The spook-a-thon guide

With horror flicks spooking just in time for All Hallow’s Eve, teenagers tune in and stay indoors, forgoing the nostalgic Celtic-influenced trick-or-treating. Eager to feed our morbid fascination, most of us remain rapt in horror films despite being aware of the after effects like sleepless nights and paranoid skittishness.

So get ready as we induce your morbid fascination with a horrific trap of our own making, from our cradle menace Dracula, to the local tiyanak.


Goodnight Mommy (2014): 8/10

Worse than masked stalkers, serial killers, and violent cults is the thought of evil sleeping right next to your bedroom, masquerading as your “mom.” In the 2014 Austrian film Goodnight Mommy directed by Veronika Franz and Severin Fiala, twins Elias and Lukas suspect that beneath reconstructive facial bandages and a distant demeanor, the woman lurking around their home might not be who she claims.

The contemporary horror film’s trailer, exhibiting the mother’s odd actions, is electrifying and disturbing by itself. But it’s nothing compared to an hour and a half of madness as the film presents the twin’s sinister plans, bloody violence in search for truth, and evilly genius plot twists that will drive you nuts. The setting of isolation stresses mental manipulation vivified by cornfields, a sinister lake, menacing forest, and door locks you might not even get away with.

The cinematography and plot itself make the film quite impressive; it does not only play with some twisted psychology but it also shows an eerie child’s perspective veiled in innocence and the horrifying consequence of miscommunication. Indeed, even modern horror cynics might keep their doors open as they watch this blood-curdling film.


It (1990): 7/10

Originally created as a primetime television show, the miniseries-turned-movie It created by Tommy Lee Wallace, begins with a little girl being murdered by a mysterious clown called “Pennywise.” After more brutal events, the all-grown-up outcasts who once had their own living nightmare with the violent clown when they were young, reunited as they started investigating the murder cases to put It’s sadism to an end.

Most children fear clowns and Stephen King’s cinematized novel, It, makes us realize why. Warping childhood with chilling horror, It actualizes nightmares into reality by changing into forms beyond our imaginations. Even with the sadist’s real name revealed as Bob Gray or Pennywise, It’s true form is never truly revealed as it shapeshifts from a tormenting clown to a menacing spider in the blink of an eye.

Although dullness is present in small-scale scenes, the reality that everyone most likely had a coulrophobic childhood makes Tim Curry’s realistic portrayal of Pennywise imprint itself in your memories (and even made the crew avoid him during filming, as revealed on It’s DVD commentary track). The film implies that some nightmares in our past may have the capabilities to haunt us in our present; provoking fear of the basement, the creature under our bed and inside the bathroom. So for our own safety, if we ever come across the familiar clown in our favorite fast food store, we might as well think twice before saying “Love ko ‘to.”


The Amityville Horror (2005): 9/10

In order to turn over a new leaf, some think that moving into a new home is what they need. To put the quote into context, Andrew Douglas brings yet another thrilling story on the big screen as he directs The Amityville Horror, which tells the story of the close-knit Lutz family moving into their new home at Long Island, New York. After getting comfortable for a day or two, they realized that the cheap price tag wasn’t worth dealing with the house’s heinous past—Ronald DeFeo, a possessed, former tenant who slaughtered his family with an axe in their sleep. Unhappy with the family’s arrival, the former tenant’s spirit returns to haunt and possess the head of the family, George, hypnotizing him to commit the same heinous actions.

A realistic test of a good horror movie is its ability to scare you regardless of how old you are or how many horror films you’ve seen. Unlike the original movie way back in 1979, the latest version ameliorated its cinematography and added different points of view (both from George and the viewers) and shock-effective sound effects, setting a pace that’s fast enough to prevent dullness, but slow enough to keep track of the story’s salient parts.

Remakes usually end up being inferior and boring; however, The Amityville Horror isn’t one of those films. Despite the typical “haunted house” theme and predictable pandemonium, the true-to-life film still manages to frighten people out of their wits.


The Exorcist (1973): 8/10

Most of us think children are made out of sugar, spice, and everything nice—until we meet Regan. The life of family MacNeil was on the top of the world long before Regan starts acting peculiar, levitates, and speaks in tongues. In hopes of putting an end to the little girl’s mischief and misbehaving, Regan’s mother seeks the help of doctors. When medical help hits a dead end, they latched onto faith. A priest gratifies their entreaties and quests on exorcism with a paranormal expert as his right hand.

Although most connote The Exorcist as a horror flick, the film was categorized as a “mystery of faith” by its director William Freidkin. For a 1970’s film, The Exorcist has succeeded in making blood run cold for almost half a century. While our eyes are used to glamorous special effects, most teenagers judge old films as mediocre and uninteresting. But as we take a peek of The Exorcist, we might as well restore our love for this vintage monstrosity.

The sick flick offers experiences of shock, disgust, nausea, fear, and some small measure of dogged hope. Rarely do movies affect us so deeply and The Exorcist has the ability to make us feel that; from Regan’s mom’s frustration to Regan’s sufferings. The Exorcist has carved its way into the horror halls of fame, petrifying teenagers of every generation.



The Healing (2012): 8/10

Being accustomed to religiosity, Filipinos cling onto faith to bring us toward salvation when something sinister happens. Another Chito S. Roño masterpiece after the 2004 film Feng Shui, The Healing apprises the story of a local faith healer named Elsa, who healed the father of her friend, Seth, of his post-stroke condition. After miraculously cured of his miseries, the news about Manang Elsa’s innate saintly power proliferated throughout the neighborhood and persuaded ailing townsmen to seek her help. However, after the day of the healing, each person healed by Elsa dies of sinister and brutal occurrences, each one worse than the last.

Aside from prominent horror film themes like haunted houses, mythical creatures, and vengeful ex-girlfriends, The Healing offers a Filipino-cultured theme. It visualizes the Pinoy tradition of faith healing and the twisted consequences of this alternative form of therapy. Despite the display of authenticity, what seems disturbing and noticeable are the same shades of clothing by almost every character in each scene. Roño also envisaged paranormal doubles inaugurating premonitions called Doppelgangers in the said movie.

Although a lot of scare tactics such as gruesome vomiting, exorcisms, and music-initiating premonitions were employed in the film, it still managed to provide exceptionality for it did not follow the usual trend of horror films. Thankfully, there are no Sadako-like creatures in the movie as such was prominent back in 2000s. Some local films are good enough to be exported for further exposure and The Healing fits that category.


Patayin sa Sindak si Barbara (1995): 7/10

A sisterly way to bond is to talk about your crushes at night, that is, until you find out you are both enticed by one guy. When sisters Barbara and Ruth were allured by the same man, Barbara deserted Nick and their “almost love affair” as her sister threatens to commit suicide. Years after leaving for her sister’s welfare, Barbara returns home after finding out that Ruth committed suicide out of jealous rage over her husband’s alleged infidelities. Shortly after, strange events start taking place as Ruth’s spirit haunts Barbara and Nick in the form of a doll.

Patayin sa Sindak si Barbara has been continuously remade for its exceptional story. The usual “other woman” theme goes deeper as this twisted teleserye-like film projects the pain of sacrifice, love, and loyalty. Although haunted dolls are mainstream scare maneuvers in flicks, the film’s actors and actresses managed to provide effective chills through their acting. However, budget constraints contributed to the slight tediousness to the flick’s cinematography and camera effects.
A story of jealousy, unrequited love, death, and hauntings starring Lorna Tolentino and Dawn Zulueta, Patayin sa Sindak si Barbara showed true ingenuity in creating an aura of the supernatural despite budget constraints and undeveloped technology. The setting and cinematography may be retro, but its story remains as a nerve-racking local classic.


Tiyanak (1988): 6/10

Tiyanak’s director Peque Gallaga goes back to our Filipino folklore roots as he creates a masterpiece inspired by the Philippine mythical creature believed to be an aborted child. Tiyanak begins with a boy who was forced by his mother to enter the religious life. However, the boy-turned-priest crosses the line when he impregnates a woman whom he urges to abort the child to avoid the stain on his image as a priest. As the aborted child was left on the ground, a childless woman finds and keeps him despite his hideous looks.

In this story, the phrase “A mother’s love is unconditional” reaches a whole new level as the childless woman starred by Janice de Belen nurtures the strange-looking infant that might very well be the devil in disguise. To this day, Philippine myths such as tiyanak still have an active role in the lives of rural Filipino culture, which makes Tiyanak even more effective, intriguing, and imposing in its cultural basis.

As a whole, Tiyanak is between the borderline of bad, dull, and exciting since most actors and actresses failed in transmitting fear to audiences. Having a familiarized and relative theme, the story would have been solid if its portrayal and delivery were more efficiently executed.


Cinco (2010): 8/10

An anthology comprised of five horror/comedy short films entitled Braso, Paa, Mata, Mukha, and Puso, Cinco was exhibited in the Filipino film scene in 2010 by Cathy Garcia-Molina. Braso depicts a fraternity spending three hours inside a morgue only to discover that some things might still be alive; Paa presents a child victim of hit-and-run haunting a mother who stole her shoes that led to the death-causing accident; Mata pertains to a young girl who relives a horrible night of murder; Mukha exhibits an advertising executive who gets retribution for firing a poor janitor; and lastly, Puso tells a story of an unattractive circus performer who uses a love potion to allure the man of her dreams.

Five stories about revenge, unrequited love, curiosity, lies, and cruelty, the anthology was superb but not well-presented; a couple of outstanding stories overshadowed the rest and didn’t give each segment a lot of room to breathe. However, the cinematography and camera effects made a large contribution to the film, as well as some select characters with their mesmerizing performances.

The chilling moments were accompanied by a twist of comedy, and the background music suiting the mood of each segment made Cinco outstanding compared to many other local horror films. So prepare to have mixed emotions as the film envisions humor-joins-forces-with-horror.


While boogeymen and zombies may have evolved over time, our fascination with fright sojourns. Horror films put our fears into context, giving us a safe outlet to endure the gratifying feeling without the actual experience or within borders. As the Master of Horror, Stephen King once said, “We make up horrors to help us cope with the real ones.” So grab your popcorn and indulge in the thrills and chills of this All Hallow’s Eve.

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