Woo-Hoo!! Yours truly has finally scored herself another of those elusive films I’ve been looking for, both high and low, for quite a while, the 2012 Philippine Aswang action/horror/comedy “Tiktik: The Aswang Chronicles”. Yep… this one’s been a terribly hard one to pounce on, but at last it’s mine! Which means, of course, Gentle Visitors, I’m gonna be able to tell you all about it in a suitably “nekolishous” review just in case you’ve been aching to see it too. 🙂
Our synopsis goes like this: “With dark shades on and a burning cigarette between his lips, Makoy will do whatever it takes to win back his girlfriend Sonia’s, who’s pregnant with their child. He makes the trip to remote Pulupandan, her hometown, and is quickly rebuffed by Sonia’s mother. Tired of his laziness, and devil-may-care attitude, Sonia refuses to see him as well. But Makoy has never been one to give up. With the help of Sonia’s father and his ever-dependable helper Bart, Makoy stays in town to surprise Sonia on her birthday. But alas, Makoy gets into trouble with a group of townsfolk who transform into tiktik—horrific, man-eating creatures with a taste for fetuses that are still in the womb! They are angry, and they are hungry for revenge. Will their thirst for blood and retribution be quenched? Will Makoy finally get his act together, protect Sonia and their baby, and once and for all prove himself worthy of their love? Who will win in the battle between men and monsters?”
Oooohh!! Oodles more cannibal aswang fun and games done in a style that looks super influenced by the CGI work in “300” or “Sin City”. Some action, some romance, and naturally this wee lady loves the Philippine aswang folklore on hand, even if all the movies I’ve watched all seem to have completely differing ideas on just what these critters are all about. From the Trailer, it looks like they’ve gone and done yet another version this time out, but boy does it look crazy and fun. I’m sooooo there!! Wanna know how it went? Then by now you know the drill… 😉
Yep. This one has taken me a good long time to track down. When it first came out back in 2012, I figured it wouldn’t be all that hard to get a copy of… Philippine DVD’s usually being released fairly quickly after the theatrical run of a movie… but boy… was I wrong. To date, I’ve never even seen a sign of a domestic Philippine DVD for this one, although I’ve run across vague references to such. Oh well… it was such a big budget film with excellent Western entertainment press coverage that I assumed somebody would snag it for Region 1 DVD release fairly soon. Ummmm… nope. Not yet anyways. There were the inevitable dodgy bootlegs that started showing up on eBay and the like… but I genuinely try to avoid those and their terrible, terrible auto-translated subtitles like the plague. Finally… a legitimate version popped up in Germany. Germany? Hey… whatever… weirder things have happened. But…. although subtitled into German, there were still no English subtitles to be had. Grrrr!!! (Patience Miyuki…. patience….) Just about when I’d almost given up, another release happened. On Region 4… in Australia. This time out… thanks mostly to the fact that they speak English there, the subtitles I’ve been aching for were finally on board as well. Yay!! Sometimes the “Movie Fairies” smile on this wee Catgirl… 🙂
This film is the first full-length Filipino film entirely shot on green screen chroma key or “color-separation overlay” as it’s called in the UK. Practically the entire film was done on a sound-stage including most of the exterior “location” shots seen throughout. The result has that look that reminds one heavily of the cartoonish “graphic novel” appearance of Western made blockbuster films like “300” or “Sin City”, and much was done to emulate those films in tone while still trying to stay firmly a very distinctly Philippine film. It does indeed have a very unique look for a Filipino horror movie which, for me anyways, worked pretty well to showcase the story on hand.
That story is a pretty darn B-movie simple one too, which is actually an asset to bolster the lurid comic book feel of the film. It starts out by introducing us to our hero Makoy (played by Dingdong Dantes) enduring a grueling overland trek in one of the ramshackle three wheeled motorbikes that serve as rural transport in the rustic provinces of the Philippines. Right away we get the sense that our boy Makoy is one of those smart-ass hustler/playboy types out for his own interests and doing just enough to get by without having to commit to having real responsibilities weighing him down. He’s on his way to Pulupandan in the Western Visayas to find his girlfriend Sonia (played by actress/model Lovi Poe) who’s left him after an argument to return home to stay with her family. What our boy doesn’t know is that Sonia is pregnant with his child… at least not till he arrives at Sonia’s family home and gets a less than friendly greeting from Sonia’s angry Mom Fely (played by Janice de Belen). One look at him and Fely is sure there’s no way she’s putting up with Makoy’s “bad boy” attitude or letting him anywhere near her daughter again.
Surprised by the impending arrival of his child, Makoy’s resolve to patch things up with Sonia only grows…. mostly at first out of that Macho controlling way some guys feel for their “baby momma” rather than any real concern or feeling for Sonia herself. In fact… as our story gets underway, he’s what one might politely refer to as a Royal Asshole…. This wee Catgirl took an immediate dislike to his character… much to my sweet Carolyn’s amusement. She could sense my simmering dislike for Makoy right off the bat and it’s never a good thing to rub this wee lady the wrong way when you are trying to be the hero of the story.
Luckily for Makoy, Sonia’s father Nestor (played by Joey Marquez) is much more laid back and can see some vestige of worth in Makoy, and so along with his sidekick Bart (played by Ramon Bautista), conspires to see if he can’t help Makoy patch things up with his daughter. Coincidentally it’s Sonia’s birthday and the family is planning a big party to celebrate both that and the imminent arrival of the new baby. Makoy gets the idea to play “big man” by providing the money for a proper feast and so they head to the local village to find a pig for the BBQ. It turns out there isn’t one available there at a reasonable price, so Bart suggests they give his cousin, Ringo (played by Mike Gayoso) a visit in the next village and that he’d give them a good deal on one. This is where things start to go bad fast….
Oh yeah. You see… creepy cousin Ringo’s family are all “Tiktiks”, horrific man-eating aswang with a special taste for fetuses that are still in the womb. Makoy makes the mistake of telling them about Sonia’s pregnancy and also manages to piss them off by trying to push the negotiations for the price of the pig to a stupidly insulting low amount. They get sent along by an angry Ringo without making a deal, but his son, Kulot (played by RJ Salvador) goes behind his father’s back to make a deal with Makoy anyway that will allow him to then disguise himself as a pig with his eerie aswang shapeshifting powers and be taken home with them. The rest of the aswang clan follow, waiting for Kulot to signal them to attack their unsuspecting victims. Awww crap… not the old “Trojan Pig” plan… 😉
Back at Sonia’s home, Nestor manages to get his wife to calm down enough to let Makoy stay for the celebrations, even though he still can’t seem to get a handle on his attitude enough to convince Sonia that his desire to reconcile and change his ways is sincere. In a weird way… the evil Tiktik provide him with just the kick in the pants he needs to “man up” and become the potential husband Sonia both wants and desperately needs. Kulot isn’t there at the house for long before the delicious scent of pregnant Sonia has him transforming into his monstrously humanoid form to creep upstairs to her room and make an attempt to snack on her and the baby. Makoy and Nestor, hearing her scream, are just in time to kill the evil monster and save Sonia, but the rest of the aswang clan is surrounding the house by now and they make an attack to try to avenge their sibling and snatch away Sonia.
The film abandons all subtlety at this point, and poor Bart gets accused of being in cahoots with his cousins. I was actually a bit confused by this as the character of Bart is shown throughout the story as most definitely one of the “good guys”, and he knows all the aswang lore they need to protect themselves for the remainder of the film. Given that, I found it strange that either he didn’t know all his relatives were actually monsters… very unlikely given how much he knows about the aswang… or that knowing they were hiding in the village pretending to be humans, he still sent Nestor and Makoy to buy a pig for pregnant Sonia’s party from them and somehow didn’t expect the baby eating monsters to not try to show up for a tasty morsel like that. That one element seems a bit silly… so perhaps it’s best to kind of ignore that lapse in logic…
What kind of aswang lore are we talking about? Well, these “Tiktiks” are some kind of shapeshifting monsters, who can look human, but also can change into animal form as well, as example, Kulot’s little piggy trick. They also have this semi-monster form… mostly human, but with fangs and claws, crazy red eyes, and the ability to leap around like grasshoppers and scamper up wall on all fours like Spiderman. They are super fast, super strong, but they do have weaknesses…. both garlic and salt burn them like acid and it seems that if they are exposed to sunlight while not hidden in human form, they are destroyed. Wanna know when you are in trouble? Why if you can hear their eerie calls reeeeaaally well, then you are safe. They share that same quirk as the Indonesian Kuntilanak that they sound fainter and fainter as they creep up on you until… when you can’t hear them at all… they are probably right behind you. Oooohhh!!! Not only that… there’s a herbal elixir that you can get that boils in it’s bottle when they approach. Neat, eh? Neko certainly thought so….
That means that the last half of the film is pretty much devoted to an armed standoff between Makoy and Sonia’s family on one side and the besieging monsters on the other, each trying to get the upper hand before sunrise brings the fight to a close. There’s lots of crazy fights, plenty of CGI monster action, and even a welcome reformation of Makoy from butthead to real hero as things move along. Naturally we lose characters along the way… and one by one the evil monsters all get taken out, till the big climax when Makoy gets to face off against the Tiktik demon patriarch Tatang (played by Roi Vinzon) in a wuxia style battle to the death to save both Sonia and his newborn son.
So the humans do win? Yeah, yeah…. it’s that kind of simple “good vs. evil” plot after all, but it’s all done in a very fast frantically paced comic book style that works fairly well for the material. I even managed to find myself rooting for Makoy by about two thirds of the way through the story… not bad considering how much I despised him at first. Leading man Dingdong Dantes does a pretty stand-up job playing Makoy in a way that redeems his character successfully by films end without seeming too unlikely or too forced. Unfortunately, as Sonia, Lovi Poe is given a lot less chance to stand out here, spending most of the film doing the whole “OMG… I’m sooo about to give birth” bit. I wish she’d have been given more of an active role than just the typical damsel in distress, but sadly that’s just not the case.
Still… “Tiktik” is a spunky lil’ film that aspires to be a crazy horror comic book come to life on screen, and by goodness, it actually manages to do just that for the most part. It’s hokey at times… it’s downright stretching the boundaries of common sense at other moments, but all in all it actually works. Wanna see a “Night of the Living Dead” style siege between people and cannibal monsters with wacky folklore and subtitles? Then “Tiktik” is probably right up your alley. This wee Catgirl gives it 4 “Meows” out of 5 for both knowing it’s job and then just plain doing it.
The Australian Region 4 DVD for this one is excellent, if a bit pricy at right around 30$ US. It’s done in widescreen letterboxed format with perfect English subtitles, and has both some deleted scenes as well as a “Making of” feature. There might be a more budget friendly version somewhere down the road, but until then, this one would certainly fill the bill if you…. like a certain movie crazy kitten… just can’t wait anymore. So… if goofy werewolf/vampire/demon baby eating things are your cup of tea, then what are you waiting for? C’mon…. you know you gotta see it… 😉
As always I’ve got you a Trailer so you can have a wee lil’ look-see for yourself! Enjoy!