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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 6, 2019

AURORA movie review: a horror flick that fails to accomplish its intention to scare audiences

“AURORA” is a horror movie set in an isolated island. It was shot in Batanes but this is not really established as the movie’s setting. So we're wondering: why go to a remote, more expensive location and not even show that this was shot there? This could very well have been shot on any scenic beach town in Batangas or Zambales and it will not really make much of a difference. If they shot it somewhere nearer, Viva Films would surely have spent much less for the location shoot.

Instead of giving more weight to the location, the filmmakers should have focused more instead on the script and the way the narrative is developed. As it is, the “boringga” factor in the movie is so very high. There are just many tedious stretches that really test your patience. There is no doubt the movie has good visuals, but after a while, all those frequently repeated shots of the angry sea and its rampaging waves become cumbersome.

The musical score is also too loud, too intrusive, calling attention to itself instead of just subtly heightening the mood or atmosphere of a scene. It’s good for a movie to have superlative technical aspects, but if the storytelling itself leaves so much to be desired, then the movie will be such a big bore to watch, which is what happened to “Aurora”.

Aurora is the name of a ship that was wrecked near the island, killing all of its passengers. When the movie starts, the search for the missing victims has officially ended. You can see the shipwreck from the shore amidst the sharp rocks where the vessel crashed, lying on its side.
The bodies of many of the victims have not yet been recovered. Anne Curtis plays Leana, the keeper of the production designed inn where the relatives of the missing passengers are staying while the search is going on. Now that the coast guard has ended its search, the relatives requested Anne to continue the search and she’ll be paid P50,000 for every body that is recovered.

Only an elderly couple talked to Anne about this and made that offer. And they don’t even look like rich types who can easily afford to pay such a huge amount for every body that is recovered. Sa totoo lang, mukha silang poor. Anne agrees and later enlists the help of a boatman (Allan Paule) and her ex-boyfriend (Marco Gumabao) to help her in the search.

Soon strange things start to happen. There’s an apparition of a ghostly presence peering through the window and there’s another one who actually gets inside the inn through the window. Then Anne’s sister, Rita (Phoebe Villamor), also begins to act strangely, like she knows there are some unwanted ghostly tenants staying in the rooms at the upper floor of their inn which, when seen from the outside, is obviously just made of cardboard.

But for long stretches, nothing earth shaking is really happening. You keep on waiting for something exciting to happen, but it’s not worth the very long wait. The true measure of a good horror film is if it provides spine-tingling, lingering scares. “Aurora” doesn’t have that.

The real problem is that the material is really so flimsy, but they keep on stretching and stretching it and the bad fillers show. It turns out there's a survivor from the shipwreck, a character named Philip (Arnold Reyes), who’s a first hand witness to what actually happened inside the ship before it sinks, but his very vital testimony as a survivor is needlessly delayed until the very end.

And when finally, what transpired inside the ship is actually re-created on the screen, with Anne and her sister witnessing everything as they are suddenly transported there at the time the ship is sinking, the effect is very underwhelming. Anne learns the ship is overloaded. When she and Rita get back to the inn, all the bodies of the missing passengers are there, intact, good as new, not even bloated or disfigured at all considering they’ve been underwater for several weeks.

The movie cannot be saved even if they tighten the editing because of the badly written script. The suspense quotient is zero as tension is not even created while you’re watching, simply because the lives of the lead characters are not even threatened.

A horror film will be effective only if we emphatize with the lead characters totally and we become afraid for them that they might not survive the evil that is confronting them. But there’s a scene where Anne sees a woman on fire passing right in front of her, and it was not even terrifying at all as it just ignores her.

Yam Laranas first gained attention for his “Sigaw”, a 2004 filmfest entry that produced some genuine scares. But since then, he has yet to make another horror film that really works. His “The Road” hangs on an incredible plot contrivance. The character of Alden Richards, a murderous psychotic, finishes college and becomes a policeman played by TJ Trinidad who turns out to be a serial killer. We hope he will be more successful in scaring audiences in his next horror project.