Sunday, July 5, 2009

Villa Estrella


MAJA SALVADOR FTW! Paging Star Cinema and ABS, this girl should be the one getting the big breaks. Shaina rants. Shaina cries. Shaina makes spooked faces. But Maja only has to glare enigmatically at the camera, and all the other actors in the scene fade into the background. When will her home network give her a big break, when she is 40? This movie will be another proof of how underrated she is as an actress. Her character here is strange. The weirdness ranges from silently-psychotic-strange to lesbo-strange. Or maybe I am just green minded.

I would have to agree with one of the earlier reviews. There is a decent story here, but for some unknown reason it seems that Star Cinema has intentionally jinxed the movie. Casting a bunch of actors who have not yet proven anything box office-wise is risky. Sandwiching a movie between Transformers 2 and Ice Age 3 is plain box office suicide. I would have understood the bad play date if the story is really bad. But the story here is actually plausible. So Star Cinema, why the bad play date?

Shaina Magdayao is growing as an actress and she is not that bad in this movie but somehow it seems that it is still Maja who gets the attention despite her relatively shorter screen time. Jake Cuenca's acting is okay for me but somehow there is something off about him. Geoff Eigenmann gets the shortest screen time of the four, which means his acting is tolerable at least. John Estrada does nothing but shout. John Arcilla is okay. Ronnie Lazaro steals the scenes from time to time. That Celine Lim girl is already versatile at a young age. She could do naive and creepy effortlessly. Empoy and Rubi Rubi serve as comic relief. It seems really stupid that they can still squeeze in a punch line in times of great distress, but somehow I was still laughing. "Anak, sasali ka ba sa Olympics?!" "Monster? Alien? None of the above." Crazy.

I like the style of the director. He does not rely much on CGI as a scare tactic. In fact most of the "gulat" scenes are derived from typical daily activities, just given a surprising twist with the help of loud sound effects and quick camera action. Star Cinema, let the guy do another horror movie. And do give him a bigger budget. He could be a Chito Roño someday.

My problem with the movie is the CGI. While it is commendable that the director kept the animated effects to a minimum, those handful of scenes are not really convincing. If the movie only has a few of those then maybe Star Cinema could have just splurged a little to at least make them believable.

I love the jeepney scene because it is the "Shit-WTF" scene where the big revelation is. It is also where the story begins to make sense. I like how the director has placed a couple of red herrings that deviate one's attention from the main story arc.

Now that I have seen it, for me this movie would go down in history as "that 2009 horror flick that tanked because of the bad play date," instead of my earlier opinion which went something like "that 2009 horror flick that tanked because it sucks."

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