For someone like me who gets weak at the sight of blood, it is a challenge to watch any gory film or TV series. I was quite uneasy when I got the invitation to watch QCinema International Film Festival entry Ang Manananggal sa Unit 23B at last Monday’s block screening. I’m really glad I accepted the challenge and realized I never should have judged the film based on its title (and poster).

There is more to Ang Manananggal sa Unit 23B than what its title conveys. It is NOT the stereotypical horror movie where subquality effects and flawed makeup can be distracting. The movie is a modern-day tale of love in a complex situation. It attempts to humanize the feared local mythical creature and incorporates socially relevant issues (drugs and the government’s war against it).

During the pre-screening interview with GMA artists and lead stars Ryza Cenon and Martin Del Rosario, Ryza shared how she took on the challenge of going nude and doing erotic scenes a manananggal in this film. She shared what she had to go through emotionally prior to the actual shooting and emphasized that the scenes (sex and masturbation) were crucial parts the story. Indeed, after watching the film, she was right. The sex and masturbation scenes were obviously not intended to titillate the audience but to tell important aspects of the story. For a conservative moviegoer, the scenes were tastefully and creatively executed.  The choice of background music for the scoring had a lot do with it. Check out how seemingly unfit songs add life to and manipulate the feel of certain scenes.

Ryza and Martin deserve commendation for their attacks on their roles. Theirs were natural and believable that watching them just felt like spying on other people’s lives. The pair did well in delivering the intensity of emotions, especially Ryza who successfully made me understand the kind of physical and emotional pain a closet manananggal is hypothetically going through. Another star who shone in the film is veteran actress Vangie Labalan who played the role of Martin’s grandma. Her presence was a welcome addition to break the intensity of the thriller and add warmth and humor to the story.

Ang Manananggal sa Unit 23B was directed by Prime Cruz.

Catch today’s screenings of Ang Manananggal sa Unit 23 B:

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