Thursday, March 15, 2012

CORAZON: Ang Unang Aswang

by Reymundo Salao

CORAZON is a movie that I was hoping would be as good as YANGGAW. My initial fear was on the notion that no matter how good a director or a writer is, if it goes through studio execs and producers just like any mainstream Tagalog movie does, the original concept for the film becomes adulterated. The creative process undertaken by a writer and/or director can easily be altered by producers who are more concerned in altering the cast, creative process, and the story, without regard. And this meddling can damage the creativity of the finished product.

The movie itself is highly impressive, and if you count on a comparative scale, there are very very few Pinoy mainstream horror movies that are this good. That is why I will not be surprised if this joins the ranks of the top ten best Pinoy horror movies ever made. My judgment on it is partially on a level that considers the mass audience and was slightly adjusted to fit Pinoy cinema standards.

But in my own personal direct judgment, the movie was indeed initially going to be that timeless classic that I would have wished it to be; but it was ruined by the atrocious ending. After I have done watching the movie in its entirety, all the little flaws (that were ignorable at first) were like tiny wounds that had infectiously swollen into large sores. I could not help but think of a meddling by producers (or studio executives) in the creative process; the way the story was heading into one direction, and suddenly detouring into what seems like a forced “mainstream-friendly” ending. I will discuss this on the final part of this review.

CORAZON: ANG UNANG ASWANG (written and directed by Richard V. Somes) seemed like it was going to break grounds in the field of Pinoy mainstream horror movies the same way YANGGAW did. The vibrant cinematography which enhanced the various moods of the movie, Somes’ directorial approach which is clean and un-awkward, and the concepts that the story was presenting; they were high points that made the film engaging to watch. There was a degree of heavy religious eeriness in the scenes with Maria Isabel Lopez, and the montage where Corazon (Erich Gonzales) went on an unusual pilgrimage for fertility. Those were scenes that cleverly built up to the horror of the middle act.

The story’s progression in the middle was moderately impressive. The tragedy of Corazon’s “becoming an aswang” was one that was nicely done and, in a good way, reminded me of “Bram Stoker’s Dracula” that Francis Ford Coppola directed. The aswang montages were savagely direct and were indeed a re-visit to Somes’ own “Yanggaw”. The use of the boar head (and skin) was a brilliant touch (and yes, I was wrong about it on my “initial reactions” article). The film was looking good, and as a comparison to the usual Pinoy mainstream horror movie, this was looking like it was going to be one of those bound-to-be timeless classics.

There were some few things that bothered me initially. The acting of both Derek and Erich would sometimes miss the mark, but that was pretty ignorable. I could have easily forgiven and ignored to mention Derek’s stupid “modern” necklace, bracelet, and haircut that are demerits to the story’s post-WW2 timeline. And why, as a sacada, is he wearing combat boots? It was also not easy to ignore the overlong scenes of passion. Yes, I know they’re in love; we get it. I don’t think you would have to need steamy scenes accomplish that point.

But the worst and un-ignorable thing about the movie is the MAKE-UP department. Erich Gonzalez does NOT look like an Aswang. She does not look like she has been living insanely in the forest. But what she clearly looks like is a woman with cosmetics around her eyes. She looks like a freaking goth teenager or some grade school student in some kind of grade school Halloween party. It’s the first big negative thing that sticks out in the movie. Whoever was in charge of the make-up should not be hired to work on movies again, as he/she does not know how to make things believable.

The movie eventually goes on directions of what may be an unforgettable origin story of what an Aswang is. It certainly melded many theories about Aswangs, with Somes’ own interpretation and imagination. CORAZON: ANG UNANG ASWANG is a movie that I could easily recommend to those who are not too strict when it comes to what is quality cinema. But to those who are looking for the Pinoy movie that will break new grounds on the mainstream, this is not it.

The ending pretty much fucked the movie for me. The film’s happy ending seemed like an obvious forced ending just to please the audiences. That is what is wrong with mainstream cinema; it always underestimates the masa audience; they think they know what the masa audience would want.

Before I could get to the main gist, I was unhappy that there was no follow-up to the Maria Isabel Lopez character. There is also that scene right before the final ten stupid minutes of the movie; Corazon was being chased by the townspeople, while Daniel was being chased by the landowner’s men. And when they both stumbled upon each other, it suddenly took forever for the two chasing parties to get to where they were. It made the overall sequence silly and contributed to the awfulness of the ending.

There was also the inconsistency of the storyline; if Daniel and Corazon were married for five years already, wouldn’t that have conflicted with the issue that Corazon was being abused by foreign soldiers during the war, and had undergone several abortions? The story is set on 1946. Japanese Occupation of the Philippines happened from 1942 to 1944. Somebody please let these people borrow your History textbooks.

Now to the main issue; the movie sets Daniel and Corazon to be tragic characters. Do you think if Romeo and Juliet had a happy ending, it would have been a story that had become buried and forgotten a long time ago? Corazon was already eating children and Daniel was being a grandmaster asshole, even to his closest friend, and you expect the audiences to still root for him? Oh, I remember why… Because he’s Derek fucking Ramsey with his stupid billboard poses throughout the movie, you can’t kill him because you would make the ignorant chicks in the audience cry! I am hoping that Somes shot an alternate scene for this, and am sincerely crossing my fingers that a director’s cut with a better ending would be released on DVD later on. Was this movie good? First let me forget about how the movie ended, and I might give you a different answer.

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