Sequels and other things
“Tiktik”, the film that preceded “Kubot”, ended on quite a positive note. It was daybreak, the survivors have successfully dispatched of the movie’s big bad (an un-impressive computer-generated aswang patriarch), and the main characters appear to be out of danger. However, that scene quickly turned ominous just minutes into its sequel “Kubot”. The protagonist’s escape from Pulupandan was thwarted by another species of aswang–ladies with prehensile hair that they use to grab prey. Macoy loses his Sonia, his newborn son, and his hand in this fight.
The rest of the movie takes place in the city two years later. Macoy-more dour as ever-lives in a rooftop shack with his sister Nieves (Lotlot de Leon), who works for a gynecologist (Isabelle Daza) whom she suspects to be an abortionist, because of her after-hours patients.
Of course, things are not that simple. Macoy soon finds himself in the middle of a war within the aswang clan as Dom, an upstart balikbayan aswang stages a coup that threatens the co-existence of aswang and humans. He initially refuses to intervene, preferring to let them kill each other, until his hand (the remaining one) is forced when Dom’s plan is finally revealed.
If “Tiktik” was clear in pitting man against aswang, the battle lines in “Kubot” seem more ambiguous. Veron as the head of the Kubot, quickly avenges the death of the Tiktik by killing Macoy’s wife and stealing his child. Meanwhile, government employees (the meat inspector) make it easy for Dom’s henchmen to fill the market with tainted meat products. Dom grabs power from the aswang elders by sheer savagery while the city’s denizens quickly become a mob that hunts their fellow human in the name of money. By showing some parallel weaknesses of both man and aswang, one can’t help but wonder if man is worth saving at all.
This would’ve been a compelling story, if only the exposition and character development were not clumsy and sketchy. The movie would’ve benefited from a smaller cast. The scenes with Ramon Bautista, Bogart the Explorer, Julie San Jose, and Abra were un-necessary and their screen time could’ve been used to fill in the gaping holes in the plot. The comedy in “Tiktik” worked because of the absurdity of the situation in the movie. However, this time, with the expansion of the story and the mythology, the too-many attempts at comedy didn’t only feel un-necessary, but in some instances, also annoying.
Lotlot de Leon’s performance was entertaining but her character felt too much like a rehash of Janice de Belen’s character in “Tiktik”. Janice de Belen got a supporting actress award for her role; as Lotlot did for hers. Coincidence? Isabelle Daza did well in her action and fight scenes and she has great presence. However, her vacant eyes and monotonous delivery are a let-dwon. Please put her in an acting workshop, ahora mismo! KC Montero’s accent, while justified by his character’s back story, got in the way of being scary and menacing. Meanwhile, the great Elizabeth Oropesa oozed with menace and malice that she even scared her fellow aswang. I loved how she remained looking dangerous even when her hair was being cut by her executioners in the hotdog factory.
There was a lot of talk when director Erik Matti publicly berated Lovi Poe for not appearing in this movie. If I were Lovi, I would also hesitate accepting the role because it was really so short. While it maybe true that she’s bound by a contract to appear in the sequel/s, Erik matti should have used another tactic in convincing her to accept the short role. He could have explained to Lovi that though her role was short, it was the emotional anchor of the whole movie. Macoy was the way he was because he was so affected by her death. He could have also mentioned Drew Barrymore who famously turned down a bigger role in “Scream” and did the first grisly death scene that became the talk of the town when the movie was released. If Erik Matti went along these lines in talking to Lovi Poe, I think she would have appeared in this movie and lent it more gravitas with her presence. Lovi could have even requested for a spectacular death scene. Her replacement, perhaps as an affront to her, was really just bleeeh.
One of the main draws of the first movie was its hyper-stylized CG rendering of a bucolic and rural environment. The same is true for “Kubot” although this time, the city is shown in its full dingy and grimy glory. Even the scenes in supposedly more upscale locales look as if a layer of dust covers everything. The set design is consistent with the post-processed look of the film. This change in palette was probably to distinguish “Kubot” from its predecessor, a theory that became more plausible after a set up for a third film is shown at the movie’s pre-credits scene. So the visuals is still the best point of the film. It’s a good thing that they laid low on the CG aswangs because the ones in the climax of “Tiktik” were neither scary nor impressive. I rather enjoyed the CG hair of the Kubot.
Like “Tiktik”, “Kubot” will be remembered for its great visuals. It is an entertaining movie that could have been more if only it had a better script. Despite its shortcomings I’ll admit that I immensely enjoyed watching it. I hope they pay attention to the story and the storytelling in the third film. After all, third time’s the charm, right?