As Seen On TV: Feng Shui 2

Caveat: This is a TV viewing of a movie released in 2014. Spoilers ahead!

So last night, CinemaOne ran the TV premiere of Feng Shui 2, the sequel to Chito Roño’s 2004 MMFF entry. This was also an entry to said film festival (2014) and raked in about as much money as the original.

Feng Shui 2 movie poster
Feng Shui 2 movie poster

It’s 10 years later, and we pick up where we left off. The bagua had found a new family to terrorize, and in the first few minutes, we are shown just how well – or badly – said family fared. A few clicks of Lotus Feet’s shoes later, we meet Lester, played by Coco Martin.

We find out soon enough that this one’s designed to be grittier than the original, because Coco’s normal baby face is adorned with slight scruff.

It’s an interesting hook, that intro, a woman plunging to her death with “help” from her recently deceased twin daughters. The hook is punctuated by a throwaway detail – monkey bars – and for viewers of the first film, we know for sure that this film will also take great lengths with which to kill its various characters with something related to their Chinese zodiac signs.

The intro, however, posed some questions. What is Lester even doing there? How did he know the current bagua’s owner has taken 20-story swan dive and that the police has just cleared the crime scene so people can now claim their belongings left in the playground?

Much is left to the imagination – including some much needed character development.

Say for example Lester. He exemplifies an oft-repeated Pinoy movie trope, one I call the “douche grifter with a heart of gold”.[1] His profession (is thief for hire even a profession?) established early on, he seemed entirely unfazed when an old dude introduces himself as “the one you stole the X from”. Perhaps his nonchalance can be explained by the police tape surrounding his house.

Then there’s Cherry Pie’s character. We only get shown that she’s ganid to the very core. There is no motivation, no real sense of realness. Her character simply is – since the first movie, in fact, and up until the point of her death – greed on legs. Cherry Pie, for all her acting range, could only do so much with a cartoon. I suppose her character was meant for comedy, and sure, her death and yaya’s death surely counts as comedy, but it feels a bit flat.

Actually, Cherry Pie’s character, who we saw for about 3 minutes in the first movie, conveyed much more in those 3 minutes than she did with the prolonged screen time.

From my TV viewing, the movie felt like two separate movies mushed together in a fit of creative contortioning. The first act, the Lester-centric arc, was actually pretty interesting.

The bagua presents a pretty complicated moral conundrum. What are you willing to sacrifice for swerte? In both movies, swerte is simply shown as material wealth, and we see fist-fulls of it. We also see remuneration and succeeding horror – bodies in exchange for each and every windfall.

Coco Martin as Lester in Feng Shui 2
Coco Martin as Lester in Feng Shui 2 – image via http://starcinema.abs-cbn.com/movies/feng-shui-2

Morally ambiguous Lester is the kind of guy who needs all the luck he can get. Somebody accidentally leaves behind her phone and he picks it up. He runs after her, but less than two seconds later steals from the ATM he found with the phone (with a PIN supplied by a lucky guess, perhaps?), and then turns around and gives the phone to his friends. He also informs them that the phone’s owner is offering a hefty reward for the item’s return. Things turn out as disastrously as one would expect.

So what happens when a guy who lives in the slums gets his hands on the (un)luckiest bagua ever? It doesn’t take long for Lester to lose all of his family and friends. We see a glimpse of his moral dilemma near the end of the movie, but it’s unfortunately stunted by the movie’s own plot.

Then there’s the Joy-centric arc. We find her well (and alive), having left behind the horror of her past but not forgetting it. With a new man-candy (Ian Veneracion) and a new career in real estate, things are going pretty well until Lotus Feet finds her again.

Kris Aquino is pretty effective in playing a scared widow, scared of the things that go bump in the night. After all, Joy has seen what those things can do and came out on the other side of the horror alive, but deeply scarred nonetheless.

What we don’t see, however, is the grieving mother and wife. She doesn’t so much as shed a tear when she hears her children’s voices on the other side of her cellphone. She dismisses the idea of owning a firearm and explains why, but doesn’t really show the kind of trauma you get from seeing your philandering husband get shot in the face.

Kris Aquino as Joy in Feng Shui 2
Kris Aquino as Joy in Feng Shui 2 – image via http://starcinema.abs-cbn.com/movies/feng-shui-2

I suppose the makers felt the second half was necessary to end where it all began, but their attempts to up the ante reduced the horror. The deaths are creative, but since so little is put into character development, we care very little about how things turn out for the characters. Except maybe to see how they die and take guesses at their Chinese zodiacs – but even that is minimized, as the camera lingers on certain objects to tell you just how clever the deaths are. They should have set up a contest where you could text in your guess in Maalaala Mo Kaya fashion.

The movie’s second act tried to convey a fast pace, a delirious race to save themselves from the curse. In Feng Shui 2, this simply meant “double the body bags, double the revenge ghosts, double the fun”.[2]

It was somehow fun to watch on a stormy Sunday evening, this was on TV after all. I read later on Wikipedia that Kris originally had very few scenes, leading me to believe that it may have been a grittier, more interesting film prior to executive meddling. Quoth:

With the first cut of the film, Joy’s character (Kris Aquino) was not present for most of the time in the story. Because of this, the producers asked them to do re-shoots to give her additional screen time.[3]

Personally, I would’ve liked to see that first cut instead.

Beauty Gonzalez in Feng Shui 2
Beauty Gonzalez in Feng Shui 2

A lot of things seems to have been cut from the final product, including the Helen story line. What’s up with that? Who is Patty? Is Helen gay and she opted to date Patty instead of Lester? Judging from movie posters, Beauty Gonzales was slated to have a bigger role. Instead we got a quick voice acting stint and about 2 scenes. The sequel hook in the credits, though interesting, seemed disjointed.

We never get an explanation as to why Robert disappeared for 5 years and came back as a successful something. Why didn’t he at least write? As soon as Ruby drops (into rebar, no less) dead, why was he in such a hurry to wash his hands of Lester, his son?

We’ll never know.

Notes:
1. The type who has a soft spot for his mom, the type you half expect to come home with a brown paper bag of pancit, whose house gets shot at by goons, and the type who cradles his half-dead mother while screaming, “NAAAAAAAAAY!”
2. At this point, it’s pretty clear that randomness is one of Lotus Feet’s MOs. Carmi Martin’s death-by-Racumin seemed more like a compulsion to die than anything else. Mr. Liao’s death-by-random-stabber-passerby and Douglas’ death-by-psychotic-lynch-mob seemed unneccessary, but provided a convenient excuse to run to the temple. They didn’t even see Lotus Feet (or I didn’t notice) prior to dying – i.e. getting bonked on the head with a fire extinguisher and strangulation via goat’s leash.
3. via Wikipedia.