Apr 2, 2012

[Movies] Corazon: Ang Unang Aswang (2012)

When we saw the trailers for this movie, I have to admit that even I was rather hopeful. The movie quality seemed impressive and the promise of a compelling story was certainly there. After all, there will always be a part of us that enjoys exploring the myths and legends of old and a movie that promises that has quite a challenge ahead of it.

Local movies are a mixed bag. At times we're stuck in tropes and stereotypes, similar to how a lot of the big "Hollywood movies" are stuck in a cycle of remakes and reissues. The industry likes to play it safe more often than not and focuses on movies that seem to offer a guaranteed return on their investment as opposed to pushing creative boundaries. It's a natural reaction to the global financial crisis and all that boring stuff, but it doesn't make it right.

So I have admit that this movie gave me a little hope. I was hoping for a movie that would push boundaries or at least focus on telling a good story. And while we didn't necessarily get that, it was still an entertaining experience.

Just probably not the scary one that the folks behind the movie were hoping to create.

Corazon: Ang Unang Aswang is a 2012 Filipino horror drama movie written and directed by Richard Somes. It was released by Skylight Films, which is a division of Star Cinema.

Corazon (Erich Gonzales) has been married to Daniel (Derek Ramsey) for many years now but they have been unsuccessful in conceiving a child despite their best efforts. In addition, Corazon is not well-liked in the small village where they live given it's said that she's was born from the rape of a woman by the Japanese soldiers during the war. Still, the couple continue on trying to find their happiness and consult with various local experts and spiritualists in an effort to find a way.

Eventually Corazon is advised to go on a spiritual devotion with a statue of a saint said to help women in need of help conceiving. For 2 weeks Corazon labors in the wilderness and finally comes home hoping for the best. In the time couple do conceive a child, much to Daniel's joy. But things do not turn out well and the chain of events that follow lead to Corazon slowly losing her mind and possibly becoming something else entirely.

Outside of the story of the couple, there are a bunch of side issues that surround the story. The villages are in constant conflict with Matias (Mark Gil), who owns the hacienda and is constantly suspected of being up to no good in an effort to push the villagers away. And throughout all of this Daniel's constant friend and confidant (Epi Quizon) is often the one the villagers seem to turn to for direction in terms of how to deal with the continuing aggression of Matias. This part of the story wasn't all that helpful, in my opinion. It was used to explain some of the situations away but I think it got a bit too much attention.

There was definitely an effort keep the movie as "realistic" as possible, that much is clear. The story was crafted in such a way that we as an audience could be made to believe that all of these events could have actually happened and perhaps add some degree of fear based on that. However with a title that includes a promise of the story of the first aswang, which is a supernatural type of monster for those who are unfamiliar with the term. And so a lot of folks who paid money to watch this money were looking for a monster, I'm pretty sure.

But the big reveal - and yes I'm spoiling the movie here - is that there is no monster. Despite all the statements about being cursed by fate or feeling like God has abandoned her, in the end Corazon is just a crazy lady. They try to foreshadow her behavior in weird ways like the presence of the woman driven mad by the loss of her child or even the dog who eats her puppy since it was stillborn. But no matter what happens and how magical Corazon's nails grow and shrink from scene to scene, she's just a crazy lady. And while that could have been a decent story on its own, it didn't quite pay off in terms of what the title and the trailers sort of hinted at or promised for the audience.

Acting-wise it was hard to appreciate a lot of the movie since the story was kind of shallow and the dialog often ridiculous. You get all the tropes when it comes to characters who suddenly burst into lengthy bouts of exposition for no apparent reason just to explain aspects of the back story. You have the peasant villagers who do silly things and believe in every little bit of superstition and folklore. And so on and so forth. Trope trope trope!

Corazon: Ang Unang Aswang may not be a great story of how monsters came to be, but it is an interesting psycho-thriller of sorts as we watch a woman descend into madness. Still, it just gets by with 2 silly moments  of Derek Ramsey trying to be all macho and butch out of a possible 5.

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  1. Ay... kala ko pa naman iku-kwento ang story kung pano nagsimula ang lahi ng mga aswang. Walang ganung factor? Buti na land di ko 'to pinanood sa big screen :)

  2. Lanchie abanco02 April, 2012 22:52

    I've read somewhere that the "aswang" or "bruha" is a black propaganda by Spanish friars against the many babaylan. Aside from this they'd also hire "kanto" boys to threaten and rape these women, kidnap and torture where also part of the scheme.

    You may ask why would they go through all trouble for a local shaman. They had strong influences with the people after their datu would go to a political compromise with the colonizers and the many panday go to the mountains to rebel.

  3. Yeah, I wish I had pirated it instead. Or better yet, had not watched it at all.

  4. Naturally you would have this lore to share with us, hehe.

  5. Oh man, that was a big (yet very helpful) spoiler. 

  6. I typically don't like to resort to spoilers, but this movie warranted it.