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Fast and Furious

There was a particularly suspenseful scene in “World War Z” that ended favorably to the protagonists, led by Gerry Lane. When it ended, there was a felt collective sigh among the audience in the cinema, followed by some nervous laughter. That, somehow, captured my entire experience of watching this latest addition to the zombie genre.

the movie poster

the movie poster

I decided to watch “World War Z” in spite of hearing from at least a couple of people who didn’t like it, commenting that the ending was flat and corny and that things moved at too brisk a pace to get a hold of the story. In addition, I also read about the ‘troubles’ that the film crew got into while making the film: the revolving door of scriptwriters, the thing with the Hungarian government over prop guns, the 7-week re-shoots, and the long delay of showing, among others. But I wanted the film to work. I love the genre, in almost all of its iterations. So with bated breath, inside the cinema I went.

For a film that was based on a book that told its story through a handful of second-hand information (like Bram Stoker’s “Dracula” and Stephen King’s “Carrie”), the narrative in the film is straight-forward and linear. It wastes no time in getting Gerry–played with consistent gravitas by Brad Pitt, into the fray. Their journey from the chaos of Philadelphia and New Jersey to the ship stationed off the eastern seaboard of the US is both tense and harrowing. When they get to the ship, Gerry is practically black-mailed to go on a mission to track the origin of the pandemic.

From here Gerry transits from one action set-piece to the next, as he follows each lead in locales like South Korea, Israel, and Wales. Each arrival and departure is marked by escalating suspense and destruction that leaves one in awe of the power of chaos. The sequence showing the fall of Jerusalem was spectacular. The CG zombies here look much better than the wretched creatures of “I Am Legend” and they really move like rabid and frenzied animals. The zombies here make the zombies in “28 Days Later” and the 2010 “Dawn of the Dead” look lethargic by comparison. Hence the title of this review. And their sheer number makes them appear like a deadly wave–kind of like the zombies in the iPhone game “Zombie Tsunami” minus the cute-ness.

zombies like ants

zombies like ants

The audience never really gets a chance to look closely at the zombies. Aside from Gerry’s first witnessing a bitten man turn in Philadelphia, the next time we see them upclose is at the WHO facility in Wales. The clicking of the teeth was creepy and funny and un-settling, to say the least.

Gerry is soon rewarded with the discovery that will change the way the world can respond to the pandemic. It is not a cure, but it gives them hope in eliminating the zombies and in rescuing the stranded. The pathology in the film is not the same as in the book, perhaps to fuel the pace of the plot and make the proceedings more dramatic. The comparison to rabies is quite accurate, except for the incubation period, which is about 12 seconds. The film also seems to eschews the epidemiological response described in the book, but this is just consistent with the pathology. I mean, when you have only moments between infection and manifestation of symptoms, an epidemiological response is indeed too slow.

The film ends in an open note. And I just learned that the producers’ intention was to make a trilogy, so the ending just seems appropriate. There are other stories to be told: the origins of the virus, why Gerry quit the UN in the first place, and so on. But for now, Gerry is happily reunited with his family, one battle has been won, but the war continues. Tense and harrowing, very entertaining. Will look forward to the sequel.

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Halloween

Before Halloween became Americanized in this country, I used to look forward to All Saints’ Day because of two things.

First, it gave me the chance to play at the cemetery. The maternal side of my family maintained a three-storey mausoleum at the La Loma Cemetery. The ground floor is where the tombs are, the second floor serves as a small chapel of sorts while the third floor is set up like a small flat–with living, dining, and sleeping spaces. One of my older relatives lived there and come All Saints’ Day, the whole mausoleum would be decorated with flowers and lights. As a boy, I didn’t have to venture far to get my supplies for my candle-ball. There were about 10 tombs in the mausoleum so I had all the candle drippings a boy could want. Good times.

the goofy-looking kid is me, with my father, mommy (RIP), and mama

Second, because of the movies and specials on TV during this time. As a boy I would watch Filipino classic horror films on TV like the Gabi ng Lagim films, Maligno, Patayin Mo sa Sindak si Barbara, the Panday films, and Shake, Rattle and Roll, among others. Comedians like Dolphy and Chiquito often made horror-comedy films like Drakula goes to RP and the Mang Kepweng films. During the 80s, the Halloween episodes of Magandang Gabi, Bayan added to this merry mix. Some of the stories featured here creeped me out more than the films because of the documentary approach, which heightened the realism even if they were just reenactments. This was years before Blair Witch Project and Paranormal Activity.

Philippine cinema’s horror-trilogy of the 60s and 70s

Among the creatures of the night, I was most scared of the manananggal. The first Shake, Rattle and Roll movie scared me out of my wits because its third episode was about a manananggal terrorizing a boy and his family.

Irma Alegre in Shake Rattle and Roll: the sexiest and creepiest manananggal for me

When I lived in Cambodia I realized that their culture has a version of the manananggal. Called AP, this creature of the night also segments its body in search of prey. However, unlike our manananggal, only the AP’s head and neck separates from the rest of its body, trailing its innards as it flew. When I first heard about it (and after seeing it in one of the Khmer films) I found the image funny instead of frightening. Why? Because it reminded me of our Christmas lantern. Go figure.

As it turns out, the manananggal appears in other cultures as well. Follow this LINK if you want to find out.