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Monday, December 20, 2010

Dalaw will make you feel restless

Folklore has it that when a person experienced a violent death, his or her spirit becomes restless and does not leave the earthly plane to sow terror and exact vengeance.

It is from this simple storyline that Dalaw weaves a complex narrative that results in a competent making of a horror film.

Dondon Santos, who helmed the film, is successful in sustaining the fear and fright factor of the movie. Working on the highly-functioning script penned by Joel Mercado, Lawrence Nicodemus and John Paul Abellera, Santos did his best again — just like what he showed in the critically-acclaimed Noy — and gave Dalaw an admirable treatment.

Dalaw tells the story of Stella (Kris Aquino) who starts experiencing major ghost haunting when she decides to remarry after his violent husband Danilo died in a freak accident. She successively dreams of Danilo to the point that when she and her new husband Anton (Diether Ocampo) wake up one morning, they find framed photographs of Stella and Danilo neatly arranged in their room. This and other paranormal incidents escalate Stella’s belief that it is Danilo’s spirit that haunts and scares them.

Unlike other horror flicks that fall flat because of the predictability of their plots, Dalaw keeps its audience restless, too, at the edge of their seats with their hearts leaping out of their chests because of the movie’s terrifying yet unpredictable twists and turns. The director uses the tried-and-tested formula for keeping the suspense well-sewn in the minds of the audience — by using human frailty to shield the movie from revealing the real and sternly obstinate poltergeist. Human frailty, in Anton’s case, has something to do with his conscious effort and almost successful attempt to hide from his wife an intrinsically grim truth — that happened days before his betrothal to her — that leads to the haunting. In an almost canonical truth-will-set-you-free stance, the ghostly attacks are put to a stop. Of course with a price.

Horror films like Dalaw warrant crisp and snappy editing to sustain the suspense factor of each frame. It helps that the film editing achieves that discipline and successfully lends credibility to the material. The production design may be a little in-your-face, what with a house strategically located near a cemetery, but it is conquering nevertheless in unleashing more horror texture of the film. The image of the ghost is so real and creepy that you see it even when your eyes are shut. Though a few elements of suspense and over scoring are calculated and exhibited in the beginning of the film, Dalaw easily progresses as an imaginatively crafted movie, especially when intelligent tension starts to pick up. The cinematography is so real you feel you are involved in the scene.

Kris, in many moments, is a revelation in this film. She acts in her silence and displays depth of character. The gabby and highly-opinionated Kris is not present in the movie; instead, many times, she is quiet in Dalaw. It is in her silence that Kris, as Stella, is able to paint a gamut of emotions. She clearly essays out resignation of fortitude when she is in the company of her cousins who belittle her. But the most felt emotion of Kris is her fear and fright that both register well in her eyes, voice and body movement. She intelligently tackles her role in Dalaw. My favorite moment of Kris in the movie is her scene with her dead mother-in-law (Susan Africa) who appeared to her to “open her eyes” to the truth about the menacing acts of the angry spirit. That particular scene, sans any dialogue, shows a quietly disturbed and disturbing Kris.

Karylle’s performance in Dalaw also merits a commendation. Her role is short but not necessarily sweet. She clearly defines her interpretation of her character — from being a forlorn sweetheart to a vengeful lover. And with her sincere acting she proves all the more that “hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.”

Diether has his moments, too, but in few instances, his handsome mien distracts you from thinking that you are watching a horror film.

Susan and Gina Pareño (Olga) add to the powerhouse cast. Their acting is, as usual, seamless and luminous.

Dalaw will make you feel restless long after the avenging spirit has finally been at rest.

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