Monday, October 29, 2012

Review: Tiktik - The Aswang Chronicles

First off I'd like to say I'm not a big fan of local movies. I just don't like the way they're shot, and their storylines. They are very, very formulaic and you can tell from the way they're shot that all the acting bits were probably done in about a week's time (minimum) or a month at most. It's just hard to see the effort when there's just one or two camera angles. The sound is usually the type produced by equipment from the sixties or seventies (and there's always the same distinctive footstep noise that they use in every movie! And we're in 2012 already, wow...)

I'm just glad those elements weren't in Tiktik.

I went in this movie with rock bottom expectations. Their marketing says it's comparable to Avatar / LOTR; I wish they didn't say that, though.

But if you do compare it to the local 'big effects' films, Tiktik is practically light years ahead of all of them. (example: try watching Enteng Kabisote, then try watching Tiktik; you'd think they were made in different countries....)

I guess if you're going to watch this, try to keep an open mind, especially if you're like me and you watch a lot of US-made, big budget movies. It wouldn't be fair to try and compare this to those movies.

In my case, what stood out for me was the way the film was shot. It wasn't really the CG effects which 'impressed' me. The CG was actually very obvious and for some reason whatever computer system they used had a bit of a hard time rendering things in 24 FPS at least. But the sharpness of their regular camera shots was really impressive. It made the lead star feel like a 'big' star in a major film for once. It really did make a difference to shoot this digitally.

Dingdong Dantes is commendable in this movie in the sense that he totally seems to be into his role. He's quite believable as this guy from Manila who ends up going to some place far away and still acts like he knows better than everyone else. He completely sells the picture.

The actors I didn't like in this movie were Joey Marquez and Janice De Belen. They were acting like they were still in an old movie from a by-gone era of movie making. Janice De Belen just throws out that oppressive 'mother-in-law' role that is typical in most previous Filipino films. It's a tired cliche that I wish wasn't in this movie; but maybe the producers were wary that the masses won't bite if it didn't have anything already familiar to them. Joey Marquez starts out strong, but later on when the onslaught of 'aswang' starts arriving he completely overacts, barely audible with his high pitched voice as he expresses his disdain or whatever emotion he was supposed to demonstrate. If the movie didn't have these guys then maybe it would have been a bit better; I just thought they didn't fit in a movie which is supposed to usher in a more 'modern' approach to local filmmaking. They felt like the insurance policy in case people couldn't relate with Dingdong Dantes' character.

Lovi Poe is just, kinda there. Well, her only role in the movie is really to get chased, and the movie wouldn't exist without her. So she isn't supposed to really do anything except scream, and fire a few rounds when cornered.

Oh, I forgot to mention the effects. They were GOOD when they focused on the "humanoid" Aswangs using just some makeup and a few digital enhancements. But when the aswangs turned into superpowered monster dogs, the flaws in their CG became very apparent. I wish they darkened up the shots with the monster dogs a lot more, so that they would be more scary and believable. In this case you can really see they're computer generated....a bit more effort analyzing the lighting in their scenes may have helped.

So to put it all simply, yes this film is worth watching if you want to see how much better Filipino films can be if more effort was put into the sound production and the visuals. This movie is still a whole lot better than what is released during the Manila Film Festival (which occurs yearly at Christmas). I do commend the ones that worked on this film in the sense that you can really tell they worked hard on it. There were some great scenes in there like when the Aswangs (not in dog form) were surrounding the house. They did those scenes pretty well and potentially if they make other movies they can draw from that scenario to make various other great moments in the future. Dingdong Dantes really sells the character he is playing extremely well and he's just really hampered by his costars in this one. I'm not calling for a completely serious, horrifying version of this movie; maybe the jokes were just really cheezy at times. They can keep the humor for the sequel; just get a better, younger set of actors to tell a new set of jokes.

Overall, watch it, if only to support better quality, more effort, and more creativity in local film. It's a great first step.