It was at the tail end of my Christmas vacation in the Philippines when I finally was able to watch some films. Every year, during the last two weeks of December, all cinemas in the Philippines only show Filipino movies in observance of the Metro Manila Film Festival.
And luckily, the day before I flew out of Manila, the Festival ended, which was very good news to moviegoers who weren't exactly into some corny comedy films included in the festival line-up. And after a reunion lunch with friends who used to live in Seoul, I made sure I squeezed in two movies later that day: Tragic Theater and Seventh Son.
I was able to catch Tragic Theater at the Glorietta 4 Cinemas. I felt at home when I got there. I used to watch a lot of movies with my friend Roselyn here; we're both Hollywood movie fans. But she no longer lives in Manila; she now lives in West Hollywood! I envy her; she could watch the movie stars walk down the red carpet at the Academy Awards night every year. I can only watch it on TV. Ha-ha-ha!
Tragic Theater was supposed to be a horror movie about a group of spirit questors who wanted to talk to the ghosts in a haunted building. Last month, its trailer was banned from TV because they said it was too scary for kids watching TV (which was the whole point of a horror film). It turned out to be a big disappointment. I was interested in watching it because I love ghost stories, and this was about the grounded spirits that still linger at the Manila Film Center. They're said to be the spirits of the laborers who were buried alive during a construction accident in November 1981. Stories I heard about the accident included versions of laborers being left to die under the quick-drying cement because rescuers were allowed late into the site, and another version was that the authorities decided to bury them alive under the cement so as not to cause any delay in the construction. They had to finish the film center in time for the January 1982 opening of the Manila International Film Festival.
But the most scary part about this accident was that the woman in charge of the construction oversight was herself killed in a mysterious car accident months later. She was with another man (not her husband) driving to Tagaytay City in the dead of the night (pardon the pun) when suddenly, the guy allegedly claimed (he survived) that something suddenly grabbed the steering wheel from him causing them to swerve off the road and hit a tree, killing the woman instantly.
But the movie wasn't. Although the first few minutes seemed serious, a few scenes that followed seemed comedic: Gemma Cruz-Araneta (a former Miss International), who was the Tourism Secretary at that time, was played with some woman with almost bright brown hair and colorful make-up that made her look like she was at cosplay or the Santacruzan's hermana mayor. I wonder if the beauty queen actually saw this film. She would have squirmed in her seat if she saw that scene. Ha-ha-ha!
Another scene where the Film Center's security guard was possessed by a spirit made the audience laugh, which made me think the movie was like the comedy show, Bubble Gang, full of horror jokes. And noticing a female questor with parlored hair and high heels, I thought that she made sure she was all fashionista-ready when she met those dead construction workers.
The last Filipino movie I saw was Sana Dati last November 2014 at the 2014 ASEAN Film Festival in Seoul. It was exceedingly good that even the Korean audience was impressed. And now, Tragic Theater? Tragically funny it was.
After the disappointment at Glorietta 4, I hurried down to Greenbelt 5 to buy myself a ticket for the next movie, Seventh Son. Of all the line-up that day, these two were the most interesting.
And at least Seventh Son sort of compensated for Tragic Theater.
This one is not a horror flick, but a fantasy full of witches, slayers, kingdoms and high mountains, much like a mix of Sorcerer's Apprentice, Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters, Reign of Fire, and Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Dessert. Ha-ha-ha!
Ben Barnes (who was Prince Caspian of the Narnia series) is the apprentice of Jeff Bridges, who was like the medieval version of an assassin; he slays witches and the like. And he can only be replaced by a trained apprentice who should be the seventh son of the seventh son. Yes, the apprentice can only be found among clans with poor family planning. Ha-ha-ha!
Although the story line was very common among witchy, fantasy films, what I liked were the special effects, the landscapes and the fabulous costumes of the mother witch, Julianne Moore, and her followers. Although it was set in the medieval times, their costumes and make-up were so 21st century. It was like they just came from a fantasy costume and make-up convention in Las Vegas.
Of course, the ending was predictable, even when the witches could fly, had supernatural powers and outnumbered Jeff Bridges and the seventh son. The two eventually slayed everyone, even without the help of the other six brothers. Nor six uncles. Ha-ha-ha!
Although she looked good in all her costumes, Julianne Moore didn't convince me that she was evil, just like she was un-convincing as Clarice Starling in Hannibal. I wonder if there are only a few women in Hollywood who could play witches. Angelica Houston in The Witches was one damn evil witch, and I guess Meryl Streep in Into The Woods (I haven't seen it yet) is, too. Famke Janssen in Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters did better, too.
* * * * *Although my afternoon started with a horror movie that tried to be funny and ended my evening with witches, I never had problems going to sleep on my last night in Manila. Ha-ha-ha! All I wanted to remember was that I had fun all day with friends and movies in the city that used to be my playground. :-)