Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Ang Pamana: The Inheritance (DVD)

The horror film Ang Pamana, is an intriguing introduction to Filipino folklore, but unfortunately the thrills are overshadowed by a number of the movies flaws. Shoddy acting, poor pacing, and amateurish writing are only but a few things that plague this Filipino-Canadian production.

Filmmaker Romeo Candido wants to cram a lot in his movie Ang Pamana: The Inheritance, so much in fact that he can't really focus on keeping the film consistent. The story of a Canadian boy and his sister who inherit a large plot of land from the death of their grandmother in the Philippines becomes the backdrop to introduce popular creatures from Filipino folklore. The land which is world away from their Canadian surroundings holds secrets of their families past, which seem to resurface the longer the grandchildren stay on the property.

From the moment the film beings, we're treated to a number of dictionary-esque definitions pertaining to creatures from Filipino folklore. Creatures that are no surprise likely to show up in the story at one point or another. The first 40 seconds of the film we're left reading these definitions, with no music, just words on screen which I found extremely amusing. It seemed like it would drag on forever. Then the music cuts in, and we see an old women on her death bed. The choice of music was bad, and the cut to that scene didn't work at all, it just didn't seem like an opening to a movie, moreso an ending to the film.

And then there's the snowboarding home video right after that, an excuse to use music created and performed by the director (which happens a lot in the movie), oh and to introduce the main character, Johnny, a seriously one-dimensional Canadian born Filipino, who has no grasp of his culture, or families native language. Which calls into question the family dynamic or the lack thereof in the film. It's not believable at all. If he really grew up with his immigrant family, he would at least be familiar with basic tagalog, one or two words at the very least. This character comes off unbelievably ignorant, and he spends the entire film asking questions, rather than holding a conversation like a real person. Every other line he has in the script is a question to advance the story, and that's about it.

There are things I like about Ang Pamana, particularly the scene at the dinner table, and when the family members learn of what they're inheriting. Anyone can relate to families arguing over whats left after a member of the family passes away. Also, the slutty cousin. Everyone has a slutty cousin! Though the movie has a few scary moments, I found more laughs then anything else.

If this film was entirely in tagalog I'm sure the native speakers would be much more comfortable acting, like for Triso Cruz III, who played Johnny's father.

Having first seen the film at the Vancouver International Film festival a few years ago, but most recently on DVD, I can say that I agree with the Variety analysis of the movie. Ang Pamana is a step forward for Filipino horror. The movie does all the right things to relate to the North American born Filipinos, through the perspective of an outsider to Filipino culture. And though it has its issues, the film is still an entertaining watch. If you're looking for an alternative to the typical Asian horror films coming out of Japan, Hong Kong, and Korea, watch Ang Pamana.

I applaud the effort.

No comments: