MANILA, Philippines - Though its poster promises a zombie movie, "Ang Huling Henya" isn’t one.
It has zombies, sure. But it’s something else. I’m not sure what kind of movie it is.
I think the bigger problem it suffers from is that it isn’t sure what kind of movie it is either.
The film opens with a shootout, some talk of an evil group called The Agency (but it isn’t exactly clear what they are and how they work), and those trying to stop them, among them, Rufa Mae Quinto’s lead agent.
It dips into cop movie cliche by portraying her as a loose cannon, but it drops that.
In the opening shootout, she gets her partner killed out of negligence, and it is implied that she has unresolved issues about her parents’ deaths at the hands of The Agency.
But throughout the film we never get the feeling that these things are actually bothering her, that anything actually drives her.
It is most likely because of the film’s uneven tone. I know that it isn’t impossible to mix genres and to inject strong humor in even the most serious of works.
But the problem is the humor that is used in the film, while effective in certain scenes if taken on their own, reduces the gravity and importance of the rest of the film.
So much time was spent on jokes and gags that pulled you out of any reality the film was trying to create.
The world building was another problem. I appreciate efforts at sci-fi or trying to present a world that is similar to but markedly different from our own.
Here we’ve got The Agency and scientists who seem to be at war, but how they fit into a larger world isn’t shown.
We’ve got some cop movie and spy flick elements, but these don’t come together either.
There’s some attempted family drama. With the parents having been killed, Ruffa Mae’s character has issues with her brother, who feels left behind.
She has been trying to catch the killers and protect scientists. The brother, meanwhile, refuses to be educated and insists on working at a bar.
Mixed with this are a flurry of supporting characters and villains, each painted in broad strokes but most if not all of them being forgettable.
Throwing in lots of elements is a good approach, but only if you can get the elements to go together.
I think that Rufa Mae Quinto is a very funny comedian. She proves so here, both on her own and when she is bouncing off others like Candy Pangilinan.
But then the humor didn’t go well with the overarching issues of murdered parents and the threat of a zombie outbreak.
Another problem is that while there are scenes and moments that are visually striking, a lot of the directing seemed amateurish.
The action scenes were sloppy, and it was clear that the film tried to overcompensate for lack of impact with slow-mo shots and cut-aways.
Some of the blocking wasn’t much better. Possibly more annoying was the attempt at artsiness by playing a haunting musical theme while going into slow motion, which happened way more times than I could count.
The script too was a problem. The story overall barely hung together, and events happened without any clear reason to go from one scene to the next.
Within scenes, dialogue was bad. A lot of it was expository. You had characters waiting for each other to finish and then continuing the conversation, rather than it sounding like just two people talking.
I guess that’s a problem of both writing and directing. It was also surprising that characters would be in the middle of conversations and then change their minds with little to no persuasion.
I figure that was a misinterpretation of the script.
It’s disappointing because director Marlon Rivera is coming off of the brilliant "Ang Babae sa Septic Tank" and Quinto can carry a movie.
Rather than give us something new and interesting, we get lots of old elements that seem too familiar.
We’re ostensibly offered a zombie movie, but it feels like the Zs were thrown in as an afterthought and aren’t even essential to the film.
There are scenes that take too long, dialogue that should have been cut out, and a lot of work that should have been done to make the story tighter.
I wanted to see this movie, and I wanted to like it. I tried to buy a ticket at an early screening, but I was turned away.
They weren’t going to run the film because I was the only person who was buying a ticket.
The girl at the ticket counter said, “Sir, can you just watch another movie?”
I should have.
Here's the trailer: