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Mario Bautista, has been with the entertainment industry for more than 4 decades. He writes regular columns for People's Journal and Malaya.

Jan 5, 2014

Pagpag Review: Kathniel Fans Do Not Mind The Movie's Illogicalities

‘PAGPAG: Siyam na Buhay’ is allegedly about the superstitious belief that after attending a wake and before you go home, you need to shake off first whatever bad vibes or spirits you may have acquired while you’re in the company of the dead. (This is actually a relatively new belief and we actually just heard it from people in showbiz.) But actually, the core concept of the film is derived from the hit “Final Destination” franchise. And the ‘pagpag’ element turns out not to be really that important in the movie because the story actually revolves more on a couple who have sold their souls to the devil and are out to kill nine people for the husband to regain his life and that of their dead child.

This fan movie cum horror flick banks mainly on the popularity of the hottest teen love team today, Daniel Padilla and Kathryn Bernardo. Daniel is Cedric, a rich boy who doesn’t see eye to eye with his dad. While driving his car, he almost hits Leni (Kathryn), a poor girl who is her family’s breadwinner, who's crossing the street. It’s the kind of cute meet we often see in romcoms. Their relationship starts on the wrong foot but you know they’ll end up with each other, just like in their own hit TV soap, “Got to Believe”.

Leni runs a funeral parlor with her Uncle Dencio (Janus del Prado) and friend (Marvin Yap). She also takes care of a mute orphan boy who has a penchant for drawing morbid ghostly figures, Macmac (Clarence Delgado). She and Cedric meet each other again when Cedric’s car breaks down in a rural area near the house where Leni is setting up the wake of Roman (Paulo Avelino), the husband of the grieving Lucy (Shaina Magdayao.)

Cedric and his friends (Michelle Vito, Dominique Roque, JC Novato, Miles Ocampo) go into the house where the wake is held and they are immediately reprimanded by Shaina’s sister, Matet de Leon, for defying some superstitious beliefs meant to be observed during a wake. Soon, the friends of Leni and Cedric start dying one by one.

Leni and Cedric try to determine the cause of it all and Leni’s uncle Janus tells them that Paulo and Shaina have made a pact with the devil. How he finds out about this and why he didn’t warn Leni about is not clear. What soon becomes clear is that their friends are being killed not because they defied superstition but because they are pawns to the devil. There are many other illogical things in the narrative. You’d think Paulo has just died recently, but it turns out he has died long ago as the child he meant to save is actually now seven years old and has been saved by Matet from the fire that razed their house to provide the twist in the narrative.

The movie really asks us to suspend our disbelief too much, particularly in its assertion that if Shaina and Paulo would have a child, it would be someone like Clarence Delgado whose appearance is aeons of miles away from them. The ghost is portrayed as someone very powerful, and yet he never guessed that their son never really died in the fire and that the obese boy is actually his son? And why did he kill Matet when she never defied any “pamahiin” and he didn’t even know that Matet saved his child from the fire?

But all the illogicalities do not really matter much for local viewers who just plain enjoy watching a horror flick during the holiday season. It’s lucky for “Pagpag” and Director Frasco Mortiz that they do not have a competitor this year. Unlike in 2012 when “Shake, Rattle & Roll 14” was shown alongside another horror flick, “The Strangers”, so the market was split and they both ended up earning only about P50 million plus each. In contrast, “Pagpag” has reportedly earned about P120 million so far. So they'll no longer mind negative reviews like this since they’re already secure about their being a blockbuster at the tills.

Now, about the scare factor, the movie is not really that scary but audiences do get their usual dose of boo moments that jolt. What’s actually scary here is the gory bloody way some of the victims die, just like in the “Final Destination” franchise that offers similarly shocking scenes. Marvin Yap gets sandwiched by two motor vehicles that violently collide with each other. Dominic Roque is shown dying while taking a shower in the nude. Janus gets his neck lacerated by shards of glass in a car’s window. Matet is buried alive inside a vacant crypt. But the grisliest death scene is that of Miles Ocampo who not only gets wounded by broken glass but also gets an entire chandelier crashing on top of her.

But the heroes, Kathniel, of course, cannot be killed by the ghost even if there have already been many opportunities to do so, simply because they’re the ‘bida’. We’re sure their avid fans will appreciate this. So if you’re not a fan of their love team, you can very well skip this. Acting-wise, no one stands out here, but Shaina Magdayao manages to convey the kind of creepiness her role requires. All the others get the kind of death scene that they deserve, including the ghost himself.