dondon santos

Patayin Sa Sindak Si Kris Aquino
by Elvin Luciano

Dalaw (2010)
D: Dondon Santos
S: Kris Aquino, Diether Ocampo, Gina Pareño

Remember when Kris Aquino had a string of commercially successful movies where she played rape and/or murder victims? She earned the title “massacre queen” then. More than a decade later, she goes screaming again, this time with Pinoy-flavored horror movies involving dead/dying people. With her third movie of that kind under Star Cinema (co-produced by CineMedia), people are now calling her “the horror queen of Philippine Cinema”, or something like that. Not sure how Ms. Aquino feels about owning the crown of all things grotesque and macabre, but she sure is willing to do a scene requiring her to lie unconscious beside a toilet in a bathroom totally covered with mud that almost looks like poo.

And lie in a toilet of poo-like mud she did for art’s sake in Dalaw, one of the two horror movies that made it through the strict selection process (Heh) of the 2010 Metro Manila Film Festival. Director Dondon Santos helmed this supernatural torture of Kris Aquino who plays Stella, a woman who lost her husband in an accident. Stella is being consumed by guilt because 1) she thinks she’s partly to blame for the accident and 2) she thinks her dead husband’s spirit is turning angry and violent because she’s marrying her old flame Anton (Diether Ocampo). It is not helping that her very young friends Kylie (Ina Feleo) and Trina (Alessandra De Rossi, whose role in this movie seems to possess the tact of Ms. Aquino in real life) support her second theory.

The spirit’s violent and sometimes mischievous wrath is reinforced throughout the movie. It causes Anton’s mom (Susan Africa) to suffer stroke, which made Ms. Africa re-do her twisted-mouth acting she became famous for when she was the crazy mom in Mara Clara. It follows the newly-weds in the form of a black smoke when they move from a well-lit glass house to Anton’s family house, which is always dim and creepy, adorned by curtains flying in the wind and is – surprise! – built beside a cemetery. And in one of the movie’s creepiest moments, it becomes doppelganger of her son Paolo (Maliksi Morales), who seems to be able to talk to the spirit through an old toy robot.

Also living in the creepy house as the family helper is Manang Olga (Gina Pareño), the requisite old maid who knows how to explain the paranormal mysteries. A big Vilma Santos fan, Manang Olga uses Ate Vi power lines in normal everyday conversations… not sure how this is relevant. In the end though, it is Manang Olga who discovers the answer that leads to the movie’s twist. Oh, she has a niece as well (Empress Schuck), but she can be taken out of the movie and everything will be just fine.

The title Dalaw is simply from the belief that the spirits of the dead visit the living if they have unsaid messages or unfinished business. In Stella’s case, they think her dead husband is following her around, and in the process, killing her loved ones and friends who are instrumental to her reuniting with the old boyfriend. The spirit appears mostly in the form of a person covered in icky mud, who’s so powerful it can make full grown trees fall, make the wooden sala set fly across the room, and cover perfectly clean floors with mud prints. This recurring mud motif is explained at the end of the movie.

Dalaw has everything in a Kris Aquino horror movie: Kris’ top-of-the-lungs hysteria at the slightest provocation, over-the-top sound effects as cue where the viewers get the “gulat” (cymbals, anyone?) and the scary creature visible to Kris from outside the house while her kid is inside. The movie’s big twist is slightly clever, but the resolution, the answer to all the haunting problems, is too shallow and prone to many questions and loopholes. 

Dalaw is not the type of horror film with the chill and fright factor that stays with you even after the movie. It is always fun to watch Kris Aquino scream in fright and agony, though. That may be the charm of Kris Aquino horror movies. It is cinema magic how someone privileged like her can be seen by the public as normal, poor, powerless, and tortured by monsters and the supernatural.