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Metro Manila Film Festival 2020: A plotting waste

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By Joseph L. Garcia, Reporter

MOVIE REVIEW
The Missing
Directed by  Easy Ferrer

GREAT promise was certainly seen in Easy Ferrer’s first horror flick. But promises don’t always translate to something concrete, and that promise went, well, missing, in this movie.

We’re not about to say that horror is an easy task. An increasingly difficult world has made audiences jaded, and therefore, less easy to scare. Ritz Azul (unconvincingly) plays an architect named Iris, who is an expert in the field of restoration. An ex-lover of hers, Job (Joseph Marco) hires her for a (hah!) job. A former professor wants to restore his creaking, possibly cursed, ancestral house in Japan, where they meet Miles Ocampo’s Len, a protege of Job’s. Easy enough, right?

A layer of complications is added on to the story, due to Iris’ mental illness — she suffers from PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder) after her sister was kidnapped and disappeared. While I now sympathize with her, I’m also dealt with the burden of whether she sees the supernatural or is simply hallucinating (I may hasten to add that psychotic symptoms in PTSD are not as common and widespread as the film may suggest).

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The premise and mise en scene are wasted on numerous deficiencies. I commend the cinematography, which makes full use of the Japanese countryside in autumn, as well as the meticulousness with which the sets are made and shot, making for a visually appealing (but not quite arresting) film. The score also has sophistication, and I’d gladly stream it if it were available.

The jump scares are rife in this film, with ghosts appearing as if they were born in the East Asian horror traditions in the early 2000s. That actually adds to the film’s appeal, but they can only hold my attention and scare me for so long. The routine eventually gets old, but the film at least doesn’t try to make the scares funny: well, save for one, where Iris battles with a ghost, but the ghost looked too corporeal for me to take her seriously.

The narrative is also relatively loose compared to the tautness of the film’s look, thus undermining it. The plot refuses to linger in the mind, and I probably won’t lose sleep over it. I do have to commend the actors: they aren’t great, but there’s an honesty and earnestness in their portrayals that make you root for them. They are a little bit transparent in their motivations, and our lead isn’t exactly convincing, but you have to give them something for effort.

Should you watch this? Maybe. A serious film aficionado might have an okay time with the visuals, but I’m sure they’ll have better material for that. Less-serious watchers may enjoy it for the cheap scares, or they can watch it so they can go around telling their friends about how they figured out the plot before the characters do.

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