Blood Type A
by Phillip Cu-Unjieng
Regal Entertainment Inc.’s post-Halloween treat, Aswang, is a heady, atmospheric foray into the folklore of aswangs and creatures that go bump in the night... and “road bump” in the fields. Strong on character development, the film is directed by Jerrold Tarog, whose previous work(Confessional, a Cinema One Originals winner, and an excellent Shake Rattle & Roll episode) I really admired. Starring the current darling of Philippine show business, Lovi Poe, and emerging leading man, Paulo Avelino, the film starts with a flashback episode that establishes the existence of aswangs in a sleepy provincial barangay.
Subsequent to the impressive visual pageantry that accompanies the opening credits, we’re whisked to a gangland killing of a lawyer at his residence, with a trio of killers (Paulo, Marc Abaya and Niña Jose) allowing the children of the lawyer (Albie Casiño and Jillian Ward) to drive away and head to the province. There, they inexplicably fall under the protection of a doe-eyed barrio lass (Lovi as Yasmin), whose ominous, mysterious nature is a portent of just how macabre and devilish is life in this seemingly pastoral setting. When the trio of killers arrive in the barangay, the stage is set for ghoulish revelations, and of course, for a romance steeped in blood, to germinate.
If one is expecting a linear storyline filled with edge of your seat moments and chills, one may have stepped into the wrong theater, because Tarog’s intent is far more ambitious. The plot may be convoluted at times, for Tarog is out to create a saga of sorts, and the introduction of Yasmin’s sister, Isabel, is just one element of this design. It’s like Night of the Living Dead meets The Usual Suspects, with Romeo and Juliet thrown in for good measure. And saving this from becoming one big mess is the strong emphasis on character, with Lovi and Paulo utilizing flashbacks and dream sequences to solidly build up their characters. Marc and Niña are also to be commended for throwing themselves into their portrayals of cold-blooded killers.
With vivid images and effective use of lighting and camera angles, the sense of foreboding and atmosphere propels this film into a territory that more than compensates for the overburdened strands of plot. I personally prefer this type of treatment in the horror genre, so I was happy to suspend disbelief, and let direk Tarog take me on a guided tour of his world of Aswangs.