have been partly due to casting unknown Bisayan actors.

Anyway, my fascination for Detective Tarongoy (Victor Neri) is what hooked me for most of the ride. He keeps looking at a video of young boy in his phone (presumably his son) and for some reason, his room is bathed in neon lights and he uses the same massage chair that his boss has in his office. Despite getting merely hints for a backstory, Neri shines in playing these types of strong-willed police cop characters.

There’s a seemingly naive sidekick played by Jay Gonzaga but the film does not really capitalize on its buddy comedy aspect. Most of the comic relief here is supplied by Publio Briones as an upfront, no-nonsense head cop who has a penchant for shifting languages (from English to Tagalog to Bisaya). The resulting Bisayan dry humor helps in bringing appeal to the film’s socio-commentary on erring police forces.

Deligero’s insubordinate artistic choices come out every now and then – the oddly-placed metal and hip hop songs, the rough editing and the occasionally annoying sound design that drowns out the conversations in play. Because of these, the film generally comes out as incoherent. To its credit, its flat out ending is quite unpredictable, leaving more emptiness than its intended shock. It doesn’t entirely hold up but I would like to see Deligero take a more refined jab at this subgenre again.

Directed by Keith Deligero, ‘A Short History of a Few Bad Things‘ stars Victor Neri, Jay Gonzaga, Publio Briones and Maricel Sombrio. Run time: 90 minutes.

 


ASUANG

Ash Ang (Alwyn Uytingco) and his camera crew in ‘Asuang.’ Photo via Cinema One.

Synopsis: ASUANG, the God of Sins, was once a ruthless and fickle God of Bicol, but now he is a loner and a loser who has no place in the world that is overrun by sinful human beings. He resorted to social media to regain his former glory and fame but to no avail. On his track to retirement, he was approached by the Seers to help them stop Armageddon. Along with a group of sinful misfits, Asuang will go on a quest, against his nature, to help mankind… Or so he thinks he will.

Review: Presented as a found footage mockumentary, Asuang is a refreshing comedy that serves not only as a satirical take on Bicolano mythology but also on the social media generation. There are lots of humor to be mined from a misunderstood Bicolano god Asuang (or Ash Ang as he calls himself) mimicking the behavior of a typical millennial attention hog. Also present here are the more popular gods who can be regarded as the ‘influencers’ of this milieu. Ash, on the other hand, is stuck in perfecting his hidden talent of invisibility to achieve celebrity status once again – this is rather a subtle nod to his struggle of breaking through social invisibility.

It muddles midway but this film eventually completes a satisfying arc to Ash’s journey. In his quest for image rehabilitation, Ash must learn how to surrender his ego – there’s more to being a god/hero than shooting cooking videos and unboxing toddler toys, it’s now time to address human life-threatening concerns. But if you can save the world with a filming crew to document your journey and thereby be an instant viral sensation, then why not right?

You know the film balances its humor and emotional weight when you feel attached to Ash by the end of it. It helps that the film utilizes its format by supplying plenty of his silly confessionals. Like most of us, he’s just trying to survive the inanities of everyday life. It’s not comedy gold, but this film greatly benefits from Uytingco’s incredibly charismatic performance. I wouldn’t mind seeing a sequel to this breath of fresh air.

Directed by Raynier Brizuela, ‘Asuang‘ stars Alwyn Uytingco, Chai Fonacier, Nats Sitoy, Jon Lucas and Paolo O’Hara. Run time: 90 minutes.

 


BAGYONG BHEVERLYNN

Edgar Allan Guzman and Rufa Mae Quinto in ‘Bagyong Bheverlynn.’ Photo via Cinema One.

Synopsis: Three months matapos ang break-up ni Bheverlynn sa jowa niya of 4 years, magko-conjure ang hugot at kalungkutan niya ng isang superduper-uber-grab-angkas typhoon na matatalo lang niya through achieving genuine happiness. Ngayon, ang safety ng buong Pilipinas at santinakpan ay nakasalalay sa pagmo-move on ni Bheverlynn.

Review: Most of the jokes in Bagyong Bheverlynn are either painfully lame or occasionally offensive. Some are not even worthy to be aired in a local gag show. Maybe it has a subtext beneath its absurdity? Nope. There’s an explicit and noble intention to promote self-love but it’s something hard to digest considering this film begs not to be taken seriously.

Rufa Mae Quinto’s overacting schtick only works for the first ten minutes and after that, it overstays its welcome. That’s partly because the screenplay meanders so much on uneventful slapstick, instead of hashing a logical history with her ex-boyfriend (Edgar Allan Guzman) to give her more depth. The rest of the cast are painted as caricatures so the film runs the risk of making them look annoying. More often than not, they are. However, I actually find myself laughing more at Bheverlynn’s mother (Angelina Kanapi), above anyone else.

It’s hard to tell if the production team came up short at some parts or the spoofs are just as intended – there’s a green puppet playing the role of weathercaster Kuya Kim Atienza (a character points out that they can’t afford the actor’s talent fee) and Bheverlynn’s ‘storm alter ego’ (also played by Quinto) who’s supposed to be contained inside a mirror, can be seen moving outside the frame. The entire cast though seems like they’re having a blast doing this. Good for them.

Director Charliebebs Gohetia adds a dash of inventiveness in its semi-hilarious opening act, but for the rest of the film, it plays the self-awareness card too much, hoping that the audience will be charmed by its execution. But self-awareness is not a free pass to sloppiness. This film aims to be ‘so bad, it’s good’ but all it manages is to be ‘so bad, it’s so annoying.’ The only way it can entertain is by insulting one’s intelligence.

Directed by Charliebebs Gohetia, ‘Bagyong Bheverlynn‘ stars Rufa Mae Quinto, Edgar Allan Guzman, Barbie Capacio, Jude Servilla and Angelina Kanapi. Run time: 100 minutes.

 


HOSPICIO

Loisa Andallo in ‘Hospicio.’ Photo via Cinema One.

Synopsis: After Leslie gets entangled in a drug-related shootout that leaves her little sister in a coma, she is entered into a rehabilitation center. Inside, she realizes that the rehab facility is more than what it seems to be.

Review: Bobby Bonifacio Jr.’s Hospicio works as a stand-alone, backdoor sequel to the 2006 local horror film Numbalikdiwa. Luckily for me, I haven’t seen the latter so I didn’t see Hospicio’s twist coming from a mile away. That, however, is not what spoiled my viewing experience. As it turns out, this is another confused horror film that equates jump scares to real terror.

Whatever sinister vibe Hospicio laboriously sets up in its first half – much of it is owed to Anna Abad Santos’ portrayal of the headmistress, the film goes for an easy route instead. The sanctity of a slow-burn horror is ruined by the film’s dependence on its deafening sound design that induces more headaches than palpitations. It does not really linger on its creepy premise, squandering all the potential it has to be an instant cult classic.

I guess this film earns plus points for subtly injecting socio-commentaries on self righteousness, one-sided generational beliefs and some shades that it manages to throw against the current administration. However as the third act completely takes an unintentional comedic turn, this does not ultimately work as a disturbing horror flick, but rather a campy satire instead.

Directed by Bobby Bonifacio Jr., ‘Hospicio‘ stars Loisa Andalio, Mary Joy Apostol, Ana Abad Santos, MM Gigante, Aurora Yumul and Manny Castaneda. Run time: 94 minutes.

READ MORE: List of winners at the awards night of Cinema One Originals 2018

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