by Lei Landicho
As an official entry to the Metro Manila Film Festival (MMFF), Nilalang claims that it is offering something new to the table. It declares that it can even pass international standards of filmmaking (relatively, though, to the MMFF trends from previous years). In all fairness, Nilalang truly knows how to please a crowd. It has blood, sex, and Maria Ozawa. The problem however is, when you strip it off of its appealing veneer, we see a half-baked, run-of-the-mill paranormal action film that admires itself as something more than it actually is. A work of art that gives too much labor on one of its elements while overlooking the others, then regards itself as excellent, is arrogant to say the least.
A criminal who has an unusual fixation of skinning and slicing his female victims first before killing them is roaming freely on the streets of Manila. NBI agent Tony (Cesar Montano) is the man who is handling the case. When Tony’s lover Tin (Aubrey Miles) became the next victim, he vowed a personal vendetta against the criminal. As the protagonist unravels the mystery of this case, he finds out that what he is up to is a supernatural curse which can be traced centuries back in Japan. This leads him to Miyuki (Maria Ozawa), a member of the Kazudo family which has a direct connection to the curse. The curse, and the ghost that goes with it, was put to a stop with the help of Miyuki.
Nilalang is a visual awakening for the Philippine film industry. It proudly exclaims that, contrary to popular belief, the country is not at the bottom of the barrel when it comes to film technicalities. It was able to employ cinematic tools grandiosely and believably in its favor. From the eerie air of mystery of a silhouette to the gripping anguish of a downpour, Filipino viewers can look no further in finding superb film production values. It even has that Japanese horror feel that can send chills to the spines of thriller film enthusiasts.
While the film exhibits an out-of-the-box presentation of a Filipino-Japanese suspense thriller, it failed to include with it a clean and consistent storyline. Every scene feels rushed like there is no time to explain or justify how or why it is happening. It was lazy in expounding facts that can help viewers connect the dots. Why is there a deep connection with Tony and the Kazudo family? If Tony was in love with Tin, who is Miyuki in his life? How does the ghost or the curse manage to exist years after the gang had believably killed it? With all the gaping holes in the plot, only deus ex machina can tie them together to form a coherent story.
The film’s supposed lead star, Ozawa, was also a letdown. With all the buzz generated around her and this movie, we ought to have been given something popcorn-worthy. But what we got are misplaced bouts of shouting and inappropriate sex scenes that do little to no good in elucidating the plot.
Nilalang suffers from a brash sense of narcissism. By valuing style instead of substance, the film forgets what truly matters. It has forgotten that an inconsistent storyline cannot be compensated by mere visual artistry.