Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Tiktik: The Aswang Chronicles (Erik Matti)


Finally, the first Filipino film to be shot entirely on green screen has been released. With that piece of fact, I am really quite torn: Are we supposed to be proud of this giant leap of technological advancement or should we be frustrated by the fact that we may be in an age where computerized style is more prioritized than narrative substance? Suffice it to say, "Tiktik: The Aswang Chronicles" has nothing new to offer, story-wise, but there's something in its comic self-awareness (thanks in part to Jade Castro's participation in the film) that separates it from countless horror films being locally released today. 
Without any of "The Healing's" thematic pretenses or "Corazon: Ang Unang Aswang's" seemingly forced psychological angle, "Tiktik: The Aswang Chronicles" is more successful compared to the two not because of its special effects but mainly because it knows for a fact that depiction of 'Aswangs' on film need not any complexities and that horror movies can be as riotously funny as it is disturbing. 
Known as a relatively humorless filmmaker, director Erik Matti was surprisingly able to balance both the comedy and the fright throughout the course of the film. Just like how Jade Castro's "Zombadings" is a satire of our local horror film scene's zombie sub-genre (and also of our 'drag queen' culture), "Tiktik: The Aswang Chronicles" is a tongue-in-cheek exploration of what comprises not just a true 'Aswang' film but also a good black comedy. One of them, of course, is a solid cast. 
Dingdong Dantes, playing the film's brash protagonist, is very effective in his abundant display of both arrogance and reluctant heroism. With a spot-on sense of urban bravado, Dantes has perfectly captured a city dweller's perceived self-importance and superiority when interacting with humble country people, or so they seem to be. While Joey Marquez, a great comedy actor by his own right (especially in his films with Lito Pimentel), is an inspired casting choice. In his role as Lovi Poe's character's father, he has paradoxically combined both cowardice and misplaced machismo in an Aswang-laden backdrop that asks for neither. And arguably in the film's most shockingly hilarious moment involving Marquez, a dead body and a fresh, beating heart, he has humorously performed a sickly vengeful act that will surely do Hammurabi proud. 
But among the strong supporting cast, that which include Janice de Belen, Roi Vinzon and Mike Gayoso among others, it was Ramon Bautista who has stolen the whole show. His performance was in no way the greatest ever (or even the best in the film for that matter), but his natural comic rapport with the camera is just so effortless that he has seemingly put the majority of the film's humorous weight on his shoulders.
By mainstream standards, "Tiktik: The Aswang Chronicles" is very, very violent; and for a horror film that promises innovation, the film's plot and premise is relatively derivative. But that's what makes this film so enjoyable. It's conscious of its own trashy sensibilities and it flaunts it with bloody gusto and comic craftiness. Despite of the fact that it was obviously inspired by western horror films, "Tiktik: The Aswang Chronicles" is still undoubtedly Pinoy, especially in its peculiar capturing of our own supernatural roots by way of slapstick horror. The only thing that I have found to be quite off in the film is its extreme use of Zack Snyder-esque slow-motion and the unnecessary CGI-fication of the 'Aswangs' themselves, which has made them a tad less threatening and more of a collective of creatures antagonistically believable only if put side-by-side with Enteng Kabisote. 
Nonetheless, "Tiktik: The Aswang Chronicles" is still a very enjoyable cinematic experience. Hell, it has even made product placements look fun. By turning bits of Boy Bawang into potential long-range weapons reminiscent of Marc Solis' projectile corn bits in "Magic Temple" and Lipps candy into an elixir of bravery, the film makes me want to be a make-believe Aswang hunter in a wasteland of scattered flesh and bones. Despite of its violent content, the film has still managed to touch a chord or two in my inner child. Now that's something.


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