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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.

Nov 22, 2023



SCHOOLS are a common setting for horror and slasher films, like “Urban Legend”, “Final Destination”, “A Nightmare on Elm St.” and “Happy Death Day”. 

Now comes “Marita”, from writer-director Roni Benaid, who earlier did the surprise hit ghost story, “Mary Cherry Chua”, which was also set in a campus.

Like “Mary Cherry Chua”, “Marita” is said to be based on a true story that has become an urban legend.

Marita (Rhen Escano) is an acclaimed actress in their college in the 70s who gained acclaim in their school productions.

But when younger and more talented actors start joining their stage productions, she begins to feel insecure and she starts to consider them as her rivals. 

Eventually, some of them did eclipse her on stage and her star wattage starts to fade. 

She cannot just take this quietly and before she becomes a total has been, she stages one last shocking performance that the whole college will not soon forget. 

She commits suicide by hanging herself on stage right in front of the shocked audience.

Because of this, the theatre is closed down and the school’s theatre group is disbanded. 

Years pass quickly. In the present time, a new professor in the College of Arts, Sandra (Louise de los Reyes), is assigned to officially revive the theatre group and stage a new presentation.    

Sandra is just too happy to accept her new assignment,  not having an inkling that it will be the toughest task she gets to face in her career. 

The theatre is rumored to be haunted by the ghost of Marita, but she doesn’t believe in it and starts to audition students who might want to try acting in their stage presentation. 

A lot of freshmen and sophomore students answer her call for auditions. 

The theatre called Socorro Hall is reopened for their use.  The young actors are chosen and workshops are conducted to prepare them for their respective roles on stage. 

The production is all set, but it seems something insidious and sinister is out to stop them in the project. 

Ashtine Olviga plays Cristina, the student who plays the lead role in their play. 

During their rehearsal, she hears the creepy voice of a woman calling her. Soon, more mysterious incidents happen, making everyone feel so stressed. 

Sandra has been warned about the ghost of Marita, but she chose not to pay attention to it.

But as the situations in their stage production gets worse, she now has no choice but to face Marita herself. 

She has to be very brave to confront the evil spirit as the lives of the students working with her are at stake. 

Writer-director Roni Benaid has come up with another ghost story that will surely cater to “masa” viewers who go for this type of fright fest. 

Given more time and a bigger budget, we're sure he could have given us a more polished work.

There are many jump scares and the full packed audience at Megamall was screaming its head off with glee each time Marita’s decaying face suddenly appears on the big screen to scare a member of the big cast.

What holds the film together is actually the committed performance of Louise de los Reyes as the feisty teacher who refuses to be intimidated by Marita. 

Louise is consistently good in both the light and terrifying scenes, specially when she chooses to go into the realm of souls inhabited by Marita, just like the climax of the “Insidious” films and the lair of the demons called The Further.

Rhen Escano is also effective as the menacing Marita. Among the cast of newcomers playing the students, the most promising are Ethan David as Mark and Ashtine Olviga as Cristina. 

Neil Tolentino looks miscast as the school caretaker, Mang Selmo, with his long very curly hair that needs some rebond. But he does acquit himself in his dramatic scenes when it turns out that his wife also died as a victim of the vicious Marita.