Erik Matti’s “Tiktik: The Aswang Chronicles” benefits from its groundbreaking visual flair and knockabout humor more than its ability to scare. That’s not saying that the movie isn’t an effective chiller—in fact, the parallel reality Matti cogently brings to pulsating cinematic life reeks with a sinister sense of danger and the macabre, even as it pokes fun at the teleserye-like melodrama its protagonists, jobless city boy Makoy (Dingdong Dantes) and pregnant barrio lass Sonia (Lovi Poe), find themselves in.
The unmarried couple is on the verge of breaking up, because Sonia has had it with her beau’s irresponsible ways. To win her back, Makoy follows his girlfriend, now on her last trimester of pregnancy, to her hometown in remote Pulupandan, where he runs into a group of itinerant hog farmers with a dark secret—they belong to a tribe of tiktiks who feast on human fetuses! What chance does Makoy have to beat them?
Matti’s latest film is the first full-length local movie shot entirely on green screen, which explains its glossy look and eerie, Burtonesque texture—a significant feat in Pinoy filmmaking, where seamless visuals and special effects are exceptions that prove the desultory rule.
As it perpetuates the aswang mythology with its ghost-busting use of garlic, salt, sting ray’s tail and lana (oil), the entertaining and darkly delightful production manages to creatively delineate the disparate places inhabited by humans and their supernatural counterparts. It successfully transports viewers into a world that is alternately breathtaking and beautiful in its rustic strangeness.
The film luxuriates in the wonders of modern technology, but its appeal is magnified by its ability to laugh at itself as it cheekily references Sam Raimi’s “Evil Dead” flicks, especially in the way Dantes—who’s perfectly cast—channels Bruce Campbell’s biting irreverence!
Also notable are the portrayals turned in by Janice de Belen (as Poe’s loud-mouthed mother), who’s feisty without being annoying, and Rina Reyes (as the beleaguered family’s well-meaning neighbor). Compromised by an underwritten character, Poe isn’t required to do much—and doesn’t.
Something goes wrong after the tiktiks’ first attack, however. The movie loses much of its momentum, and stalls—and that’s when the novelty wears off. Thereafter, it listlessly meanders into its perfunctory finale—as a result, so does your attention!
You want to cheer the characters on when they go mano a mano against their ravenous, flesh-eating pursuers. But, it’s hard to relate to people you know little about—except that they’re gravely in danger of getting disembowelled and eaten alive!
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