People tend to be dismissive about Shake Rattle and Roll. “Another one?” they ask sneeringly, before bemoaning the lack of original thought and talent present in the MMFF. And though there’s reason to bemoan the festival as a whole, it’s a bit misguided to rail against this particular series. These movies have historically featured bright talent and new ideas. The latest edition, Shake Rattle and Roll 13, happens to employ three of the best filmmakers around. And one of the episodes might be one of the best things the series has ever produced. It is, as always, uneven and a little too long, but the entire package is worth seeing.
The first episode, directed by Richard Somes, is Tamawo. It tells the story of a Bigbo (Bugoy Carino) who’s just moved out to the provinces with his blind mother (Maricar Reyes) and his abusive stepfather (Zanjoe Marudo). They soon encounter a group of monsters that are after something that’s been stolen from them. The story is ridiculously thin, with none of the pertinent details of the story fleshed out. It’s a terrible script, but strong filmmaking creates the illusion of dramatic escalation and suspense. Great production design combines with smart location shooting to at least give the segment a sense of scale. In the end, the story’s far too insubstantial to save, and the performances go too far over the top, but there’s no denying the quality of the production.
Jerrold Tarog’s Parola is about best friends Lucy and Shane (Kathryn Bernardo and Louise de los Reyes) who go up to an abandoned lighthouse and unwittingly unleash the spirits of two rival witches. The spirits slowly take over the best friends, just as a familial conflict tears their friendship apart. Simply put, Parola is great. Aside from a couple of shaky effects (particularly one in the ending), it is as polished a piece of filmmaking as has ever been seen in the series. A fairly simple story is turned into a psychosexual exploration of adolescent friendship, enhanced by layer after layer of subtext. A fantastic performance from Kathryn Bernardo ties it all together. It might just be one of the best things that has ever come out of Shake Rattle and Roll.
Chris Martinez directs the final segment. In Rain Rain Go Away, husband and wife Mar and Cynthia (Jay Manalo and Eugene Domingo) and their family begin to experience strange phenomena involving water. Cynthia soon realizes that it all goes back to something that happened during Ondoy. There are all sorts of interesting themes and motifs embedded in this story, but it doesn’t quite work out. There isn’t much of a sense of suspense or escalation, the segment just plodding along to a climactic twist that it telegraphs too early. And then it limps along to a series of false endings that frustrate more than anything else. Still, the segment is somewhat interesting in its narrative details, its characters far richer than one would expect. Eugene Domingo anchors the segment well, dealing well with its shifts between comedy and horror.
As a single package, Shake Rattle and Roll 13 runs a little long. And to be honest, the unevenness can make it a bit of a struggle. But I would argue that its highs are worth sitting through the weaker moments for. Parola alone is worth the price of admission. And though the other two segments pale in comparison, they each have their own strengths. Tamawo has some of the best production work the country has to offer, and Rain Rain Go Away is pretty clever in its own right. As a whole, the movie is a pretty great showcase of local talent in almost all aspects of production. That’s worth seeing anytime.