Ahhh love…… You all know your Favorite Catgirl has a soft spot for Romance, but my preferred choice in movies means I’m usually indulging in some strange love stories indeed. This time out is no exception, as we look at the Philippine DVD release “Ang Darling Kong Aswang”.
This one’s synopsis goes sorta like this: “Victor (Vic Sotto) is a single father who falls in love with Elisa (Cristine Reyes) who turns out to be an Aswang. But even so, Victor loves Elisa so much that he accepted what she is and even decides to live with her as his new wife and mother for his daughters.
But the problem comes when the leader of the Aswang clan (Jean Garcia) founds out that Elisa and her mother (Agot Isidro) are not eating humans anymore. She sent out other Aswangs to hunt down Elisa and her mother, and also for Victor and his family.
Will Victor risk everything for love and face the leader of the Aswang clan to save his beloved Elisa?”
Aswang? Never heard of them now have you? Well, even Neko was a bit vague on this particular folklore creature’s mythology, and that’s part of the fun of finding these weird lil’ films now isn’t it?
But weird is not always necessarily good…. and we all know I’ve bumped into more than a few stinkers, DVD wise, in my quest for the strange and the goofy movies I like. How does this one stack up? Only one real way to find out o’ Gentle Visitor, and that’s to “Read On”…..
Well…. Aswang. Now these Philippine folklore monsters were new to me, and other than an old Mondo Macabro film release, titled appropriately enough, “Aswang”, I knew very little about them going in to this one. (Luckily…. that’s just what the Internet and Wikipedia are for…. Hehehehe!!) A quick bit of research later and I’m told that the Aswang are often described as a sort of combination of vampires, werewolves, and witches and are almost always depicted as women. Aswang legends seem to vary greatly from place to place in the Philippines and even from person to person, with no one particular set of characteristics that can be agreed upon to describe them. They are often portrayed as some kind of monster with wings which flap loudly when she’s far away and quietly when she’s nearer…. (Ahhhh, yes!! Remember our old Indonesian friend the Kuntilanak? Seems like she’s got a “cousin” here in the Philippines…) Folktales often tell of aswangs living in villages as ordinary townspeople. While so disguised, they are described as being fairly quiet, shy and mostly harmless in appearance. But….. after dark, they can shapeshift into different creatures using their evil magic, most commonly into a large menacing black dog, so they can stalk the night in search of their prey. They are said to particularly enjoy devouring unborn fetuses and small children, often feasting upon their entrails leaving nothing but empty husks behind. Icckk, gross!! Thank goodness love is usually blind in these sorts of films….. otherwise this movie is soooo doomed.
We start this one out at a creepy Satanic ceremony at some old ruins in which the Cult of the Aswangs reaffirm their allegiance to Satan and the forces of Darkness under the light of the full moon. Following this, it’s off to some poor nearby village where the evil aswang run amok killing and eating the villagers in an orgy of cannibalistic frenzy. All of them that is except for Elisa (played by Cristine Reyes) and her mother Ida (played by Agot Isidro) …. who cannot bring themselves to join in the slaughter, choosing instead to sate their unholy appetites on a few of the villagers goats. This doesn’t sit well with the leader of the Cult, Barang (played by Jean Garcia), and her cronies who threaten them with horrible death if they are caught breaking the Cult’s rules…. and poor Elisa is hounded by the unwelcome advances of Barang’s son, who makes it plain that Elisa is to be considered his “property” and that their marriage is inevitable. What an evil doofus…..
We don’t really get a lot of gory bits in this attack, despite what the legends might suggest about the terrifying aswang and their habits, but then this is a Philippine film and they tend to be more restrained about that sort of content. We do get an attack on a small village church and a heroic battle by some gay choirboys that would be perfectly at home in a Thai movie… the comic moment sets the overall tone for this one as a light comedy/ horror piece and it’s here that the film remains from this point throughout. After this, it off to meet our romantic leading character, the widower Victor and his family…..
Victor (played by Vic Sotto) lives the solitary lonely life of a widower, with only the company of his two darling daughters Angel (played by “T2”s Mika dela Cruz) and Aileen (played by Barbie Forteza) to make him happy. It’s not a bad life… he’s successful, has the company of his father and goofy sidekick Tom (played by Richie D’ Horsie) to help out with the kids, and seems reasonably happy… but something is still missing. Someone to share it with.
Luckily for him, fate steps in and Elisa and her mom decide finally to flee the Cult, moving in with her uncle who lives in the suitably creepy old mansion down the street. Vic happens to be on the street the day they arrive by taxi and it’s love at first sight between the two… Well, actually it’s some sort of Aswang hypnotism that Elisa works upon Vic to make him notice her… but what’s the point of having weird supernatural powers if they can’t help you meet up with hunky widowers in need of a sweet girlfriend, eh? There’s the standard bits as Victor and his friends meet up with Elisa’s suitably scary looking uncle in the haunted mansion, then try to help him woo Elisa… and all the standard moments where pretty Elisa meets the girls and becomes their friend without knowing they are Victor’s daughters. You know those bits….. so dang cheesy but also sooo darn heartwarming. Cristina Reyes is absolutely perfect throughout as Elisa, managing to make her character both sweet, charming, sexy and appealing, yet also pull off the aura of potential danger of such a supernatural creature without seeming overly silly.
Eventually Elisa decides to tell Victor the truth and reveal her true nature. We get a sweet lil’ sequence right out of “Bewitched” where Elisa shows him her powers and takes him flying to the top of a city building. Trembling and nearly in tears she expects Victor to be repulsed by her horrible true nature as a cannibalistic creature of the night. (As if he could ever resist her super adorable winsome look and cute litte fangs….Hehehe!!) But by now, Victor is so smitten that despite his initial misgivings, he asks her to be his wife. There’s the little problem of telling his daughters of course…. they miss their real mother and have a promise from him never to marry again. Thank goodness they love their father enough to want to see him happy and once they find out their potential new mom is also their new friend Elisa, it’s all good. Until the evil cult decides to locate and punish their missing brethren that is….
They show up in the form of three vicious female aswang Alpha, Beta, and Keka (played by Jackie Rice, Denise Laurel, and Empress Schuck respectively) doing their best “Brides of Dracula” imitation to kill Elisa’s uncle and mom Ida before attacking Victor and his family to capture Elisa. There’s a neat bit where we learn all about how spices like salt, ginger, and pepper can burn aswang just like acid… a neat folklore bit among many in the film. There’s plenty of flying girls, transforming into big evil dog monsters, and some smacking of evil aswang until they burn to dust. They get driven away…. but Elisa decides to sneak off later that night and surrender to the Cult rather than see Vic or the girls, whom she loves more than life itself, get hurt because of her.
Victor wouldn’t be much of a hero if he let her make that sacrifice, so he leaves his daughters to seek a way to save Elisa from the Aswang Cult. But first…. his father reveals a shocking truth. Long ago, Victor’s grandfather had been an aswang!! It seems there’s a way to escape that evil existence by truly repenting your evil nature and embracing the will of God to forgive you and make you completely human. It was this connection that brought Elisa and Vic together in the first place, each sensing the others kinship on an unconscious level. All Victor need do is free Elisa from the Cult and bring her safely to the church where his grandfather was saved and she can finally live as a normal girl. One trip to a local shaman later and he and his friends are equipped with all the necessary aswang stomping tools they’d ever need, from Magic Rocks of Invisibility and Holy Water, to Swordfish clubs and mystic stingray tail-whips.
There’s only one problem. A fanatic army of cannibal aswang stand between them and Elisa, but some serious monster stomping later they manage to save Elisa and make a beeline for the safety of the church, with Barang and the whole of the Cult in hot pursuit. There’s a short chase scene with the aswang swarming their bus like a horde of monsters intent on killing them all, but thanks to the intervention of the Philippine police they make it to the church. Here we get our climax as Elisa survives the exorcism of the evil spirit within her to embrace the Holy Spirit of God and become a real girl at last. Ahhhh…. don’t you just love a happy ending?
So…. what’s the overall score for this one? Well…. it’s a simple story, and not one too far away from another recent “Big budget vampire romance movie” that just came out here in the US. Even so, Neko really liked “Ang Darling Kong Aswang” overall. It’s not an expensive or pretentious lil’ film, and the chemistry between Vic Sotto and Cristine Reyes works for me…. particularly on her part. Throw in a little light comedy, and some neat Filipino themed folklore I hadn’t heard of, and it makes for a very nice little film indeed. As horror/ comedies go, “Mr. Vampire” this ain’t… but then it’s really hard to top a true classic like that. Even so, I’m willing to give this one a decent 3 “Meows” out of 5 with several purrs for our adorable leading lady Cristine and the nice unique folklore monsters. Top it off with a nicely done Letterboxed DVD with excellent subtitles in English and I’m one happy lady. Isn’t that enough for any film to aspire to?
Of course, I’d never leave you hanging without a final parting gift. So to help you make up your own minds about this one, I snagged you a Trailer, and here it is!! Enjoy!