Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Pwera usog (2017)

Jean (Sofia Andres) and her friends Bobby (Albie Casiño) and Val (Cherise Castro) belong to that lowest rung on the human ladder, the YouTube video prankster. Jean’s Dad really rather has higher hopes for her and wants her to go to university, but then, he’s one of those absentee widowers who spent little time with their children yet still wonder why they don’t get any respect from then. His best bet when it comes to convincing her of the dire future looming after her attempts in being an Internet personality is reading her the negative comments to her latest video.

Ironically enough, the comments do indeed nag at Jean more than just a little, and she decides to do something really interesting for her next video. The first plan is to drive to a spooky place out of Manila for it; because she’s just that kind of person, she asks her ex-boyfriend Sherwin (Joseph Marco) to drive, for nobody else in her little clique has a car or a licence.

When they arrive at what looks like the kind of ruined parking house all horror filmmakers wherever they live love, they encounter a strange homeless girl (Devon Seron). At first, Jean plans to film herself giving the young woman money to once and for all prove for all on the Internet that she’s a good person (seriously), but then she decides it’s best to first dress up as killers and hunt after her with knives and then give her money afterwards. Not surprisingly, they manage to kinda-sorta accidentally chase her off the building’s roof. The fall should have killed the girl, but she’s just gone.

Of course, the trio, as well as Sherwin who stayed in the car for most of this, ignoring quite a bit of screaming in the process, quickly find themselves hunted by a very angry spirit. A spirit with a rather more complex backstory than you would expect, also involving the past of a family of country faith healers and the kid they couldn’t save from demonic possession.

For large stretches at its beginning, Jason Paul Laxamana’s Pwera usog is a rather typical horror film from the 2010s, the sort of thing that could have been made just about anywhere, featuring pretty much the shocks you’d expect happening to character types you’ve seen very often who go through arcs which are also rather well-worn. Well, to be fair, there’s much more vomiting than typical. These parts of the film are at least competently done, though, so there’s entertainment to be derived from them, if little insight apart from “rebelling against poor rich girl problems via internet prank videos sucks”.

However, Pwera usog gains quite a bit more traction once Laxaman earths (or is that unearths in this case?) his horror more in Filipino folk beliefs and folk magic. There are, after all, not many horror films in which the magically – or in this case rather spiritually – abled defenders of its stupid young protagonists are a family of rural faith healers whose most secret weapon is a jar of dear departed grandma’s saliva. And because this is a Filipino film and not a Western one taking place in the Philippines, Laxamana uses these elements with the matter-of-factness of someone talking about things that are common parlance, like the exorcist rattling down bible verses in American movies, adding elements of the local that rob the film’s more worn international horror tropes of their genericness in the process, doubling the enjoyment of at least this jaded viewer by filtering the well-worn through a somewhat different lens that makes all the difference.

No comments: