More Halloween goodness from the Philippines…. and this time out our “Halloween Review-athon” brings you Gentle Visitors a look at “Dalaw”…. The only ghost story I’ve ever seen about the horrors of menstruation!! No, no, no… not just the horrible cramps and nasty bloating….. but some full on ghostly haunting for good measure. Hehehe!!
Our quickie synopsis for it goes sorta like this: “Laarni (played by Katrina Halili), a journalist is assigned to write a news report about a ghost called Estrela (Kristel Fulgar) in Cavite. Estrela was said to possess teenage girls having their menstruation for the first time. By deeper research Laarni found out about Estrela’s painful past and her abusive parents.
Her mother Cleo (played by Glydel Mercado) had an affair with one guy called Amado (played by Mon Confiado). Later her father Erning (played by Tonton Gutierrez) finds out and quarrels with her. He accidentally killed Cleo in front of Estrela’s presence. Erning then starts to abuse the innocent Estrela. The question now is why does Estrela turns into a ghost after her death and takes revenge with teenage girls instead of boys?”
Ooooohhhh!! The trailer for this one certainly looked good, and as I was able to score a nice copy from a decent domestic DVD source I just had to snag my own copy. This little Catgirl can never…. and I mean never… pass up the chance for some decent subtitled Asian ghost goodness! The Filipinos haven’t disappointed me lately, so I just went for it!
Wanna see how a ghost story about women’s periods plays out? Then you’ll just have to “Read On”, silly!!
Yep….. I just couldn’t believe the idea behind this one. For women, the wonderful monthly “gift” that Mother Nature brings us has always been considered sort of an annoyance…. to say the least. It’s even been referred to as “The Curse”…. but never was there any sort of supernatural creepiness attached to it…. until now.
Our film actually starts at the end of the story….. with trusty Video Reporter Laarni (played by Katrina Halili) cautiously sneaking up upon the deserted house reputed to be haunted by the ghost of Estella, a young girl that local stories say visits all the other young girls in surrounding villages when they start their first period as well as turning up at all Wakes and funerals….. (I don’t know exactly how those two sorts of events are connected… but Neko figures it’s gotta be a Filipino thingee….) She tries to coax the spirit into revealing itself so she can “interview” it…. but ends up seeing something horrible and being driven insane. Yep…. so we know how things are going to end already, and I probably should have given up here, but silly me, I kept right on watching….
What we get is a story told in flashback, as Laarni’s sister watches the various video taped interviews Laarni made about the hauntings and her research about the ghost of Estella. With Laarni all comatose and all, the possibility of any real story suspense is pretty much gone….. no matter what sort of stuff pops up, you already know how things turn out, a big letdown from this little Catgirl’s perspective. I’m not certain why this was done…. but there is no secret “twist ending” or other reason to do it. It just seems … well…. clumsy and lame and an obvious way to use certain footage over in order to pad out what is actually a ridiculously short running time for a film.
The story itself is nearly non-existent. Basically we get introduced to the fairly uninteresting Estella (played by Kristel Fulgar), a quiet troubled little girl that wanders around the woods torturing small animals and talking to trees…. Her Mom, Cleo (played by Glydel Mercado), is having an affair with her old ex boyfriend Amado (Mon Confiado)…. this results in problems between her Mom and her Dad, Erning (Tonton Gutierrez), but that’s just the opening volley in the world of misery here. Seems Estella and her Father are having their own sick little semi-incestuous affair going on as well…. his way of getting revenge on his wife for having been pregnant with Amado’s child before they got married. Ewwwwwhhh!! Since Estella isn’t actually his real daughter, I suppose it’s not really incest, but it is creepy child molestation, so this lil’ Catgirl is still disgusted by the whole notion.
Anyway…. eventually this leads to Cleo getting accidentally killed by her husband during an argument….. unable to face what he’s done, he commits suicide. But…. not before he imprisons Estella in her room, nailing shut her windows and chaining shut her bedroom door. Somehow his body gets found…. but unexplained is how Estella gets missed until she has died and begun to rot and stink up the place. This is perhaps the most glaring plot hole and single stupidest idea in the whole film and goes a long way towards making me wonder why it was even made.
After this…. Estella’s spirit pops up anytime a girl gets her period ( for reasons never adequately explained)… or at funerals or Wakes…. looking all bloody and with her mouth gaping open like a demented goldfish…. It’s sort of disconcerting the first time, but gets really old, really fast. Oh…. and she likes to draw stick figures on walls in her own blood…. Oooohhh! Now THAT’S scary….. Sigh….
The story plods along…. not really certain where it’s going…. Laarni interviews different people, nobody gives any useful info, and eventually she gets desperate enough to defy her boss to continue the investigation on her own leading us back to the scenes we already saw at the beginning. Laarni sees the ghost…Laarni goes insane…. nothing new gets revealed…. the end.
Wow… this one was a real disappointment. The disc was well done as are most Philippine DVD’s, with good subtitling and is letterboxed…. I just wish it had been a better film. For it’s meandering fragmented story… and the stupid way the end gets revealed right away, Neko can really only give “Dalaw” a pathetic 2 “Meows” out of 5….. It’s boring…. it’s dull and overall pretty much a waste of time for real ghost story fans. Oh well… I suppose I can’t win every time.
The Trailer for this one is all set to go. Enjoy it, if you can!!