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Thursday, October 18, 2012

A Film Review of Tiktik: The Aswang Chronicles

Makoy, the lead role in the movie "Tiktik: The Aswang Chronicles" is played by actor Ding Dong Dantes.
Computer generated Tiktiks.  A "tiktik" is a variety of aswang that loves to eat babies.  Tiktiks use their elongated tongues to eat unborn babies form the mother's womb.  They look like mutant dogs here.  Aswangs are demon-like beasts believed to have the power to transform from human form into animals usually into big dogs or wolf-like animals.
Tickets for the opening day of Tiktik: The Aswang Chronicles.
7:40 showing at Cinema 1 in Glorietta 4, Makati City.
"The high-tech visuals transported an abysmal story."  That's one sentence which could probably sum up the movie Tiktik: The Aswang Chronicles.

I was curious more than excited to see the movie Tiktik: The Aswang Chronicles.  With their ads all over the boob tube and their promotions in social networking sites, swanking their landmark use of the "green screen" for the entire movie, made me think that this must be the spark which we Filipinos have been waiting for so long… the spark that will ignite the resurgence of another golden era in Philippine Cinema.  With such high hopes, after watching the movie, I was despondent!

October 17, Wednesday, opening day of Tiktik: The Aswang Chronicles.  I headed to Glorietta 4 in Makati and bought tickets.  It was 5:30 pm and I thought that I'd have a hard time getting tickets.  I was surprised that only half of the rather small Cinema 1 is booked hence, I still got good seats.  That's good for me.  I'm not sure for the movie though with this turn out in the box office…  Well, it's just the opening day, so it's too early to worry about that.

FIRST, LET'S TALK ABOUT THE GOOD STUFF:

Chroma Key.

The use of the green screen worked wonders.  The foreground images are ultra-sharp and super-crisp!  The use of digital composting whereby two images or videos are layered into one offered great backdrops.  The overall tone of the movie is affected by this, of course in a very good way.  Tiktik: The Aswang Chronicles has a sinister grayish tone.  The dark clouds, the mountainous terrain, and the ghostly woods.  I like all of these.  They provided a rigorous eerie feeling. 

The overall feel of the visuals is impeccable.  I would not be surprised if this film won best cinematography.

Ding Dong Dantes.

Even though the range of emotions showcased by lead actor Ding Dong Dantes was limited (constrained by the storyline), he still managed to come off as a believable person most of the time.  In his scenes where he expressed derisions and outbursts of testosterone, he successfully suspended disbelief.  At most times, Dantes effortlessly delivers lines.  Action scenes very well suit Dantes' built and stance.

As for the rest of the cast, actress Lovie Poe, the pregnant girlfriend, fared well.  Actress Janice de Belen, the pregnant girlfriend's mother, did much better.  She consistently delivered her role deriding the protagonist.  Actor Joey Marquez playing the father of the pregnant girlfriend was okay at times but went overboard in a few scenes (in delivering unnecessary comic relief).

Score.

The music of the movie is hip.  The sound although a bit alternative and bordered on techno did suit the sinister tone of the visuals.  I disliked some music-and-scene matching especially on the few tender moments.  Some suspense build up through music can be used by the film in some parts, but on an overall perspective, the score isn't bad.

NOW, HERE ARE THE CRUMMY PARTS:

Story:  A Big Letdown.

There was no subplot.  There were no twists.   Saying that the story is "predictable" would be an understatement.  What you get is a linear tale that even a feature writer contestant from the Metro Manila Young Writers Conference (of grade school students) can concoct.

A movie is a visual presentation of a story.  The producers must have concentrated more on the visual aspect of this movie and neglected to pay a commensurate amount of attention to the story.  I thought that the opening credits would recount how "tiktiks" came about expounding on the legend of "aswang", or at least how and why the particular group of "tiktiks" arrived in that particular town.  Instead what I saw was random comic-like collage of dead trees and gruesome demon beasts.  If it conveyed any speck of a story, I just didn't get it.  Nah!… there's really nothing there.

The male protagonist went after his pregnant girlfriend to a distant province.  He met his girlfriend's reluctant family, caught the attention of the "tiktiks" that led to a literally explosive face-off, ending in a lukewarm battle with the leader of the "tiktik" pack.  End of story.

The more than 90-minute feature with its apalling story can actually be presented as a third of the infamous Shake, Rattle, & Roll trilogy.  If you take away those tedious dialogues and unnecessary scenes, and reduce some likely prolonged scenes, the entire flick can be presented in not more than 30 minutes.

Comic Relief.  Unnecessary Characters.  Unnecessary Scenes.

If there's any consolation, I'd give it to the comic relief via the character of actor Joey Marquez.  I just wish that instead of putting effort on the comic relief, the movie could have shown a few seconds in establishing the characters and their relationships.  For instance, Makoy played by actor Dingdong Dantes in the scenes after his brief first meeting with the father of his girlfriend has become all of a sudden chummy with him.  The initial meeting between the main characters is important in establishing relationships as well as defining characteristic traits of the roles that will eventually provide explanations to their actions as the story progresses.   I felt awkward with the "chummy" scenes and that isn't a good sign.

The character of Bart played by actor Ramon Bautista is a source of some of the comic relief.  But his character wasn't completely established.  How he got bitten by one of the "tiktiks" wasn't shown.  How he was related to the "tiktiks" and not a "tiktik" himself wasn't also founded.  His role can actually be cut off from the story.  He was the one who told the protagonist where to get the pig they needed to roast for the birthday celebration of the pregnant girlfriend.  But this info can easily be gotten from an "extra".  Bart as well is shown to have made the sacrifice that led to his demise which helped the main characters escape the house.   This can also be changed such that the sacrifice can be made by the mother of the pregnant girlfriend instead.  Or, the face-off can be extended to the next night giving the protagonists enough time to leave the house and prepare for their defense and final battle.  Of course, the "tiktiks" would destroy every escape route (bring down bridges or block roads)  so that the protagonists would not be able to escape the town during daytime leaving them to fend off the supernatural beasts on the coming night.  Wouldn't that make more sense?

What's with the fat "tiktik" who had a hard time jumping over a fence, and panting while running after Makoy (on a jeep)?  It's funny but totally unnecessary in a supposed to be action-thriller movie.

Awkward Stunts and Effects.

Probably because the actors themselves confessed that it was a challenge for them to act in front of a "green screen", some stunts came out awkward.  One "tiktik" played by actress LJ Reyes in one of the scenes were she jumped dodging bullets from Makoy felt uncoordinated.  You'll immediately deduce that the stunt is done with a harness.  The motion isn't fluid.  Well, this shouldn't really be a cause to dislike a movie.  If this however, is shown for a few seconds with a slow motion effect, it would just be plainly ridiculous if it's not skillfully done.

The movements of the "tiktiks" also felt akward.  These are supposed to be supernatural creatures, demon beasts even.  How come, they move like they are doing an interpretative dance?  There's even one scene where actress LJ Reyes, with one knee bent and the left leg stretched as if in a final stance in a cheer dance competition sans the pom poms.

The computer-generated super "tiktiks" appeared to move a bit gawky.   There were no memorable "oohs" and "aaahs" with these supposed to be badass minions.  Their growling faces are great.  The appearance of the "tiktik" boss is even scary.  Alas, they were betrayed by their movements.  Fluidity is the key in suspending disbelief from these supernatural killers.

When molatov bombs sound and blast like grenades with a matching view distortion isn't at all cutting-edge effect.  Molatov bombs are incendiary weapons aimed to set things on fire rather than instantly destroy targets.  We should have seen "tiktiks" on fire a little bit longer than an instant destruction.

Shooting stick, really?  Snack for ammunition?  The boy who said he would avenge his father's death used a shooting stick as weapon and garlic-flavored snack for projectile.  This is totally ridiculous and incredulous!  In fact, the boy's character could be cut off from the film.  It looks and feel that his role was put just to impress viewers with visual effects on how supernatural beasts can be killed so easily with garlic-flavored snack.  My goodness!  This is utter waste of movie time.

The Split Screen.

I first saw the use of the split screen in the 1976 Brian de Palma suspense-thriller movie Carrie.  Then there was the 2003 Quentin Tarantino action-thriller Kill Bill.  The split screen is effective in showing various facets of a scene.  It serves by showing the actions of various characters happening at a particular point in time, or highlighting several different angles of the character at play.  It should evoke a plethora of emotions - heighten the senses to bring them to a definite close.   Ugh!  Some split screens are just not necessary.  In fact, this is more of a visual style of directors.  I say, if it's not used properly, don't use it at all.  All you'll get is a splitting headache from the split screens of this movie.

The Sponsors.

I just really hate it when sponsors of the movie are shown prominently in scenes.  Isn't the ending credits enough?  Gran Matador (alcoholic drink), Boy Bawang (snack in a pouch), and Lipps (red hard candy) were all cast in the movie.  A momentary or partial view I suppose should be okay.  But if it's prominently showcased, how lame is that?  Say, if your scene is inside an electronics shop it is but natural to see widescreen TVs on display.  Some brand names would definitely be seen.  Some movies would actually make the shots so that the brand names are off focus.  You could have a drinking session just like in one of the scenes of the movie and not show the name of the brandy.  It just disturbs the momentum of the scene.  For me this is just inappropriate way of advertising.

THE VERDICT.

I rarely see Filipino-made movies simply because there isn't much quality movies to see.   In the last five years, movie houses are thronged with independent films.  Some indie films have great stories but because of budgetary constraints, the production value of the flicks just weren't there.  The indie movie influx has been a welcome development since these inexpensive movies became vehicles for some actors, writers, and perhaps directors to leap into mainstream movie making so they can reach a larger number of audience.  Now, we have a movie funded with 80 million pesos (not verified).  Okay, digital composting - we're almost there.  I wonder however, how much was spent out of those millions of pesos for the development of the story.  Apparently, we still have to wait for a little longer to witness movies that would truly be at par with Hollywood-made motion pictures, story-wise and picture-wise.

Movies are a form of storytelling (aimed to entertain, and perhaps educate or inform).  The core component of a movie is the story, and the vehicle is the visuals.  Given this premise, the movie "Tiktik: The Aswang Chronicles" therefore, with its high tech visuals has transported a completely abysmal story.

Would I go out of my way to watch this movie?  I wish I hadn't.  I should have just waited for its run on TV next year.  Oh, well...




(Note: all still pictures are from the YouTube trailer of the movie.)

11 comments:

  1. I didn't like it too. It wasn't as good as what the trailer portrays.

    ReplyDelete
  2. the texture of the movie was a good disguise for me to think i like it..but after reading this, i just realize you are so right. I think the prod was so damn excited on the post -production that they forget to put more heads on the plot and pacing of the movie. about the brands - hell NO! that should be banned on movies, I just hate to see more of that!!!crazy

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  3. Thanks for the review, I still look forward to watch it though. Probably this coming all soul's day :)

    ReplyDelete
  4. Well this review is good but Tiktik is a movie not made for a wide range of tedious speculations. Its a movie made to entertain the whole family. Watch it if you just want to have fun, relax, and appreciate quality Filipino film.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you for your comment.

      I just could't make any sense of the phrase, "Tiktik is a movie not made for a wide range of tedious speculations". Maybe because the word "tedious" has been used in the wrong context. Tedious means "too long" or "slow"; with the colloquial forms "dull" or "boring". Wide range of tedious speculations? Nobody needs to speculate since it's a movie that can be seen, and has been reviewed by people who have "actually seen" it already. So, as a copyreader, I'll just yank the "incoherent" phrase out of your first sentence.

      Therefore, your sentence is now: "Well, this review is good". Makes a hell lot of sense, and quite cohesive with your thoughts! LOL!

      Delete
  5. Your review is really good and you really observed even the smallest detail. I really like the movie eventhough the story plot is a little weak. It needs some improvement and they should avoid some cheesy lines that makes some dialogues "corny". The graphic did justice to the movie and the artists really did well.

    ReplyDelete
  6. I like your review too. I'm still in the middle of watching it, but honestly i'm not sure if i'm ever going to finish it. The dialogues are way too far from how a Filipino actually behaves. We are polite, shy and modest. Well we tell a lie at times, or we joke, but we're never arrogant and full of unbalanced testorone-like behavior. Kahit yung kilala kong mga loko lokong pinoy may Hiya pa rin. I believe a good movie ought to be able to touch and represent a good deal of it's audience's feelings, values, opinions and transport this in a fantasy setting and therefore give it's audience the experience. Honesty, I just don't find myself agreeing with many of the behaviors of the characters. ( Joey Marquez, the father, likes Ding Dong Dantes at first sight, the guy who got his daughter pregnant and jeopardized her future) meron bang ganun?
    Don't get me wrong, I commend them for the effort and by all means please continue to do more highly technical movies like these...but, put attention on the story line and dialogues. Get a group of dependable critiques to scrutinize the script. I agree with your observation. I feel quite detached with the movie, i'm just happy we seem to have improved somehow in our special effects, but well...i don't think there was an experience for me.

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  7. i thought it was a world class movie as what they frequently emphasized during their movie promotion, BUT when i watched it, it was disgusting.. from 1 to 10, i'll rate it 3.. it's just a waste of time and money for the viewers..i absolutely agree with your review.. filipino movie directors must do feasibility studies before making movies.. horror films don't need special effects to catch the audience..the simpler the movie and sound effects, the lesser expenses the better..

    ReplyDelete
  8. One of the worst movies i've seen. im just try to be honest

    ReplyDelete

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