It’s back to some familiar ground this time out, Review wise, with a look at the latest Philippine horror film to make it’s way from sunny Manila to my chilly lil’ winter wonderland here in the US, Regal Entertainment’s “Guni-Guni”.
Our synopsis reads as follows: “Thirty years ago, an aborted fetus was buried beneath the garden of a boarding house in Cubao. It still lies there undiscovered beneath the ground, unknown to the tenants who live there. One of these tenants is Mylene who appears to be the perfect girl: nice, pretty and at the top of her Medical class. But nobody knows the dark secret of her past, not even the man who loves her most, Paolo. Paolo knows nothing of Mylene’s family, her long, lost twin sister or her estranged, nervous wreck of a mother. Nor has he seen the very long scar that runs across Mylene’s body, nor of how somehow incomplete she always feels. And he finds that the more he tries to win back her love, the more she retreats to her secret world that she lets nobody enter.
One day Mylene asked to perform an illegal abortion for a tempting price. She feels conflicted about doing what is right, but at the same time, is in dire need of money to pay her outstanding tuition fee at school. Her decision ultimately leads to a terrible outcome and awakens a spirit that has lain quiet for years in the boardinghouse grounds. Thereafter, she becomes tormented by nightmares of her dark twin, whose presence only grows stronger as the days pass and strange things start to happen to others in the house. One by one, the boarders begin to die of unexplainable causes. Then Joanna, Mylene’s best friend, a girl with a natural psychic gift, struggles to understand the growing danger that she senses and decides to get to the bottom of the mystery. But as it unravels, they soon find themselves confronted by an angry soul that seeks justice against all those who dwell there.”
Siamese twins? Ghosts? Hidden secret pasts? Yep. Sign this wee Catgirl up… I’m soooo there! Wanna know if it’s a trip you’ll wanna take as well? Then let’s all “Read On” and get all the juicy details, shall we?
Mmmmm!! Tagalog horror films… This wee lady just loves a good ghost story and boy, do they really like telling them in the Philippines. This time it’s “Guni-Guni”…. a tale of spirits raised by the guilt of those haunted and given “life” to take revenge for the crimes committed by those who believe. If I’m getting the gist of this movie, the folklore seems to suggest that it isn’t ghosts of the dead that haunt the living at all, but the guilt that the living possess themselves over things they’ve done. Not certain if I got that right…. but that’s how this wee Catgirl sees this one. Either way… it all seems to lead to some creepy goings on alright.
Our Heroine this time out, is Mylene… a pretty young Medical student with a tragic past that eats away at her and fills her with a guilt over the death of her “siamese twin” sister Myra when they were separated surgically not long after birth. By sheer luck, it was Mylene picked to live by her mother and doctor… even if it meant stealing away her sister’s healthy heart to replace her own misshapen and useless one. Grown into a lovely young lady (played by rising Tagalog model and horror star Lovi Poe), she lives a life that she feels she “stole” and despite all reasoning, feels she really doesn’t deserve.
It’s this self loathing misery…. along with the simmering secrets of all the other tenants at her boarding house… that gives rise to the “ghost” of our story. It spends most of the movie creeping about… randomly taking a form of some deceased loved one of those at the house to punish them for their sins. What sorts of sins, you ask? Well…. to start with there’s Tatay Nanding (played by Jaime Fabregas) the landlord of the house who seems to be experiencing visitations from his 6 year old son. His wife left him years ago… for reasons nobody seems to understand… and he has the creepy habit of burying food near one of the flowerbeds to appease “something”. His murdered son, buried there by him years ago perhaps?
What about Mrs. Arevalo (played by Gina Alajar), a bitter old alcoholic who swears her son Javier (played by Guji Lorenzana) isn’t really dead… that he’ll return to her and make everything right for her again? Mmmm… now that’s not likely to happen… or is it?
Or how about the little autistic boy down the hall, Jayjay (played by Gerald Pesigan)? Is he really playing nice with Tatay Nanding’s little ghost boy? Is his dead mom out to get rid of his nanny, her sister Vangie (played by Julia Clarete) for cruelly murdering her just to steal away her husband Eddie (played by Neil Ryan Sese)?
What about the miserable unwed mother Alicia (played by Ria Garcia) who moves into the house and that begs med student Mylene for that ever so illegal home abortion? (If only poor Mylene wasn’t soooo in debt with her school tuition….) Betcha that aborted baby gonna be back for some revenge…. or this wee lil’ Catgirl doesn’t know her Asian ghost stories.
Sound like there’s a whole lot going on? Well what if we throw in Mylene’s cheating boyfriend Paolo (played by Benjamin Alves) and her best friend Joanna (played by Empress Schuck) who gets stuck with the coveted plot element of “I see dead people” tacked on and you just know stuff is going to really complicated really quick. Oh yeah. You can bet on that.
If “Guni-Guni” has any real problem it’s that there’s almost too darn much going on for just one movie. I’m thinking that if the plot had restricted itself to just telling Mylene’s story…. about her guilt over the unfortunate yet ever so unavoidable death of her conjoined twin sister… we’d have had plenty of movie to enjoy. The side plot about her boyfriend not understanding her reluctance to get intimate (and show off the scar she is so ashamed of) when you get the idea they are supposed to be getting married soon is not terribly well developed either. You find out he cheats on Mylene with another girl when she refuses his advances….. although he tells her that the affair was “meaningless” and he loves only her. Grrrrr!!! 😦 How that always makes me sooooo damn mad!! I expected that the girl would turn out to be Alicia…. and in any other Philippine or Indonesian horror film it would have been her… just so that the ghost could have her guilt over the abortion she performed turn around and bite her on the butt, but no… that really is pretty unnecessary too, plot-wise. Like I said…. just too many unneeded extras to make the story work on a simple level.
Ahhhh… and our ghost. It spends the film taking the form of those people the victim feels the most guilty about. You know it’s the ghost because it has the habit of having it’s eyes turn to silvery mirrors at those dramatic moments you might expect. This has to be about the cheapest and least effective practical make-up effect I’ve seen in quite a while. It’s really pretty bad and you can tell the actor is as blind as a bat when trying to look all ghostly and scary…. as they grope about in a lame fashion trying not to look completely blind. D’ohhhh!
These problems are a shame really… as there is some real promise to the general idea of the “haunted Siamese twin” story that could have worked. I liked the overall notion of a formless ghost taking it’s appearance from the guilt of it’s victims. Neither of these things works well enough here, unfortunately, to save the film overall. Too bad.
The acting on display isn’t bad…. and Lovi Poe does a credible job as our Heroine, although I found her chemistry with co-star Benjamin Alves as her boyfriend to be somewhat lacking. Much better was her interaction with her psychic BFF, Joanna. Empress Schuck had that simple role down pat and I wish only that she could have done more in the way of balancing things overall rather than spending her time merely trying to get Mylene and Paolo back together. Still, I guess that’s what BFF’s are for… 🙂
Given all of these things together, I’d have to give “Guni-Guni” a disappointing 2 “Meows” out of 5. It’s just too much of a mishmash of story elements… most of which I’ve seen done both before and better in other movies. Too bad. I’d really wanted to like this one more than I did.
The DVD itself wasn’t bad, done in the standard NTSC All Region presentation that most Philippine DVD’s are produced in. It has the perfect English subtitles I’d expect for both the main film as well as the “Making Of” feature on the disc. If you’d like a copy, it’s easily available at most of the usual places for around 15-19$ US.
Trailer? Yep, worry not…. your Favorite Catgirl’s got ya’ covered…. 😉