Derivative thrills work their magic in Charo-Bea showdown
Charo Santos-Concio and Bea Alonzo’s chiller “Eerie” ticks off many of the horror genre’s time-tested ploys, but director Mikhail Red executes them with as much confidence as skill.
It’s far from original, but that doesn’t make the murky and unsettling world it imagines any less mystifying or striking as it effectively evokes viewers’ sense of the uncanny and terror of the unknown.
The film tells the story of stubborn guidance counselor Patricia Consolacion (Bea), who lifts the veil of secrecy on the campus of an ultraconservative all-girl Catholic school run by Sor Alicé Nicolas (Charo), its unyieldingly authoritative principal. Pat investigates a series of suicide attempts and unexplained deaths that are scaring the students and teachers out of their wits.
Key to the skin-crawling puzzle could be the old caretaker accused of the dastardly deeds, but Pat tells police detective Julian Castro (Jake Cuenca) that there could be more to Sor Alicé’s reluctance to help solve the mystery than meets the eye.
The situation takes a turn for the twisted when Pat begins following a troubling trail of breadcrumbs with the help of the ghost of Erika Sayco (Gillian Vicencio), whose alleged “suicide” in the ’70s remains unexplained and unsolved.
Despite its flaws, it is to Red’s credit that the film doesn’t succumb to turgid convolutions that undermine its relevant themes.
Like Red’s previous films (“Birdshot,” “Neomanila” and “Rekorder”), the film has sluggish moments that dilute its overall impact. His preference for atmosphere over urgency weighs it down further.
Be that as it may, it’s this rough-around-the-edges quality as a storyteller that makes Red one of the country’s more exciting filmmakers—you know there’s more to him than formula-defying twists and yarn-spinning proficiency.
But “Eerie” isn’t just its director’s career-boosting triumph. He is served well by a fine ensemble of actors who are paced by his exceptional lead stars, who are undaunted by the limitations of the thriller genre.
Keeping the production’s scare quotient high and consistently engrossing are the complementary portrayals of Charo and Bea, who’s in tip-top thespic shape after the overhyped but ultimately underwhelming “First Love.”
That Bea is her usual lovely and competent self doesn’t really surprise us, so sue us if we expect her generation’s movie queen to keep upping the acting ante—because we expect nothing less from her.
Her carefully calibrated depiction of turmoil simmering under a cool-and-collected exterior demonstrates how Bea has transmogrified into the kind of actress who doesn’t need to turn to vein-popping bravado to convey fear, deep-seated anguish, genuine concern or the inner demons that haunt her. She imbues her character with as much emotional resonance as relatability.
For his part, while Jake is no slouch at acting, he largely owes his participation to a deus ex machina device utilized to ease the movie into the white-knuckle moment of its “twisted” denouement.
Accomplishing even more of a thespic transcendence is Charo, the lovely “woman who left.” For years, she chose to put her acting career on hold to break the corporate glass ceiling before she came back a much better, more refined and reinvigorated performer.
And we can’t wait to see more of her, preferably in films that veer away from the range-constricting contrivances of moldy, musty, ehem, “mainstream” cinema.
Even with a character whose backstory isn’t as better-developed as it deserves to be, Charo demonstrates her meaty acting mettle with an award-worthy performance that simmers and seethes with unforced gravitas and menace.
With astute judiciousness, Charo does away with a lot of the acting tics and crowd-pleasing tricks often associated with the threadbare horror genre—and comes out spookier than the wrist-slashing and neck-wringing ghouls that go bump in the night.
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