Directed by Richard Somes, Jerrold Tarog and Chris Martinez
Written by Richard Somes and Aloy Adlawan, Maribel Ilag and Jerrold Tarog and Roselle Monteverde-Teo, Jerry Gracio
Part of the fun, and the frustration, in watching a studio tent-pole taken over, in the loosest sense, by someone outside its rank and file of yes men hacks is second-guessing where the auteur ends and the studio head begins. That’s three times the fun, and the frustration, when it comes to what is being roundly exalted as the last of the Shake Rattle And Roll milking cows, 13.
But, restraint having never been a prominent facet of Chris Martinez’ aesthetic, and much less so the literal sturm and drang of his episode, Rain Rain Go Away, it gets tough to tease him from all this grim J-Horror slow burn, or slow damp if you will, tougher when his muse Eugene Domingo reins in all her funny, too. Tough, and not a little disorienting, at least at first. But this may be the most cohesive of all three, and the one with the least signs of interference. It uses for grist the collateral damage of Ondoy, a tragedy that’s possibly freighted with as dreadful a resonance for us as 911 has for Americans, and certainly weighs heavily on the characters. And there’s a meta eeriness to having it come out in the fresh aftermath of a similar catastrophe. You can see where it’s going almost from the get-go, but it’s not so much the reveal here as it is the languid gloom with which we get there.
Richard Somes is really the one with the most vivid auteurist imprint, if only because it’s more immediate and apparent by dint of being largely visual. His Tamawo is anorexic, falters in the telling, and takes its time to finish, but there’s an energy unique to him at work here, a feral, pulpy vigor. Returned to the familiar terrain of his aswang inversion Yanggaw, with some of its supple expressionistic sexiness, as well as that mixture of the brutish and the maudlin that leavens his sense of drama and takes getting used to, you can tell it’s the knotty dynamics of the fractured family that he’d rather tap into, but settles for a siege film in which Maricar Reyes is a young mother whose ramshackle house in the jungle is surrounded by monsters. She also happens to be blind. And it’s a trope that Richard gets to exploit brilliantly once, in a scene that amounts to your bang for the buck in hardcore creepout.
Creepier still, and possibly more terrifying than water ghosts and albino monsters, in real life as it is here, is the ferocious boil riled-up estrogen can come to. This is what Jerrold Tarog buttresses Parola with. It does bear some of the strain from all the shape-shifting the script was likely made to undergo, apparent not least from how the eponymous haunted lighthouse has become incidental to the point of extraneous, buckling here and there from its multiple tiers of subtext lacking enough running time to layer cohesively. But it gets palpably malevolent when it reverts to its high school setting, and Kathryn Bernardo and Louise De Los Reyes get to play out their protracted supernatural catfight, with all that heightened and pent-up spite and malice and venom that leak out when best friends turn archenemies. Voodoo plus hormones, yeah. That’s not only a log line for a tween horror movie, that’s also the quintessence of what it’s like to be a girl.
*Originally published in Lagarista as The Last Horror Show