“Tiyanak” was released 26 years ago, during the height of the popularity of the movie love-team of Lotlot de Leon and Ramon Christopher. This movie of theirs is one of many that were released almost consecutively in a span of 2-3 months, if I remember correctly. However, “Tiyanak” proved to be different among the slew of “Lotlot-Monching” movies because of many reasons. First, it was directed by Peque Gallaga & Lore Reyes who, at that time, were already among the best directors in the industry, especially in the horror genre. Second, this film was some sort of a turning point for the teenage love-team, because this was a departure from their past teeny-bopper roles–they didn’t play teenagers here. In fact, their kissing scene at the end of the movie was even hailed as the longest kissing scene in any Filipino film. I’m not sure how this record still stands today, though. But you get my point. Third, the film became iconic well before it was shown due to its very effective movie trailer. Who can forget the line, “Oh my god, ang baby ni Janice!” Luz Fernandez’s voice work on that trailer was outstanding and unforgettable. The line was so iconic, in fact, that it became the title of another movie (a comedy).
Finally, the film itself–while not perfect–was a great horror movie. It effectively mixed folklore and mythology with contemporary themes of motherhood and family. “Tiyanak” quickly became part of the pantheon of Filipino horror movies that we see in annual Halloween movie marathons aired on television.
And now, 26 years later, there have been many additions to the horror genre–some good and some just awful. And I was surprised to hear that “Tiyanak” has been remade, by the same directing duo of Gallaga and Reyes no less. I got very curious about the movie but then later I started to wonder why the heck did they think of remaking this already iconic movie? I felt it was un-necessary. True, there have been other movies about tiyanaks through the years and in my opinion, nothing has equaled “Tiyanak” in terms of being scary and just being a good movie. But still… Maybe they wanted to tighten the story? Weeks ago I caught it at a cable channel and I found some plot points were plodding and over-written. But I’m not sure. The stories surrounding the remake didn’t give me any idea on how they approached the remake. But did I allow these uncertainties to deter me from watching this remake? Of course not!
As it turns out, “T’yanak” was very loyal to the original “Tiyanak”, so much so that they could probably be seen together, in a split screen. You’ve got Judy Ann Santos in the role originated by Janice De Belen, as Julie, who desperately wants to have a baby. Solenn Heussaff’s role was originally played by Lotlot de Leon, as the girl who found the baby/ tiyanak although this time around instead of being sisters with Julie, Madie (Christy in the original) is her sister-in-law-to-be. Tom Rodriguez’s role was originally played by Ramon Christopher, and this time he’s the adopted brother of Julie who’s based in the States but just returned to the Philippines to get married. I think this plot point was just to justify Solenn’s casting in this movie. Liza Lorena is the grandmother, which was originally played by the great Mary Walter. Sid Lucero is Joeben, which was originated by Pen Medina (as Jopet). Notably absent are Julie’s husband and an aunt called Tita Sarah, who were played by Rudolph Yaptinchay and Bella Flores (another great star) in the original.
I think they really intended to somehow streamline the story this time around while retaining the film’s original key set pieces. However, they ended up truncating the scenes that made the original film gripping. The scene in the cinema was tepid compared to the same scene in the original. The hospital scene was also significantly reduced that in spite of the cameos of the original film’s female leads (Janice De Belen played the doctor attacked by the tiyanak, who was originally played by Suzanne Gonzales while Lotlot de Leon was one of the nurses in the nursery), it ended in a really un-spectacular manner.
The movie was further bogged down by lapses in continuity or sloppy editing. And then there’s the acting. While it was refreshing to see Judy Ann Santos playing a highly-strung and at times bitchy character, I just wish the other actors at least tried to match her. Sid Lucero was severely under-utilized; his hysterics seemed like outtakes from “Norte, Hangganan ng Kasaysayan”. Liza Lorena was okay in her part. Tom Rodriguez was surprisingly okay. However, Solenn Heussaff is in dire need of an acting workshop. I like her when she’s presenting but her acting leaves much to be desired. She couldn’t convey fear in spite of the horrific things happening around her. But to her credit, at least she’s not annoying like Kris Aquino, only whose method of conveying fear, discomfort, confusion, or pain is knotting her eyebrows.
The special effects didn’t improve also, despite the progress in special effects in the last two decades. In fact, the tiyanak puppet from the original was more scary than the one (now animatronic) in the remake. Even the infant in the original (a girl) was more effective than the one in the remake (a boy).
Over-all, “T’yanak” feels like an inferior version of the original. While it probably sought to tell a tighter and more compelling story, it ended up introducing changes to the plot and characterization that didn’t really contribute to this aim and watering down the elements that made the original movie gripping and exciting to watch. The movie seemed to be put together too haphazardly, with glaring plot holes and continuity problems. Perhaps it was a bad idea not to enlist Don Escudero in writing the script.
Like I said, “Tiyanak” was already a great horror movie. Sadly, “T’yanak” proves that remaking it was probably a waste of time and effort. I hope the directing team behind this has other original ideas for the horror genre instead of just repeating themselves.
Posted on October 30, 2014, in review and tagged Filipino, horror, Janice de Belen, Judy Ann Santos, Lore Reyes, Lotlot de Leon, movie, Peque Gallaga, Ramon Christopher, Solenn Heussaff, T'yanak, Tiyanak, Tom Rodriguez. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.