Monday, June 02, 2014

Tiktik: The Aswang Chronicles – review

Director: Erik Matti

First released: 2012

Contains spoilers

Released on Australian DVD as the Aswang Chronicles, Tiktik was (I am led to believe) the first Philippines green screen dominant film and this lends the film a graphic novel feel that actually lets the film’s more outlandish aspects off the “suspension of disbelief” hook.

see, he's armless
The overall look is perhaps more professional than other offerings from its home country – though there are some CGI aspects that look very cheap (we’ll get there). In the film’s prologue we see a motorbike and covered sidecar that is being used as a means of transportation. We meet Makoy (Dingdong Dantes), a passenger, who is not happy with the delay at an armed checkpoint and comes across pretty much as an arrogant dick. The checkpoint chief (Roldan Aquino) predicts that he will meet his match. Then we hit the credits, which I mention as they were an excellent animated affair.

Dingdong Dantes as Makoy
Makoy is looking for his girlfriend Sonia (Lovi Poe, Aswang) who has, following an off screen argument, gone home to her parents – Nestor (Joey Marquez) and Fely (Janice de Belen). Sonia is heavily pregnant and Fely gives Makoy short shrift. However Nestor seems to be more sympathetic to the young man and asks him to come along as he and his help, Bart (Ramon Bautista), deliver (what I assumed to be) moonshine, and pick up stuff for a birthday feast for Sonia. They leave Bart at the market and go to a nearby settlement to get a pig for roasting – Bart has suggested it as his uncle should have a pig for sale and they’ll get it cheap.

The settlement is some distance into the mountains and, as they pull into there, Makoy gets annoyed with some youths and honks the car horn, which just attracts their (rather mild) juvenile delinquency. Now, it might have just been me, but a sheen of sweat over one youth almost made him sparkle! The kids are sorted out by Ringo (Mike Gayoso), Bart’s cousin, but Makoy is not impressed with the price he wants for a pig. During the conversation, however, Nestor has mentioned Sonia’s pregnancy. As they are leaving, Ringo’s son Kulot (R.J. Salvador) offers them a cut price pig. They wait outside the settlement for him and Kulot's friends eventually show with a pig (apparently without Kulot himself).

Of course Aswang can take the form of pigs and the pig is Kulot looking to snack on the unborn baby. Ringo turns up, near the house, wanting to stop the errant Aswang kids as they are going to get the settlement moved on/attacked. However Kulot is already in the house and has snuck up to Sonia’s room and is ready to use his long Aswang tongue to get to the baby. Sonia awakens, however, screams and brains him with a lamp. Makoy kills the aswang, the nearby Ringo swears revenge and, eventually, the whole aswang settlement is trying to get them.

in half and still going
The lore we get is a little confused in one respect; Bart, who never shows his aswang aspect and remains on the humans’ side, suggests that if they last to daybreak they’ll be safe as the aswang will lose their power – but, of course, it was day when Kulot transformed into a pig. Beyond this, garlic and salt repel and will burn an aswang – indeed it was a young lad shooting Aswang down, with deadly efficiency, using a garlic peanut snack and peashooter that was the outlandish moment I mentioned earlier. They can take some major punishment before dying (one loses her arms, is cut in two and still needs to be shot). A stingray’s tale cuts through Aswang like a hot knife through butter. If an Aswang bites and gets saliva in the wound it will cause a spreading infection that will kill the bitten person.

dog form
They are closest when their call is faintest and they can transform. As well as becoming pigs they can grow claws and fangs and run on all fours (and also appear to have no genitalia). Having drunk the saliva of the head aswang (who has a toothed bird living within him, this being the tiktik I assume) they can become demonic dogs and the leader can transform into a bat-winged monster. The CGI for the creatures was a little poor, especially the matting, but the graphic novel aesthetic let them get away with that to quite a degree. However, all told they are fairly easily killed by Makoy and his compatriots and the film is much more action than horror.

bird in the mouth - the tiktik
The acting works. Lovi Poe is subtly understated as Sonia, Dingdong Dantes plays Makoy as a complete ass and thus his redemption is all the more interesting. Janice de Belen is brilliant in a comedic sense as Fely. If you have a soft spot for Aswang (I do) then this is quite an accomplished little action film about Aswang. You can suspend disbelief and just enjoy it – even the more rubbish CGI won’t dim the film too much. There was a direction moment that annoyed, this was the slo-motion climax to the film that just went on and on and on and on – the scene could have been edited to around an eighth of its length. Other than that the direction captured the desired graphic novel feel. All that said, there is very little to the story (essentially a monsters laying siege trope). 6 out of 10.

The imdb page is here.

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