Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Sundo

♣♣♣/♣♣♣♣♣

The movie starts with a distressed Iza Calzado. I love it when she does cameo roles, always short but sweet. You start thinking, hey maybe the movie is not as bad as the trailer suggests. And then after a few minutes the cameo is over.

And then the film presents its premise by making letters appear onscreen. Letters. Not even a voice over. The letters, which form into words, and then into sentences, explain to you that everyone, by the time that they are nearing death, has a "Sundo". This of course is a superstitious belief in our country. If they wanted explanation through text they could have presented a friggin' PowerPoint presentation.

Robin Padilla's character is introduced along with a gripping flashback and several eerie scenes. Sound and score are maximized to contribute to the "gulat" factor. I was contemplating on giving it four out of five clovers, until Sunshine Dizon and Rhian Ramos appeared. The movie then becomes a mini soap opera, attempting to put some drama in the relationship between the main cast, and the conflicts that set them in motion. Time to pay some sleep debt!

The other members of the cast are introduced. Some spirits start to appear. The spirits are like normal human beings with very heavy eye bags that swirl around their eyes via CGI. At least no more Sadako prototypes. Katrina Halili in "palengkera" mode is introduced as a trying-hard comic relief. She disappears after the "accident" and reappears after half an hour to get killed. Had they removed her totally from the script they could have saved on both screen time and talent fee.

The "accident" involves a van and a tunnel, and Robin Padilla waking up from a dream a few minutes before the accident happens. Wait a minute, I have seen this three times already... A plane. A highway pileup. And a roller coaster ride gone bad. Shit. The trailer did its job. It was warning me that this is going to be an underwhelming ripoff. Well, I still watched it. Idiot.

I am not saying that we cannot borrow methods used by Hollywood thrillers to make a good suspense flick. The point is those movies utilized those methods so well that a bar is set. If you want to make your own version at least reach that bar if you cannot go higher. Well, in this movie they went lower. The accident was underwhelming and the editing was faulty. The manner by which the characters died were not craftily executed. The clues as to how they would die were so blatantly hinted (specially Glydel Mercado's scene). Come on, at least a little bit of subtlety. We are not that stupid.

Odette Khan tells Robin and co. that they are being stalked by Death. Apparently Death watches Hollywood for inspiration, and has an obvious fetish for levers that dispense water. Okay I am bored now.

And then we reach the final three. Who survives? Who dies? Exciting! In a final attempt to become mysterious Death decides to confuse us a little bit by giving us an underutilized Jaclyn Jose in yet another cameo, along with little plot twists that do not really make much of an impact. Just when you thought an ultimate survivor finally emerged, Death, in his stereotypical hood and cleft nose (probably met an accident chasing all of them) jumps for the lone survivor.

And then a spooky voice over asks you, "Ikaw, sino ang sundo mo?" To which I wanted to loudly reply, "Ay leche wala akong sundo!" as I walked out of the theater feeling cheated of more than a hundred bucks.

Robin Padilla as the spirit "stalkee." Unlike Kris Aquino who gives you looks of constipation as she is chased by either Lotus Feet or that flower girl, Robin gives you a smirk and an action star pout when the spirits start to haunt him. Perhaps it is because he is an ex-soldier in the movie. He gives you the idea that he would beat the hell out of those ghosts. Staying true to his action star image he tries to shoot Death a couple of times. Deranged. I know.

The movie's overall feel is gloomy thanks to the cinematography. Sound effects were effectively used to elicit temporary shock. I would say that the movie is still worth watching. But do lower your expectations. I actually thought that it was going to turn out okay until the members of the cast started dying. It went downhill after that. Not even a major twist to redeem itself in the end.

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