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This article was written By Rex Baylon on 01 Nov 2011, and is filed under Reviews.

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About Rex Baylon

As a boy Rex Baylon grew up watching a lot of Hollywood Blockbusters, discovering a lot of curious VHS finds at his local library, and stumbling upon the odd curio on late night basic cable. All grown up, he now writes about Asian cinema for VCinema and lives in South Korea.

Yanggaw (Philippines, 2008)

It is a common trope in horror films that survival until the end credits depends heavily on characters” ability to work together and either entrap or chase away whatever threats may lurk in the shadows, be it boarding up the windows or doors to keep zombie hordes from getting in, barricading yourself in your car until someone can come and save you from the serial killer, or forming a mob to run Frankenstein’s monster out of town. Whatever actions that may be taken the end goal has always been to get rid of the threat. The family at the center of Richard Somes’s film Yanggaw (aka Affliction, 2008) have a different set of priorities, though. Instead of being afraid of the monster or even trying to keep it from invading their home, Junior Villacin (Ronnie Lazaro) and his family are worried that the monster in their midst will escape and, in turn, be harmed by one of their neighbors.

Though a majority of the population in the Philippines is Catholic or belong to some Christian denomination, many pre-Colonial superstitions and rituals still live on. One of the most popular and feared figures in Filipino folktales is the aswang, a vampire-like creature that takes the form of a woman during the day and a bloodthirsty fetus-eating creature at night. As can be inferred from the description of this creature, anyone suspected of being an aswang does not have long for this earth. The methods may vary but a painful gruesome death is the only way that those afflicted with the curse can be cured. In Somes’s film, the aswang that is terrorizing the rural mountain town that Junior Villacin and his family live in is not some nameless creature, but their good-hearted daughter Amor (Aleera Montalla).

Introduced to us at the beginning of the film as a frail young woman who tried her hand working at a factory in the city, Amor soon returns back to her parents” bamboo shack, pale, weak, and unable to walk for more Sildenafil Citrate 50/100mgGeneric Viagra Soft is a chewable tablet. than a few steps before fainting. Her family believe that she is just suffering from malnutrition and do as much as they can for her, but with little in the way of money, Junior has no chance of ever being able to get Amor any real help from a hospital or Western-trained doctor. His wife, Inday (Tetchie Agbayani), tired of feeling helpless as her daughter uncontrollably vanishes from her room each night and returns every morning covered in blood decides to seek the help of a local healer named Lazarus (Erik Matti). What Lazarus discovers about Amor is not good.  Her spirit has been poisoned and that infection will eventually lead to her becoming a full-blown aswang creature.

In a typical big-budget horror film, the story would quickly veer into the realm of gore and violence, but Somes, working with a far smaller budget, instead devotes the rest of the film to dissecting how the close-knit bonds of the Villacin family soon become frayed and eventually come undone as Amor’s “sickness” has the entire Villacin household casino online trying their best to quarantine Amor in her room, even as she screams and howls to be released each night the full moon rises. Of course, every parent has their limits and guilt soon has Junior doing the unthinkable. He sets the creature that was once his daughter free to hunt his friends and neighbors. As can be expected, the entire town is soon worked up into a frenzy and a posse is quickly formed to deal with the killer, who they ironically have mistaken for the work of out-of-town vigilantes who’ve come into the village with a vendetta against Junior and his son for brutally assaulting their brother. Though Amor’s transformation into an aswang is quite repulsive and frightening, it’s really her father, a man who does such terrible things with the best of intentions, that deserves the moniker of monster. Not wanting to cede control as head of the family, Junior won’t allow himself to consider the possibility that his daughter could harm his family and even callously regards those who have died as threats to Amor’s survival. This old world notion that “blood is thicker than water” hangs heavy in Yanggaw and we rarely leave the Villacin abode, a place that is both a sanctuary and a prison for Junior and his family.

Taking a cue from the horror filmmakers of the past, Somes and his cinematographers Herman Claravall and Lyle Sacris embrace the “less is more” aesthetic and really get the most bang for their buck while shooting in the dense Ilonggo jungle. Utilizing shadows, harsh lighting, and the diegetic sounds of the forest, they give the audience a real sense of just how isolated the Villacin family is from civilized society. Though trapped inside with a monster, the only thing they can expect outside their cozy little hut is a wild untamed jungle filled with all manner of vicious creatures, big and small. At least with Amor they can rationalize and cling to the belief that monsters won’t hurt their own. Ultimately, Junior must face the difficult choice of either killing Amor to end her suffering or keeping her alive in the off-chance that a cure could be found. By the time a decision is finally reached, it is far too late for Junior and his family; Amor”s disease has seeped into the very lifeblood that hold the Villacin family together. The tragic consequence of his inaction leads to nothing but pain for the very family he professed to love and swore to protect.

Related posts:

A Brand New Life (South Korea, 2009)
Metamorphoses (South Korea, 2011)
The Longest Night in Shanghai (China/Japan, 2007)

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