Saturday, July 27, 2013

The Diplomat Hotel

♣♣♣♣/♣♣♣♣♣

A hostage drama gone awry takes its toll on famous TV reporter Veronica Lansang's (Gretchen Barretto) professional life and mental health. Taking a break away from the limelight, she is hospitalized and is able to recover what is left of her sanity, but not her career. Itching for a comeback that society would simply not give her, she swallows her pride and takes on a job as a tabloid reporter. Her first assignment is The Diplomat Hotel, a once popular accommodation in Baguio that is now left in ruins, owing to its reputation as a haunted place.

The director had a short talk before the movie started which was cool and all and truly upped everyone's expectations because he promised a simple haunted house story that is supposed to be a mind-bender. However, the only mind-bending thing that left everyone baffled were the technical glitches, which multiplied and multiplied as the film ran its course.

First, there were some abrupt jumps, a defect that is characteristic of pirated DVDs. And then came the problem with the dubbing. Hearing the actors' lines even before their mouths opened made everything feel like some badly-dubbed telenovela. The technical brouhaha takes a turn for the worse before the movie reaches its 20th minute. The video is suddenly cut short, leaving the soundtrack running and eventually culminating with a pop-up dialogue box saying that the file type is not supported.

Another mind-bending factor we could think of right now is Greenbelt’s unpreparedness for such an event. No backup USB? No backup file? No nothing? Here is hoping that this Greenbelt case is an isolated problem, because if every screening of this movie in the metro suffered the same fate, then that does not say anything good about the crew who prepared this film. Too bad, the premise looks promising. Perhaps it merits a second look somewhere else, but the experience would no longer be as genuine.

Giving it a second try the next day, it was nice to see that the dubbing has been fixed and that the pop-up was no longer appearing. At last, I was to find out what the movie is really all about. The problem is that it comes short of expectations. It is interesting to note how movies like this are effective thrillers at first, but when everyone’s psychological drama starts to hog the spotlight from the story’s supposed supernatural theme, you come to the conclusion that the ending would be an uninteresting one.

The movie gets to achieve a creepy vibe reminiscent of Silent Hill, maybe because of the familiar setting in a freaky place in shambles that bring about bad memories from the past. The plot attempts to connect each character’s personal drama to the hotel, but the connection is not that strong to be appreciated. Although Mon Confiado’s character serves as the link and his backstory is established along with the short flashbacks, this does not seem to justify the events that unravel as the plot moves forward. Everything is just coincidence, and there is no eureka moment in which you get to connect the dots like you would had you been watching a mainstream horror flick. Or maybe that is the exact reason, this is not mainstream.

Gretchen Barretto does crazy quite well and her acting here is very much appreciated, but it is Art Acuña who gets to shine because he is way better in doing crazy than everyone else. He is one of those characters that would give you a genuine scare if you encountered him in some abandoned hotel. Mon Confiado comes in close second. The gothic chick seems to be a newbie and her enunciation is a bit distracting although tolerable enough. Suffice it to say that there really is no problem in the acting department. Everyone delivers, even Joel Torre, whose cameo is relatively short but will truly give you goose bumps.

In the end, it just happened that several people who are cuckoo decided to gather in a venue that is said to be haunted, unleash their craziness on each other, and then put the blame on the place. The ending is as underwhelming as the end of what seemed to be a thrilling roller coaster ride. You were paranoid before riding it, on a high when it traversed the loops and twists, and left with that wanting feeling that translates to “that’s it?” as the ride comes to a halt. The Diplomat Hotel will thrill your enough to enjoy it, but you would probably not remember it as a film that added something new to an already tired genre.

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