Sunday, November 13, 2016

Teen fright fest

I thought Janella Salvador acquitted herself well in her horror film debut.
I grew up on the Shake, Rattle and Roll films, so I have the highest regard for Regal Films when it comes to producing horror movies. They have a history of putting together spine-tingling flicks with images that stay with me long after I’ve left the movie theater. For the most part, they succeeded in doing the same with Haunted Mansion. 

I was excited to watch it because I’m friends with most of the cast. I wanted to support my girl Janella Salvador in her first MMFF movie as a headliner. I wasn’t disappointed. She delivered a great performance. Fear is one of the hardest emotions to display as an actor. Fear has physiological manifestations—dilated pupils, heavy or ragged breathing, and goosebumps on one’s arms—and I really saw genuine fear written all over Janella’s face in some scenes. Also, the camera loves her. As my mother put it in her own review of Haunted Mansion, Janella is a cinematographer’s dream. She registers well onscreen. 

MarNella, Janella's onscreen team-up with Marlo Mortel, showed promise. 
You know who else looked good onscreen? Marlo Mortel. His chemistry with Janella was palpable in this movie. When his character Adrian was shown pining after Janella’s character, I actually felt his longing. Nice one, Marlo. I wish Regal Films would give their tandem a follow-up project. MarNella is already a proven commodity on TV—having been given exposure in Be Careful with My Heart and Oh My G—and they could do well in the movies too, given the right material. Throw in Jerome Ponce (who also has lots of chemistry with Janella) as a third wheel and you’ve got the makings of a nice love triangle in a feel-good teen movie.

Speaking of Jerome, he also gave a decent performance in this movie. I thought his delivery of certain lines was good, and he came off as quite believable as Jacob, the big man on campus with a heart of gold. The rest of the ensemble cast also did well, so props to Devon Seron, Eliza Pineda, Ingrid dela Paz, and Phytos Ramirez. Paolo Gumabao also had a great moment—in fact, his death scene was my favorite. 

Jerome Ponce went from playing Janella's TV brother to a love interest in this movie.
I do have some quibbles with the movie, though. The actors (including veterans Dominic Ochoa, Iza Calzado and Janice de Belen) did the best they could with the material they were given, which I thought was a bit problematic. I actually felt the veterans could have used more screen time—they were underutilized, particularly Ms. Janice. You have one of the icons of Philippine horror cinema and you don’t play with that onscreen? What a missed opportunity. 

I also think the movie took too long to get to the real action. You could have cut a lot out of Haunted Mansion’s first two acts, which would have tightened the story a bit more and made it even more effective. But the movie took way too long to get to the action, which is why the back half felt a little bit rushed—like a bunch of characters died in the span of five minutes. I would have preferred the deaths to be spaced out, so they would each have had a greater impact. 

That said, I’d watch it again. I like that it reminded me of classic 90s barkada horror movies like I Know What You Did Last Summer and the original Scream trilogy. Congratulations to all involved!

All photos courtesy of Regal Films.

This review was originally posted on December 26, 2015 at @JulianMauricio.

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