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Tuesday, June 25, 2024

Tale of a haunted red house

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Trust film master Brillante Mendoza to bring the shivers and the spook in his latest movie for Vivamax written by Troy Espiritu, billed as Bahay Na Pula, with its worldwide online screening beginning last February 25, the date of the historic EDSA Revolution.

In this Mendoza helmed motion picture, newlyweds Jane (Julia Barretto) and Raffy (Xian Lim) take a trip to AFFY travel to the bucolic town of Pola to supervise the impending sale of their ancestral house, which the Municipal Council recently declared a “historic site.”

Against Raffy’s will, Jane taps her ex-boyfriend and the current Mayor’s assistant Roger (Marco Gumabao), to guide her through the bureaucratic red-tape. As the couple’s stay longer in the ancestral house, its many secrets unravel slowly with Manang Ising (Erlinda Villabos) as the witness to the big reveals.

Julia Barretto in ‘Bahay Na Pula’

The most interesting component of this newest movie from the Palme D’or winning filmmaker is the story weaved by its screenplay writer Espiritu. The presentation of everyday events and the haunting of the past pulsate with a ferocity that makes the viewer squirm and in shock as he discerns the how-did-that-happen-scenes in the movie. 

Present-day realities that we can enumerate in this Espiritu-Mendoza movie are the prevalent red-tape bureaucracy, the seduction of money and how it corrupts the most moral of men, chasing of old flames and the disastrous conflagration that follows and how romance jumps out of the window, and runs through the street when push comes to shove.

The more fantastical elements of the movie are an incubus, a poltergeist, and some historical atrocities that become karmic debts. 

Making this screenplay come alive are the emotionally committed and playing-for-truth-performances of its protagonists Baretto, Gumabao, and Lim. The trio, without a doubt, screams that they are ready for edgier roles.

In the movie, Julia displays some skin and succumbs to lip-locking scenes with her movie husband and ex while showcasing her dramatic range. A hot-heated Lim that curses, falls into a jealous rage, splendid rage, splendid! Gumabao blends with the locals to a T. The longing for someone that he used to love who suddenly comes back is palpable and intoxicating.

Villabos as Manang Ising is “the wolf in sheep’s clothing” saying becoming alive. Her screen presence is superb – cunning and sinister. She dominates the movie with minimal dialogue and yet, conveys the evil that lurks in the story. Truly Manang Ising is the devil’s advocate.

Adding more horrific treats to the movie is the musical scoring of Diwa de Leon who gives the movie scarier Oriental feels. The color palette of the movie supplies another blood-curdling layer to it.

Bahay Na Pula reminds us that we must be afraid of darkness. To romanticize and conquer it, are the actions of the foolish. It is where evil hides and the source of its strength. Always, what is cloaked in its veil springs back to vengeance. And when the wicked triumphs, and trumps good, be afraid. Be very afraid.

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