Disclaimer: Make sure that you’ve seen the film first before heading into this review as some certain statements may give out some plot points.
Review by lou.
A troubled cop named Ruth has just moved into a small town when she witnesses a young girl named Leah jumped out of her balcony. Gossip is spread and suspicions are raised as to why it happened and who should be blamed. Fingers are pointed at the nanny, Rosario and the guidance counselor, Sis. Eloiza, who were seen performing suspicious acts to the young girl. As Leah’s odd behavior escalates and Rosario dies a gruesome death, Ruth jumps on the case and scrambles to put the pieces together. However, the investigation takes a darker turn when Leah’s possession is revealed and sinister connections between the people closest to her come bubbling to the surface. Soon, the devil’s influence takes hold of not just Leah but also Ruth and everyone else around her.
Don’t be fooled by its title, and don’t worry much neither. Ang Pagsanib Kay Leah Dela Cruz, while sounding cheesy to some, considering the bad rap that modern Philippine horror cinema has gotten recently, actually abstains from being one to stay away from. It is touted to be an initial offering of Kamikaze Pictures, and is produced by Erik Matti of Seklusyon, and so, expectations are wanting to be built up, and fortunately, they are met with decent results. At the beginning, you could still pinpoint its similarities to its blockbuster superior from the way the narrative unfolds up to its characters’ traits, giving a sense of familiarity.
Still, you can already tell that it’s a good start despite having to live up to what is expected of it because it gives what is there to bite into as early as possible. Sarah Lahbati’s reclusive Ruth is introduced to us as an off-duty cop who returns to work for a case involving a mysterious, gruesome murder, and as that happens, our interest for the plot revolving around her arises as themes regarding the presence of evil comes to play with our minds. With that, it goes on to show its ways – relying on the technicalities and thematic tension to deliver scares that would make your heart beat when it frighteningly asks you to, albeit intermittently.
This all comes out as a wonderful surprise with one stand-out sequence that makes the most out of what it’s got – appealing cinematography and a chilling musical score, and it continues to get those two to work in several scenes that follow. Traditionalists may find them as off-putting, considering some jump-scares, but surprisingly, they don’t pose as cheap thrills just for the sake of having such. Rather, director Katski Flores ensures an atmosphere of eeriness is brought in tow to fill up the screen for the horror to work, even if they usually fail to satisfy. It’s an appreciable and justified move when you witness it all on film, and it’s in those minutes where you realize that it really isn’t as bad as it looks like.
Since we are all aware that horror movies about possession are generic, it’s good to see that this one goes on to be somehow different, without having something to totally emulate in how it moves. Being the creator of the story, Erik Matti’s guiding presence is felt every once in a while, even if he doesn’t come through most of the time. Almost as if he handled it to be Seklusyon‘s less talented twin brother, he comes up with lines and plot points that desire to resound with its viewers. Their essence sticks for a while as they enable you to think while you watch, but in all reality, they are forgettable and almost powerless. Why this happens is a question whose answer lies solely in its (restrained) ridiculousness, seen prominently in the climax where the tone gets a little odd, going for a grim route while looking goofy with everything that goes on.
It wants to make you feel afraid, which in some cases has you freaking out, but yet, it’s quite easy to see the flaws undermining its potential – mostly those concerning its treatment of themes that might just drive you crazy. Certainly, improvements could’ve been done for it to not settle with a second and third act that just couldn’t keep up with the rather strong opening minutes, because even if the engaging mystery swells up, it just won’t get you hooked. As a whole though, Kamikaze Pictures’ initial offering is effective – Ang Pagsanib Kay Leah Dela Cruz is a startling horror film about the devil inside every one of us that will have you re-evaluating those around you. It is provocative and disturbing all at the same time.
Shy Carlos oftentimes, will creep you out with the small terrors that she embeds in her character’s look, but it’s the malicious entity that makes the show half a success in what it wants to leave us with, knowing and seeing that evil lurks everywhere in everyone. Thinking about that thought alone is scary enough, but seeing its form and the implications of its powers will amplify your fear and give understanding about the devil itself on some level. That is why despite the flaws erring its entirety, it could be seen as the spiritual successor to Seklusyon – not only because of Matti’s involvement, but rather due to its intellect that keeps its scariness up and running; all the more reason why it deserves to be given a try.
From the creators of the blockbuster movie, Seklusyon, Ang Pagsanib Kay Leah Dela Cruz opens in cinemas on June 28, 2017.