18 October 2012

Tiktik: The Aswang Chronicles is Great Entertainment

It is no secret that the Philippines is fast becoming a hub – if it is not already so – for computer graphics animators. That is why I went to see “Tiktik: The Aswang Chronicles” to see if all the supposed expertise is finding its way into the movie industry.

I am not a fan of the horror genre; and, in fact, I am mystified that people think that being scared out of their wits is a form of entertainment. Tiktik, however, is not horror at all. I would place it more in the category of comedy-action.

While Tiktik does not quite come even close to the sophisticated graphics effects of – say – the Underworld series, its computer-generated images are at the very least passable; great, even, for a Filipino film.


Many recent Filipino comedies have thrived on vulgarity – which turns me off, by the way. In the case of Tiktik, the comedy is in the timing and delivery of its punch lines, reminiscent of the Chichay-Dely-Atay-Atayan era when actors were spontaneous and natural.
The graphics for the opening credits are brilliantly done. The aswang graphics are alright and are apparently made using motion capture technology. Given that aswangs are supposed to be able to transform from human to animal form, morphing from one to another could have been given more attention.

The movie’s plot is simple enough. Macoy – played by Dingdong Dantes – is a womanising engineer who is too lazy to stay in a proper job and, instead, has opted to go into buy-and-sell.

His pregnant girlfriend Sonia – played by Lovi Poe – leaves him and returns to live with her parents in a quiet provincial village where, as it turns out, a clan of aswangs have settled to live.

The clan hears of the pregnant Sonia soon enough and, as aswangs are said to do, begin to salivate at the prospect of getting their teeth on the child inside Sonia’s womb.

Macoy, Sonia and her family defend their household using – as everyone knows from childhood spook stories – garlic, rock salt and the tail of a manta ray.

The simplicity of the plot is not a weakness of the movie at all. In fact, the straight line storytelling is laced with countless moments certain to draw guffaws rather than gasps of horror.

For instance, an aswang whose two arms Macoy has chopped off with a machete continues to snap at him with her sharpened teeth. It is a gory enough scene; and yet it is also extremely comical.

In another scene, just to make sure that Sonia’s friend Bart – played by Ramon Bautista – is not himself an aswang, Macoy stuffs his mouth full of – what else? – Boy Bawang!

Many recent Filipino comedies have thrived on vulgarity – which turns me off, by the way. In the case of Tiktik, the comedy is in the timing and delivery of its punch lines, reminiscent of the Chichay-Dely-Atay-Atayan era when actors were spontaneous and natural.

Tiktik’s comedy, it has to be said, is excellent in that it is subtle and the actors do not try too hard to sell a laugh. If a viewer does not find a line intended to be funny as such, he will not find it a comic fail, either – just all part of the film’s dialogue.

I feel that I have to make special mention of Janice de Belen’s performance in the supporting role of Fely, Sonia’s mother. Brilliant! Just absolutely brilliant! Her timing is flawless; and her facial expressions even when she is not delivering lines are of the highest quality.

The movie does have its faults. For instance, one wonders why Macoy has taken rifles from sentries in a checkpoint then is reluctant to use these to blast the aswangs into smithereens. The use of frames onscreen is also amateurish and disruptive.

To enjoy the movie, however, one has to see past these; and, indeed, the high points far outweigh the itty-bitty weaknesses. Tiktik is fast-paced and none of the scenes are belaboured in the typical way that Filipino films tend to be so that producers can save on production costs.

The cinematography is Hollywood. There is no other way to describe it. Obviously, post-production retouched the haunting hues onscreen; but it is the sort of colouration that one does not often find in Filipino films.

The movie is being promoted, I think, as a thriller. Maybe not, at least the way I saw it. There is some gore; but not enough to make one want to throw up. Although the movie is almost two hours, I only counted one really heart pounding moment – and that was more the soundtrack than the scene itself.

Personally, I think the film’s promoters will be better served to sell this as a comedy. I do not laugh so quickly these days; but I enjoyed quite a few good laughs watching Tiktik. As you also probably will…

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