Monday, February 7, 2011

Bulong (2011, Chito Roño)


I always anticipate a horror film directed by Chito Roño. I can never forget my moviehouse experience of viewing Roño's blockbuster hit Sukob. It is so scary that I had goose bumps all over my arms. Sure, there are several cheap shock tricks but overall, the suspenseful and brooding atmosphere gives me spine-tingling chills. The movie, starring Kris Aquino and Claudine Barreto, is based on a local superstition stating that it is bad luck for two or more siblings to marry within a period of one year. The superstition had its origin in rural places. Children of farm hands are dissuaded from seeking marriage within months of a sibling's earlier marriage because it will surely deplete the family's savings and resources, which are dependent on seasonal harvests.

Roño once more mined a Filipino superstition for his new film Bulong. This time the movie suggests that a person with an unfulfilled wish can seek the help of a recently departed loved one. All that is needed is to whisper your wish to the deceased. The premise is that the dead person is now at the bosom of the good Lord and more likely will be able to intercede for the wishes of the living. In this regard, Filipinos seem to treat their dead relatives as saints. Most of them even visit their departed loved ones on All Saint's Day and not on All Soul's Day.

Hospital worker Conan (Vhong Navarro) is hopelessly in love with a sexy and beauteous nurse named Ellen (Bangs Garcia). He is on friendly terms with the alluring lady but gets desperate when he sees her kissing a resident doctor. The jealous guy seeks the help of his friends and learns about the power of a wish whispered to the dead. He scampers off to a wake and surreptitiously opens the casket. In a barely audible way, he whispers: Mahalin ako ni Ellen.

The next day sees Conan, oozing with confidence, making his moves on Ellen. The young woman isn't too happy with the brazen behavior of the guy and gives him a tongue lashing. The wish didn't materialize. Is it because the wish needs time to be fulfilled? No. The corpse didn't hear him. Conan belatedly learns that the dead person was deaf.

Yep, this is not a straightforward horror film. Roño knows that it is a tough act to surpass or equal his horror hits Feng Shui and Sukob. He changes tactics by making a horror-comic film. Bulong is a supernatural film hampered by the need to come up with funny scenes. In the end, it is neither scary nor is it super-funny.

While the film benefits from reliable performances of Navarro and Angelica Panganiban, Bulong is just an average movie that is a mishmash of mildly terrifying scenes and fluffily funny antics. The tired slapstick routine of bandaged patients wiping the walls and floors with their faces is here. The film also borrows some fiends and concepts from films such as Drag Me To Hell and Close Encounters of the Third Kind and also from the video game series Resident Evil. However, the special effects are very good especially the muddy zombies pestering Oprah (Angelica Panganiban) and the disfigured mammary glands of Ellen. The latter is memorable because of a deliciously wicked strip-tease set-up by Roño.

Bulong didn’t impress me much with its cinematic skills but it did leave the audience with a few valuable life lessons:

1) Leave the dead alone. They have just been freed from worldly undertakings so don't pester them with your wishes. There's also the possibility of a quid pro quo.

2) Be careful with what you wish for. This is good advice for single people especially this heart month. Conan is able to taste the love of Ellen but eventually vomits it out of his system. Being loved obsessively and violently by the girl of his dreams is not what he yearned for.

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