Philippine cinema has come a long way. Even if majority of local movies these days are generic novelty presentations with a preset cast made for a quick buck, there are still those who strive to create films for – the art and craft of it all – to produce films of international quality. While we are still a work in progress, we are on our way to reaching that standard with how more and more studios are stepping away from the heavily commercialized, stock story types and are experimenting with more adventurous storylines and visual treatments. One such example is Jet Leyco’s Second Coming.
Second Coming is a psychological supernatural horror film starring Jodi Sta. Maria and Marvin Agustin. The story revolves around a man who reunites with his college sweetheart after the recent passing of his wife, while his daughter from his wife struggles to cope with the loss of her mother. The movie loses no time in immediately setting dark tones as the ghost of the ex-wife begins to haunt the family.
The plot seemed generic at the start, seeing as the ghost of the mother immediately takes to her daughter and haunts through her, but the beauty of the story is that – as cliché as it sounds – things are not simply what they seem. Even though the ghost does possess her child, attacks the family, and performs several other malicious acts through the child, bits and pieces of story are revealed as the film goes on to slowly unravel that she isn’t the villain all along. And while the plot itself is a little questionable and jumpy and illogical at times, its execution and unraveling presents a maturity, a growth that we have not seen in local movies at all – which is a sincere air of mystery that refuses to spoil or spoon-feed the audience with a single and simple helping of exposition – something ever present in many local films to be more easily digestible for the masa audience. It’s a screenplay that respects the audience’s anticipation and effectively builds tension and suspense well.
One thing most worthy of note is that the movie is visually stunning and (finally) incredibly visually appropriate for a horror movie. Majority of past horror movies would always have improper lighting – where scenes at night or dark places are mysteriously illuminated (another attempt at being “easily digestible”). Second Coming plays around with a lot of lights and colors and, at the same time, shadows and murk as well. Majority of the daily life scenes are gloomy and dark, and the scenes that actually involve darkness play around with silhouettes – effectively framing certain points of interest or hiding characters from view, allowing for a simple but elegant and effective reveal. What also was interesting was that during the scenes where the ghost is present, the lighting becomes heavily tinted –sometimes a deep red, sometimes a ghastly green – and while some scenes felt a little random or inappropriate, it’s an exciting and still a beautiful attempt at something new.
Of course we can’t forget to praise the performance of the lead actress. Though Jodi is often typecast for a motherly caregiving role, she expands that niche here by being a reluctant mother – a character who at many times already wants to give up with the number of obstacles that are thrown her way, yet still believably finds the will to keep fighting. The child – portrayed by Angelica Ulip – brought remarkable power and control to her character despite being so young. While I did find it uncomfortable that her script involved unnecessary expletives, she does a great back and forth between vulnerable child and possessed imp.
It’s great to see local movies finally attempting to reach global standards of film. If more and more films turn out like this, I would feel that the general public who have once spurned local media as cheap novelties would try to give local movies another shot.