Thursday, October 19, 2017

Tiyanak – review

Directors: Peque Gallaga & Lore Reyes

Release date: 1988

Contains spoilers

This is a Filipino movie from the 80s and I was rather excited to see that it was on Amazon Prime (subtitled, of course) despite the fact that it is an atrocious analogue print. Why? Well because the Tiyanak of the title is such an unusual vampire type.

Tiyanak, by the subtitles, translates to monster baby and Bane lists the creature under the name Aswang Tiyanak saying: “It hunts women by shape- shifting into an adorable baby and placing itself somewhere it will be found. When it is discovered, the aswang tiyanak waits until it has been taken home. Then when its would-be rescuer is asleep, the vampire will assume its true form and attack, draining the victim dry of blood.

as a baby
Now, in actual fact the use of the word aswang is somewhat superfluous. Aswang can be an overarching name for monster or a creature in its own right. So, by dint of being a Filipino monster the tiyanak is an aswang. Aswang are mentioned in this film as a separate type. So it starts with a couple who are crossing a rich family’s forested land, watched by a young boy who works for the family. The wife (Betty Mae Piccio) hears crying and they split up looking for source. She finds an infant lying in what looks like leather. She picks it up but it transforms into a demonic form and attacks, strong enough to throw her around and drag the corpse despite its diminutive size. Her husband finds her corpse and when the boy declares it was a tiyanak attack he punches the youth for his trouble (despite knowing the truth of it).

Lotlot De Leon as Christie
Christie (Lotlot De Leon) has just returned home with her friend JoJo (Ramon Christopher). She meets her brother-in-law Mars (Rudolf Yaptinchay) and is informed of the killing on their land. She is told that her sister, Julie (Janice de Belen, TikTik: the Aswang Chronicles), needs her. Julie is distraught as she has suffered two miscarriages – the second at the 6th month point. In fact she gets quite hysterical and Christie gives her a good slapping because of this!

Lola has the right idea
Then we get some lore as the Grandma (Mary Walter, Shake Rattle & Roll) explains that when there was the war for heaven some angels refused to take sides. When Satan was cast to Hell they tried to return to heaven but were barred from entering and became Malignos – aswang, manananggal and tiyanak. When asked why they attack humans if they were angels we are informed that it is jealousy as humans are the only ones amongst God’s creatures who can enter heaven. Long story, short; Christie discovers a baby in an old building on the property and Julie undertakes to adopt the baby (Angelica, as she is a little angel sent by God, she believes). This is despite the Grandma seeing it and declaring it a maligno that they must immediately kill. The baby, of course, goes on a killing spree.

tiyanak form
So, whilst too young to crawl in human form, it becomes a little rubber doll with sharp teeth at will and attacks when it is dark (but not necessarily at night – after all it isn’t Dracula, it is pointed out). When it turns from demon to baby it sheds its skin (the leathery thing it is found lying in). It heals rapidly and can cross vast distances very quickly. To be killed it needs to be burnt but it avoids fire (so burning its shed skin will allow it to be trapped and killed). The killing aspect is strange as the Grandma declared that Malignos were undying and yet she not only wants to kill it, she tries to do the deed. Their bites can fester nastily if the victim survives.

a tiyanak wound
The photography seems poor but then again the print is awful and the demon baby has more comedy value than fear factor. There are silly moments, for instance Christie (who has been thoroughly terrorised by the creature and seen it in its true form, including when it indulged in slaughtering a maternity hospital) gets the chance to end it, the tiyanak takes human form and she is overwhelmed by her maternal instincts. Luckily there was a handy pre-pubescent boy to save her hide on that occasion.

evil in a bonnet 
The biggest issue, however, is the length. At over two hours it really does outstay its welcome. It could easily have had an hour or more shaved off it. Had that occurred it might have been a fine part in say a Shake Rattle & Roll anthology but as its own vehicle it becomes painfully stretched out. On the other hand, you don’t often see a tiyanak film and it is worth seeing for that reason and it does have some camp horror moments that will likely work better in a group with alcohol imbibed. 3.5 out of 10.

The imdb page is here.

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