Written By: ACP
Edited By: Grave Reviews Staff
Director(s): Peter Abana
Writers(s): Michelle Ngu
Producer(s): Kaye Atienza-Cadsawan
Date Released: May 29, 2019
Bianca Umali as Erika
Miguel Tanfelix as Rich
Taki as Yel
Andrea Brillantes as Thea
Kim Last as Mac
Lou Veloso as Manong Cielo
Ermie Concepcion as Aling Daling
Rating = 2.5/5 Graves
***May contain some spoilers***
Five teenagers, Ericka, Rich, Yel, Thea, and Mac decide to trek Awanggan, a “sacred” mountain that can grant the wishes of those who are able to reach its peak. Ericka, whose mother is in the final stages of cancer, was desperate for a miracle, taking Yel’s hiking invitation and tagging the others along. As they trudged onward, they experience paranormal incidents avowing that maybe the mountain is not as “sacred” as they think.
Banal (2019) has its efforts with the gore factor, which is surprisingly disgusting, although it was given to us in bits and pieces and sometimes merely in characters’ dreams or hallucinations, making us sigh in relief when they finally get back to their senses. The scenes are not brand new in the horror genre, such as Yel’s body contorting past its anatomical limitations, insects crawling beneath Thea’s skin, and inanimate objects like twigs being pulled out from Mac’s ear. What’s distressing to watch is how the demon of the mountain, called the Tumaw, controls these characters to mutilate themselves. Imagine Mac being helpless as his bones are being snapped or Thea devouring the fresh entrails of a dog’s corpse.
The Grave Review
In 2004, a forest fire in one of Philippine’s pilgrimage mountains was reported without any clear cause. The setting of Banal was based on that real event. Although they added their own story and twist to it, shattering the audience’s preconceived expectation of another run-of-the-mill, teenage hangout gone gory and wrong. They have been deceived by Yel from the start, she being member of a women’s cult worshipping the Tumaw of the mountains, and setting up Ericka to be a human sacrifice, disposing of the other characters along the way. Another deception was that the mountain was in fact Kalanta, the demon’s lair, not Awanggan. The cult’s origin has its own haunting factor, its female devotees coming from a generation of the oppressed women of World War II, seeking sanctuary under the powers of the Tumaw. The history in this film, not the usual bloodthirsty monsters or cannibals, is its edge.
The film has a good balance of characters that help developed the story. Yes we see the archetypes: Ericka the good daughter, Rich the wholesome boy-next-door, Thea the complaining, catty brat, and Mac the rich kid with the American accent. But these traits do not seem forced at all because of the dynamism between them. Ericka is not flawless, her determination to reach the peak for her miracle, which she keeps quiet about, endangers everybody’s lives. Thea, for all her whining and complaining, is not an outward bully, while Mac still cares about his friends despite his cockiness. The absence of romance and love teams is refreshing. Banal does not rely on music to set the mood of the forest, except for the sound effects for the elements of shock.
Due to the foregoing reasons, Grave Reviews gives Banal (2019) two and a half graves out of five graves.
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