Directed and co-written by Richard Somes and bolstered by fine performances from Ronnie Lazaro, Joel Torre, and Tetchie Agbayani, Yanggaw is touted as one of the best films to ever come out of the CinemaOne Originals greenlighting project. Agreed. Despite obviously being made on the cheap, it humbly stands out as one of the most terrifying and satisfying horror films of the last decade, a period in local cinema that fed mostly on J-horror copycats with half-baked scripts.
Stricken with an unknown illness, a young woman goes home to her family in a farflung village. Her parents do everything within their capacity to help their daughter, but to no avail. It doesn’t take long before they discover that she has fallen victim to a vicious affliction, or yanggaw. She is infected with a mysterious venom that has transformed her into a flesh-eating monster, an aswang. Yanggaw, in rather simple yet effective ways, tells this story, the story of one family headed by a strong-willed patriarch, of what they are forced to do when one of them suddenly turns into something out of the ordinary, something that poses danger not only to others but also to themselves.
While its grimy promotional materials and intriguing synopsis would suggest the opposite, Yanggaw is actually a drama film first and a horror film second. Yes, it is often scary and spine-tingling, but more importantly, Yanggaw is a bloodcurdlingly dramatic study of the values that bind the Filipino family, demonstrating how far one would go—as far as the fringes of morality and sanity, or even beyond—in defense, obligatory or otherwise, of one’s own kin. Aldrin Calimlim