Filipino Horror Double Header – Feng Shui and TxT

Two reviews for the price of one here at ThingsFallApart today, with two smart little Horror movies from the Philippines.  They are both a little derivative and frankly not without problems, but are more than reasonable enough to warrant some investigation and discussion.

We will start with “Feng Shui” in which middle aged Housewife Joy (Kris Aquino) comes into possession of a Chinese Bagua (A Mirror with 8 sides.  Think of it like the Dharma Initiative logo from LOST).  Initially she is delighted with it, as it starts to bestow good luck upon her, getting a bonus at work and winning a prize at her local supermarket.  Then it becomes clear that luck comes with a cost, as anyone else who looks in the mirror dies.  And not only dies, but dies a death tied into their Chinese Birth Symbol.  So one chap born in the Year of the Rabbit gets knocked over by a Van with a Rabbit-based logo, a woman born in the Year of the Rat gets killed by a disease spread by Rats.  It is a bit tenuous I agree.  But even when she realises this, she finds it hard to get rid of the Bagua, and moreover, she has to struggle to save her friends and family who have already looked in the mirror!

This really is quite a solid little Horror film.  Whilst obviously hamstrung by what it can both afford to show on screen, and what is culturally acceptable, it manages to be fairly imaginative, maintains a decent sense of suspense and a jump out of your seat moment or two.  But it does not entirely satisfy for a couple of reasons.

Firstly we have the underlying reasons for the curse itself.  Despite a full exposition from a Fortune Teller (who can tell about he curse and history of this mirror by looking at it for maybe 10 seconds!), it isn’t really explained why the spirit causing all these problems takes such a bizarre revenge. Why would the own have good luck?  Why would it take random actions against those who look in the mirror?  And why tie them into the Astrological signs?  In fact, the spirit itself is given only moments of screen time, and frankly would have worked just as well if it had not been mentioned.  Not only that, but the death with the biggest build up, that of one of Joy’s friend’s seems to have no particular tie to a sign at all (unless she was born in the Year of the Drunk Neighbour).

Secondly, the film is not wholly comfortable in being a straight up horror movie.  It seems to want to be a daytime soap-opera too.  So we have Joy’s husband having an affair with an old girlfriend, who in turn is getting beaten up by her estranged husband.  A friend is about to move to Canada.  Joy’s mother in Law has no respect for Joy.  The Children make friends with a boy whose parents are hardly ever home.  It is all fairly interesting if you like that kind of thing, but it is as if a Horror movie just accidently got a few pages stuck in a weeks worth of something more formulaic and melodramatic.

It isn’t particularly flashy, I cannot thing of any exceptional scenes or moments that really made it stand out, yet the film does manage to overcome all these problems by being sensibly put together, and has a really good ending, which whilst not being awfully original, does play out rather well.  Mild Recommendations I think.

A slightly different experience is given by “TxT” though.  We start the film after some car accident has killed Roman (Oyo Sotto), but left his Girlfriend Joyce (Angel Locsin) alive.  We learn that she was driving the car illegally, and his parents blame her.  Joyce continues to mourn, but begins to experience odd text and photo messages from Roman’s mobile phone.  Her best friends Ida (Julia Clarete) and Alex (Dennis Trillo) who holds a huge torch for Joyce) try and help her solve the mystery, but things get even crazier when people who openly criticise Roman end up dead – at the same time as Roman’s time of death!!  And as Joyce digs deeper it becomes clear that Roman was maybe more than an attractive rich “bad boy”, and that we maybe have not been told the whole story about the state of their relationship, and just what happened before the camera started rolling.

Now you could say this film is terribly derivative.  And in some ways it is – the haunted modern appliance is a Asian Horror staple, and I can think of a handful of movies that make use of the mobile phone as a mechanism of terror.  So, don’t expect to see much originality here.

But there is an awful lot to admire.  The opening sequence is terribly well done, a single floating camera moving through the Police Station, introducing us to a post accident Joyce, dealing with the recently deceased body of her boyfriend, along with the attendant heated emotions of his family.  A later scene at a restaurant where we are exposed to just what a jealous rage Roman can get into is cleverly realised splitting the image between the different areas of the restaurant also impressed me greatly.  The acting is of a reasonable standard, with Julia Clarete actually being very impressive as the best friend.

As with “Feng Shui” it is certainly scary enough and builds up a decent atmosphere, but fails for a few reasons to utterly convince.  The score is just too noisy, and at times rather shabbily edited.  The deaths themselves are a little too similar.  And then there is the fact that most of the people who are killed seem a little too distant from the vengeful ghost to waste his time on, when there is Alex just asking for it.  And then we have the final 15 minutes of the film, which seem to have come from a different script.  Because suddenly instead of the phone calls killing people – which we see – suddenly it is something about a Shadow, and for good measure, Roman suddenly becomes utterly corporeal.  And the ending?  Its just cheap and disappointing.

But if you can forget the final 15 minutes, i think this is a pretty decend and worthwhile horror film, that certainly suggests a lot of promise on behalf of the Director, with a handful of pretty smart scenes.  Recommended.

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