Film Notes
by Pablo A. Tariman

The main highlight of the trailer of the latest Kris Aquino-starrer is a shrill, piercing scream that sets one in a rescue mode to help the beleaguered lady in distress.

It puts you in a frightening mode as well and you end up wondering what she will go through in that film to successfully let out that cold-blooded howl that conjures images of torture scene from a concentration camp.

Poster of Feng Shui 2. Finally a sequel after ten years.

Poster of Feng Shui 2. Finally a sequel after ten years.

“That scream must have cost more than a million,” said a movie observer the way it registers at the pit of your stomach.

In this presscon announcing the participation of “Feng Shui 2” in the 2014 Metro Manila Film Festival, the director and lead actors take time out to express what they think of this Chinese way of dealing with good luck and driving away the bad ones.

The network gave the occasion the proper atmosphere by seating director Chito Rono and actors Coco Martin and Kris Aquino behind cut-outs of feng shui symbols such as snake metals, horse water, goat water, rooster wood, pig fire, rat earth, dragon water and rabbit metal, among others.

If you don’t know it yet, feng shui is a Chinese philosophical system of harmonizing everyone with the surrounding environment (this according to Wikipedia).

If the windows of your house are in the wrong direction, bad luck is supposed to ensue and you had better do something.

With feng shui followers numbering by the millions, the so-called feng shui experts suddenly found themselves the most sought after consultants in construction and house-designing jobs.

But the members of the production and creative team are not feng shui fanatics in real life.

Aquino says she applies the basics of feng shui in the design of her house but doesn’t go overboard to invoke it in her relationships.

Kris Aquino in various poses. She will find love in another time.

Kris Aquino in various poses. She will find love in another time.

Rono agrees. “There are traces of feng shui in my house but I don’t apply it when dealing with my co-workers and friends. I am not the kind who asks if some persons were born in the year of the rat or horse or pig just to find out if we can work well together.”

The first “Feng Shui” movie ten years ago was a hit and Rono resisted all advice to do a sequel. Doing a horror movie he finds a lot of hard work and when he succeeds in doing a well-received project, he closes his ears to any follow up suggestion mainly because he doesn’t want to go through the same meticulous process he applies to himself. “I hate repeating myself,” he points out. “But the hard part is working on that sense of credibility of the story. And all the time you have to remind yourself you are doing a horror genre. It involves suspension of disbelief and you have to believe in it yourself. It isn’t anything like a fantasy movie or anything that qualifies as ‘kuwentong lola.’ Indeed everything has to look real.”

The director recalls he wrote the idea for the first “Feng Shui” movie on the year both his parents died. He was then working on “Spirit Warriors” and “Dekada 70” and so he wasn’t able to do a proper wake for his parents. Soon after, he had a long sabbatical and later decided he wanted to do something different. He turned to the idea of feng shui as a subject. When it did well in the box office, he resisted another offer to do horror movie on the same subject. But obviously he couldn’t say no to the presidential sister.

To which Kris coos: “I like that.”

Director Chito Rono, actor Coco Martin and Kris Aquino during the presscon: they blended well as a creative team.

Director Chito Rono, actor Coco Martin and Kris Aquino during the presscon: they blended well as a creative team.

On the other hand, Coco Martin knows he is entering in unexplored territory when he decided to say yes to the project. He has not done a horror movie before and he knew that the film would require a new attack in acting not quite akin to high drama or the quick romance in teleseryes.

Says Coco: “I said yes because I liked the first film and I wanted to work with Direk Chito. I know the name and I know you have to be ready on the set because I heard he’s not one director who can tolerate unthinking actors on the set. So I observed Ate Kris (Aquino) and worked on how I could blend with her character. I also closely observed Direk Chito on what he wants in a scene and what he expects from actors. Luckily, he liked my approach and just for that, I am happy to have worked with him.”

Rono says he wasn’t the least surprised that Coco was good. “I’ve known him for a long time and I know where his brand of acting is coming from. His brand of professionalism is something else and his exemplary work attitude another thing. He did not only meet my expectations. What I liked is that he delivered more from the heart.”

Kris agrees: “After finishing the project, I told Coco, ‘Thank you for sharing your brilliance with us.’ We became close in ‘Feng Shui 2’ and indeed I am all admiration for him not just as an actor but as a human being. I like the pureness and goodness and resiliency of his character.”

In this presscon, Aquino — refreshing in rose-hued skirt and white blouse – receives compliments about her “blooming” look to which she responds with more raffle items for the media.

She maintains she has no beauty secrets and she doesn’t turn to “beauty enhancers” for fear of being used as a “science project.”

To which the crowd responded with a howl knowing who she was alluding to. “I only need eight hours of sleep. I don’t mind shooting till wee hours of the morning for as long as I get my eight hours of sleep after that. I don’t smoke and I don’t drink and I don’t party. Every morning, I turn to fresh fruit juice and drink five liters of water every day.”

Indeed, the presidential sister looks fresh which didn’t escape the presscon crowd who reacts with glee with more Christmas raffle items being set aside.

With her record of a love life more public than private, she is fully aware what’s missing in her life as she told the crowd, “Perhaps that will come in another time. I know I can’t have everything all at the same time. For now, I am focused as a stakeholder of this movie and my prayers consisted mostly of getting the intercession of Mama Mary to help me recoup expenses and to be able to repay those who invested in my film.”

The “Feng Shui 2”trailer is played another time and one hears that long piercing scream that is unlike any other frightening howl one heard in her earlier horror films.

With Direk Chito Rono behind it, there is palpable reason to be highly optimistic about this film.

For once, we will see the presidential sister as actress in a horror film where she had earlier fairly good, if, redeeming performances.

“Feng Shui 2” — directed by Chito Rono and starring Coco Martin, Kris Aquino, Cherry Pie Picache and Jonee Gamboa, among others – opens on Christmas Day.

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