Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Pinoy Film Focus: Patayin Mo sa Sindak si Barbara (1974)

(Kill Barbara with Panic)

Director: Celso Ad. Castillo

Writers: Celso Ad. Castillo, Mike Relon Makiling

Cast: Susan Roces, Dante Rivero, Rosanna Ortiz, Beth Manlongat, Mary Walter

Runtime: 96 minutes

It bears easily one of the best titles of all Filipino films, invoking a sense of unstoppable supernatural fear. There are many good reasons why Patayin Mo sa Sindak si Barbara is one of many Filipinos' favorite local horror films of all time. Not even the glaring flaws of the film as a whole can take that away.

Barbara (played by Susan Roces, at one time the scream queen a la Jamie Lee Curtis of the Philippines), comes back to her childhood home for the burial of her sister Ruth (Rosanna Ortiz), who has committed suicide out of jealous rage over husband Fritz's (Dante Rivero) supposed infidelities. Barbara also takes care of Ruth's daughter, Karen (Beth Manlongat), whose behavior toward her father has turned drastically cold since her mother's suicide. A flashback reveals chilling truths: Ruth stabs herself repeated in the torso with a large shard of broken glass, and when she is about to die she transfers her spirit to Karen's doll. This sets off a series of genuinely creepy scenes involving said doll: its eyes glow menacingly, it walks, it appears bloodied and decapitated, and, best (worst?) of all, it calls Fritz from another room and says repeatedly through the phone: "I hate you. I want to kill you." The maniacal glee with which director and story writer Celso Ad. Castillo uses the doll as a tool of terror anticipates the American horror-comedy flick Child's Play by a good 14 years, but it's even more effective here in providing the right chills. The film also takes a page out of the Japanese trope of long-haired vengeance-driven spirits in white robes. Decades before world cinema began to churn out imitations of Ringu's Sadako, Patayin's Ruth was haunting cemeteries, mansions, and rest-houses.

The film as a whole, unfortunately, is a large mess. The editing woes that plague many Filipino movies past and present are quite evident, with choppy sequences and rough transitions. Even the acting by the quite stellar cast is not very impressive, with the exception of the diabolical brilliance of Ortiz as spurned Ruth (ok, Roces screams quite well). The ending is also disappointing and senselessly empty. But as earlier stated, these cannot remove the power of those individual scenes that ultimately make Patayin such an effective story of vengeance from beyond the grave. With an appropriately repetitive, chilling score in the background, the sequences that are supposed to be terrifying truly are, and at the end that is what really matters in a horror movie. As Barbara fends off attacks by the restless spirit, waving her bloody arms in defense, she screams at her sister that this is no longer her world and that she must leave. The relentlessness of the spiritual assaults makes both impatient and appreciative viewers share Barbara's sentiments. As the title suggests, the film wears down, both with its technical travesties and its terror, but thankfully more so with the latter.

Image from Video 48

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