Ekis (1999)/ Tiktik: The Aswang Chronicles (2012)/ Dos Ekis (2001)

Ekis (1999)
Erik Matti’s second film is about a group of kidnappers, in hiding and waiting for the ransom money. Tagalized Tarantino this quite isn’t, more like Peque Gallaga meets John Woo’s heroic bloodshed, with reams of dialogues from formulaic 90’s pinoy action movies finally put to good use. It’s a variation on the heist-gone-wrong type with a cast that doesn’t need to be color-coded to be memorable. Hot-headed and mutinous Roger (Raymond Bagatsing) is a hoot, especially around the usually reserved Gene (Albert Matinez), who’s seemingly torn between his criminal wrongdoings and the promise of escape to a normal life. A sense of normalcy, is what he gets it seems, every time he goes to Dolor (Sunshine Cruz) to do the “dirty work” — um, y’know, fixing pipe leaks, changing the fridge bulb, cleaning the aquarium. This may not be on par with Matti’s later works (On the Job, Honor Thy Father) but it’s occasionally funny. The look on their faces when they find two dead bodies in the trunk — priceless. For an action movie, this has, well, sex and violence. And there’s one scene clearly inspired by Polanski’s Lunes de fiel. This has the looks of a decent noir-ish thriller i.e., one can almost smell the dark dingy corners of the group’s hideout. And one thing you can count on in most of Matti’s movies, is that the sets are mostly detailed, look real, feel real — even if the plot/story sometimes doesn’t.

Tiktik: The Aswang Chronicles (2012)
Tiktik: The Aswang Chronicles is a horror story within another. It’s ‘meet the parents’ horror comedy within the bigger aswang story. Good-for-nothing boyfriend/husband and domineering matriarch, tropes maybe older than John en Marsha, are both served and subverted. And this has aswang lore that’s probably never used before in other aswang movies (i.e., an aswang turned himself into a pig and sold to the unsuspecting family). Jokes about giant wooden fork and spoon and Lipps candies are references definitely older than internet jokes about computer mouse and hard-boiled eggs. This is both fun and clumsy in the same way Gwapings: The First Adventure was. The use of pesticide sprayer and Boy Bawang blowgun is quite a hoot but the mostly CGI buntot-pagi disappoints. The movie’s shot entirely in chroma key and it looks okay considering they didn’t have Hollywood budget. Though I wish Erik Matti stuck with actors/make-up/practical effects, instead of purely CGI monsters, the same way Richard Somes did with the similarly-themed Lihim Ng San Joaquin.

Dos Ekis (2001)
Benito (Mark Anthony Fernandez) is a hardware store worker who frequents a nightclub just to see Charisse (Rica Peralejo), one of the club’s buxom dancers. An altercation between Charisse and her pimp Bunny (a pre-Heneral Luna John Arcilla) turns into a riot when Benito gets involved, and the two ends up running away with the club’s money. If the first movie has somewhat memorable characters, Dos Ekis is saddled with seemingly bored passive characters, and imposing but ultimately disposable villains. Instead of the amusing back-and-forths in the first, this has villains making lengthy monologues (John Arcilla’s pimp and Godfather figure played by Celso Ad. Castillo). But again, the set design is something to look at. Bunny’s nightclub is all lights, smoke, and mirrors. And Benito’s bedspace is located behind the silverscreen in an old theater — he can watch movies for free but the images are reversed. This doesn’t offer much in terms of story or characters. But there’s a steamy dance number in a makeshift shower that recalls both Ekis and Burlesk Queen. And there’s an extended sex on a couch while in the background, Ang Utol Kong Hoodlum II plays on the movie screen.