Movie Review: ‘Ang Mga Kaibigan Ni Mama Susan’
Turning a popular book into a movie is no easy feat because you have to please the readers and convince them that it is a faithful adaptation of their favorite book, and you would not do anything to ruin or tarnish it. Then, on the other hand, if it is going to be a literal page-to-page translation, then you would also have people complain, nonetheless. It is a test of resolve and mettle for the filmmakers to find that elusive middle ground where they would respect the source material and be able to add their own nuances, touches, and imprint to the movie version. In short, it combines literature with movie magic.
There is no question that some artistic and creative liberties had to be taken in order to apply the vision of the filmmakers without completely disregarding the source material to avoid being called lackadaisical or lacking any originality. Oftentimes, it is a frustrating balancing act, and it is hard to achieve, but it has been done in the past when the two points meet. When that happens, the readers themselves treat the movie as almost a visual aid or a part of the book itself.
The latest book-to-movie adaptation called “Ang Mga Kaibigan Ni Mama Susan,” managed to distill enough of the essence of the popular book by Bob Ong and turn it into a fright-fest combined with decent acting and stylish cinematography. Certainly, it got the treatment it deserves given that this is probably the most popular book of Bob Ong.
Director Chito S. Rono was brought in to direct “Ang Mga Kaibigan Ni Mama Susan” because a good number of the most memorable modern horror movies at Regal were under his direction. So, it makes sense to bring him in for this one because to have chosen any other director would not have been the best move for the movie given its nature. Certainly, the movie felt more cohesive because of him, and there was a certain overall feeling that the movie was in good hands because of Chito S. Rono.
Joshua Garcia can be proud of his performance here because it did not only prove to be a correct casting choice based on his previous acting credentials. But judging from what he showed here in “Ang Mga Kaibigan Ni Mama Susan,” he knew he had no choice but to deliver, and to his credit, he did so. Sometimes pressure is a good thing, as it can help the actor dig deeper or push himself to perform to the best of his capabilities in every intense scene that is required.
Realistically, among all the young mainstream actors we have now, he is probably one of the few remaining that people would naturally gravitate towards because he does exude this certain innocence about him which is required based on the fictional character “Galo” he portrays, to the point that when he gets scared or shocked, so do the moviegoers. Thus, there is authenticity to the horrors he faces in the movie because it shows on his face, movements and reactions.
There were moments in some scenes wherein I was creeped out by the imagery that was being shown, and here is where the expertise of Regal comes in because “Ang Mga Kaibigan Ni Mama Susan” falls exactly in their wheelhouse and realm of mastery of providing the scares because the attention to detail here was amazing and they clearly did not spare any cost in everything. There were some instances where I could feel the gloominess, darkness, and eeriness of what was being shown in many of the scenes.
It reminded me a lot of the production value of “The Heiress,” starring Janella Salvador that was released in 2019 from Regal Entertainment, Inc. “Ang Mga Kaibigan Ni Mama Susan” has a very similar aesthetic in terms of the former movie’s production value, but this is like three times more of that. Indeed, time and time again, they have proven that when it comes to Horror, Regal are still the best at it, locally.
Finally, it is nearly impossible to perfectly do a book-to-movie adaptation because these are two different formats, two different media, and two different ways of getting entertained. So, for anyone to expect that “Ang Mga Kaibigan Ni Mama Susan” would have been able to completely please the hardest-to-impress readers, they are living in a different world. No fictional or non-fictional book has ever been perfectly turned into a movie without flaws, inconsistencies, and disconnects from the source material. However, this one came close to achieving that feat. Instead, focus on this being a movie which did its best to bring all the positives of the popular book by Bob Ong to life in cinema. After all, this is entertainment, and if you are after the overall entertainment value, then you can find it here for sure. I can say that with certainty.
“Ang Mga Kaibigan Ni Mama Susan” is available for streaming on Prime Video.
My Final Score: 8/10
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