What’s good, what’s bad, what’s meh at the MMFF

By Michelle Anne P. Soliman

Movie review
Haunted Forest
Directed by Ian Loreños

THERE IS a mysterious creature living in a tree in the middle of the forest. It disguises itself in many forms (most of the time as someone with bloody wounds needing for help), preying on women by playing with their conscience and luring them to surrender themselves, and gaining its strength from human blood. The victims it kills become its ghostly minions.

After being reassigned, police inspector Aris (Raymart Santiago), along with his daughter Nica (Jane Oineza), returns to his hometown where the sitsit (literally translated as “gossip” in English) has been rumored to be the reason for the consecutive deaths of women in the nearby forest.

While adjusting to life in the province, Nica is introduced to RJ (Jameson Blake) and Andre (Jon Lucas) by her cousin Mich (Maris Racal). When they go on a picnic one afternoon, Nica wanders alone into the forest and is hypnotized by the sitsit. A series of physical symptoms and supernatural encounters happen as Nica almost succumbs to the creature’s schemes.

The sitsit — which is not found in the usual listings of Philippine supernatural creatures — can be described as merging the characteristics of several popular Philippine mythical creatures: it has an appetite similar to that of the manananggal (a creature that splits in half and preys on unborn children) and uses hypnosis like a tikbalang (part-man part-horse trickster), and it has the height, dark skin, and glowing yellow eyes of a kapre (tree giant) .

The idea of merging the characteristics is unique. However, the creature’s ability to communicate in Filipino made the interaction between humans unnatural.

The concept of arriving in an unfamiliar small town and presenting a succession unexplainable events is reminiscent of Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds (1963).

The romance among the four young characters feels forced amidst their lack of chemistry, plus the supposed romantic excitement seems cliché.

The music gives hints to upcoming suspense scenes and the loud volume overpowers some sequences. A bit of comedy in between serious situations helps lighten the mood. The costumes and makeup of the supernatural creatures look realistic.

Stay a while for a post-credit scene which suggests that the sitsit might actually be more than what one expects.

MTRCB Rating: PG