Carmina Villaroel hasn’t had a lead role in quite a while, so it’s enthusing to see her carry a film with her superb acting chops in horror flick Sunod. She plays Olivia, a single mother struggling to make ends meet for her and daughter Annelle (Krystal Brimner), a teen whose fragile heart sees the pair in and out of the hospital. She applies and gets accepted to a call center in old Manila, inside a decrepit building full of history and secrets.
Olivia’s whole saga of learning the ropes at work for the sake of Annelle is easily the best part of the film. There’s this one heartwarming musical scene that encapsulates the tenderness of their relationship. Their love is established so well that we root for her to excel at her job. We cheer for her when her sleepless nights and perseverance finally pay off. We worry when she falters.
But halfway through, all these office-related drama become irrelevant – and that’s when it got frustrating. Is the first 45 minutes just one whole elaborate setup? Why the misplaced focus on the immaterial while ignoring some much-needed exploration and grounding of the lore?
More importantly, it’s disturbing where Olivia’s story is taken. She’s a victim of circumstance, and all this was brought about by an altruistic gesture. After the scares, scratches, and stabs, she’s in worst shape with no comeuppance or relief in sight. Olivia represents the plight of working single mothers, and the film dangerously implies the helplessness of their situation.
With a good first half and a problematic second, the impression it left me was that the writing was rushed and needed more time for development. It’s like penning a term paper with a promising introduction but with the deadline looming you carelessly plow through the rest of your piece. You don’t get full marks for that!
That being said, Sunod is a step up over recent MMFF horror films like Otlum and Haunted Forest, thanks to great acting (shout-out to Carmina and Krystal) and the stunning visual work of cinematographer Mycko David. There are shocking imagery caked in as well that are sure to tickle the fancy of genre fans. Then again, Sunod carries the same problems as its predecessors: a longwinded story, a weak villain, and a questionable parting message.
Directed by: Carlo Ledesma
Starring: Carmina Villaroel, Mylene Dizon, JC Santos, Krystal Brimner