The Wheel and Axle

Aswangan, Part 2: Tiktik-TAC, Tik-TAC

by on Nov.04, 2012, under Film & TV, Travel & Culture

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Continued From:

Aswangan, Part 1: The As-wunk Phenomenon

*** There Be Spoilers ***

No, not THAT “Tiktik.”

This year, the aswang makes an explosive comeback in media with the recent release of Erik Matti’s Tiktik: The Aswang Chronicles. Which, upon realization, can be abbreviated “Tiktik: TAC.” It is an innovative movie that sets a new standard in local filmmaking and focuses on one of the most famous aswang types, the tiktik.

The tiktik, it is said, is an aswang that makes a bird-like sound (hence, its name) – with the sound being loud when the aswang is distant and growing faint as it approaches, confusing potential victims. Others claim the tiktik is not the aswang itself but the aswang’s familiar – a bird that basically heralds the coming of an aswang. Regardless, it usually perches at night upon rooftops, looking for a hole through which its long proboscis-like tongue can slither down to reach the belly of sleeping pregnant women.

THIS one.

Much of the marketing surrounding this film revolves around it being the first Pinoy movie shot entirely on green screen, inspired by Hollywood hits like 300. It succeeded in this respect – the world-class visuals are stunning. However, the pull of the movie is that it brings back the aswang into mainstream cinema with a bang, catapulting it into the new millennium while maintaining its folkloric roots. After last year’s disappointing Aswang with Paulo Avelino and Lovi Poe, this new movie is an exciting take on an old classic.

Dingdong Dantes, an actor whom I have always been ambivalent about, delivers as the leading man. The rugged anti-hero suits him better than the romantic lead he has been accustomed to. His Makoy is crass, rude, and arrogant, and even in his few moments of seeming tenderness, he insists on being an ass. The character should in theory be easy to hate as a person, but it’s hard to resist empathizing with him – not an easy feat for any actor.

Despite the charisma of the leading man, what makes this movie winning is the rest of its great cast. If only for Janice De Belen and Rina Reyes, the 80s baby in me would watch this movie over and over. Joey Marquez and Ramon Bautista were hilarious in the right places but still managed to create surprisingly complex characters. Roi Vinzon, perennial 80s action villain, had few but powerful scenes – you’ll think twice before crossing him, even in real life. Mike Gayoso, Jeff Fernandez, Cris Pastor, and Montito Almario played aswangs with much effectiveness, and even Roldan Aquino’s short scenes were easy to appreciate.

Of the spectacular cast, two relative newbies stand out:

Compellingly enigmatic.
(LJ Reyes as Hilda)

First is LJ Reyes (Hilda). For someone with a total of one speaking line in the entire movie, she has what Jessica Zafra identifies as a compelling screen presence. It’s too bad that she didn’t get to do more, but making her this smirking, near-silent supernatural entity gave her an unusual malevolent mystique suited to the horror (as it is) of the movie. I will admit, though, that a lot of times I got very distracted when she was onscreen because I kept on thinking, “Grabe! Sobrang swerte naman ni ateh kay Paulo Avelino!”

Then there is RJ Salvador (Kulot), who I later found out is Phillip Salvador’s nephew. His short but pivotal role of the rebellious teenage asshole, albeit of the aswang persuasion, was magnetic. I suspect they cast a mestizo – which would have made him stick out like a sore thumb in the village had it not been for his equally-mestizo but plumper brother (Montito Almario as Cedric) – to justify why they used a pig so pink and unblemished. I guess Dingdong didn’t want to carry a dirty black warthog around during shooting.

Forgive me for finding him hot.
(RJ Salvador as Kulot)

Meanwhile, the Zombadings fan in me wished they had utilized Kerbie Zamora more. At the end of the day, introducing the “lieutenant” reference in the dialogue was useless since they didn’t explore it in detail.

There was also much opportunity missed in not utilizing Janice’s Fely and Rina’s Pacing for more ass-kicking. Fely could’ve been armed with her trusty wok – dipped in garlic saline solution, of course. Pacing, whose anti-aswang business indicates she knows a thing or two about killing the monsters, could’ve wielded the sumpit that was instead attached to the exasperating boy. We don’t get too many ass-kicking women in Pinoy cinema – and certainly not women in their 40s.

The only female ass-kicking from the side of good came from Lovi Poe (Sonia), the sore spot in an otherwise well-cast ensemble. I’ve never really liked Lovi Poe, and her Sonia did nothing to change my mind. She was self-righteous and a whining wuss, and her attitude towards her beau may have helped make Makoy more likeable than he really had any right to be. Perhaps I’d have more sympathy with Sonia if someone else had been cast in the role. Also, what a waste of what could’ve been an awesome female lead: pregnant woman with machine gun! However, after that brief moment, she just became a crybaby.

Aside from Lovi Poe, my only other major complaints were:

1. Showing the aswangs fully-transformed into CG monsters at the end. The earlier depictions of Ringo, Kulas, Kulot, Cedric, Mutya, and Hilda were perfect. They had distinct personalities, they were creepy, and the minimal effects on their faces were subtle. The CG monsters, not so much – even if they did remind me of my own aswang experience. Roi Vinzon’s Tatang was also most frightening when he was just this hulking screen presence in his skintight sando; the moment he went all Underworld: Evolution and became the winged creature exposed in all its glory, much of the dread was lost. Note to creators: effective horror shows less, not more.

2. That kid joining the climactic fray. Because it annoys me when kids join the climactic fray and become action stars in horror movies. With his choice of inappropriately-product-placed bullets, tinalo nya ang hot sauce ni IC Mendoza in Shake, Rattle, and Roll 4. Gahd.

Continued In:

Aswangan, Part 3: Don’t Tick Off The Tiktiks!

Twilight Twit vs. Badass-wang
My money’s on the fierce barrio lass. Work it, girl!
(meme courtesy of the official Facebook page of “Tiktik: TAC”)


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