“Ano yung pagi?” my sister asked me, while Dingdong Dantes as bad boy Makoy showed off his sinewy arms onscreen, wielding what looks like an enormous, rubbery tail of… something.
“Um… I dunno. A donkey, maybe?” I ventured, just as the rubbery thingamagig struck an aswang-turned-hellhound, disintegrating the slobbering, mummified creature into ashes.
An hour later, in an FX on a darkened road on the way home, my sis reports that the Google God had revealed that pagi is a stingray (yes, the lowly sea creature that felled Steve Irwin).
To which, I gave my rather loud opinion that the crop used on the hellhounds was too dang big for a stingray. The stingray ought to have been butanding-size to justify that secret weapon against aswang.
But that’s how it is with fantasy worlds dealing with supernatural beings as villains. You can be as fanciful as you want.
I thought TikTik: The Aswang Chronicles was pretty easy to follow, considering that my sis and I — though born and bred probinsiyanas — possess meager information, between us, about local folklore. (Our mom knows the stories, to the point that she can’t sleep without a light on, she just refuses to share the fear with us kids).
Our lack of knowledge on what are the defensive arts against aswang mirrored that of city-boy Makoy, who had to learn on the fly how to defend himself and his pregnant girlfriend Sonia (Lovi Poe, slightly hirsute but lovely as ever) from the beasts of the night.
TikTik, therefore, is a good movie to watch if you’re a doomsday prepper anticipating the rise of aswang.
There’s the powerful pagi of course. It was also pretty cool how the expected garlic (universal weapon against monsters) and salt were upgraded to Molotov cocktails and makeshift flamethrowers, among other, less orthodox means to kill the aswang. The second best product-plugging — and there were many in the movie — was of deadly pipe-blown pellets of Boy Bawang, actually. (You’ll just have to discover for yourself which was the best product endorsement.)
I enjoyed the movie, mostly because of the irreverent script, less for the much-touted effects.
Yes, it was nice to see very clean, fantastical graphics in terms of the landscape and the transformations of the itinerant hog-sellers into aswang. But we’re spoiled; we have seen better hellhounds and winged creatures (that awful Hollywood flick Van Hellsing for instance, and the Underworld series). Then again, the P80-million budget was put to good use, it served its purpose, and a shout out to Erik Matti for his ambition.
The sound is pretty awesome. The Juan dela Cruz band opens the entire gig with a rocking rendition of their “Laki sa Layaw.” Wolfgang’s in there, at a crucial scene, for fans of the mostly-dormant band. It’s also self-explanatory that Tik-Tik came from that odious sound made by creatures (could be crickets, could be lizards, could be anything in real life that could be interpreted as ominous) — in this case, drooling aswang.
But the story is where it all hung in the balance — and they had the perfect setup and some stellar actors to boot.
Makoy comes to a strange town (could be any far-flung barrio) with a mission, to retrieve his runaway girlfriend, only to be met by opposition — from Sonia and her snobbish mother Fely (Janice de Belen), if not unassuming father Nestor (Joey Marquez) and the mysterious childhood friend/gofer Bart (Ramon Bautista).
So he tries to make amends but is rebuffed. The dude is seriously hungover, itching for a fight, and possessed of major cojones. He vents his frustration by getting into arguments with everyone, including a gang of equally bad-tempered hog-sellers — a mere daylight disguise for aswang — who then target his unborn child as their next main course.
An attack against Sonia and the child results in Makoy killing one of the aswang, and all hell breaks loose. Literally.
It’s true that the scare factor is lacking. It’s more gross (the gruesome death of one of the aswang is Tarantino-esque in its hilarious overkill) than creepy. Some slow-mo scenes could’ve done with a lot more editing to keep folks on the edge of their seats. But when all is said and done, it’s rip-roaring funny. A little psychotic (ever seen a man taunt a monster by eating the innards of his cohort?), but still, a comedy of errors and clever dialogue.
TikTik kinda proves that humor is really a Pinoy specialty. You might even develop a taste for barbecued aswang.