"...This is my first horror film with Vilma Santos in it and I must say that she acquitted herself very well. Her subtle acting in The Healing was reminiscent of Audrey Hepburn in Wait Until Dark. I think she should do more horror film with Rono...."
Weather, public apathy & the hard times can bring doom & gloom for quality movies such as The Healing, a Vilma
Stiff competition from the Hollywood summer blockbuster flicks can also give a well made Pinoy film its early demise, as in six feet under.
Happily though for the Chito Rono/Vilma Santos project, documented box office receipts, good word of mouth & positive reviews prove that you can't put the Philippines' premier actress, a great director & a quality movie to go down with the flood. In fact, the movie is still showing & drawing crowds despite the threat of another typhoon. The projected gross of The Healing may not surpass the 2009 mega hit In My Life box office returns but given the odds, the elements, The Healing is another triumph for La Santos, proving to all & sundry that she is indeed the Philippines' longest reigning movie & box office queen. It definitely is another nine digit bonanza for Star Cinema & may well be more profitable than In My Life overall because of its lower overhead/expense where 100% of the scenes were shot locally.
At 59, Vilma Santos still kicks butt, continues to remain a box office draw & expands her fan base (the movie has a R-13 to accommodate the young viewers, a first in Philippine movie history). Most importantly, her gamble to go against type (drama genre, where she is unequaled, unchallenged in terms of box office grosses & critical acclaim) & opt for a "horror" film to cap her 50th. year in the movies, pays off.
She doesn't have to be a vampire like Amalia Fuentes, Gloria Romero, Myrna Delgado, Gina Pareno & Maricel Soriano to be accepted as an actress of note in the "horror" genre. Talk of shrewd, insightful, astute career moves that separate her from her senior & junior counterparts, the stuffs that put her on top of the game, in her enviable stature as the most successful actress & politician, ever, in Philippine history. Vilma, the chameleon, the professional, the durable & versatile actress, the honest, transparent, hardworking Governor of Batangas. Embraced by many, a most beloved & revered actor & public servant, an inspiration to us all, that's Ate Vi, most likely the next or future National Artist for Film, or even better, the future Ramon Magsaysay Awardee for outstanding public service.
Doppelganger (evil twin) is a recurring theme in such flicks, as well, Doppelganger (Drew Barrymore), Dead Ringers (Jeremy Irons), Superman III, even in Iron Man (Robert Downey, Jr.), the Third Man (Alfred Hitchcock) & Twin Peaks (David Lynch). AND in The Healing, Roy Iglesias (script) & Chito Rono (director), there are evil twins galore.
Seth (Santos) is a middle class landlord in a quaint, rural town. Her paraplegic, wheel chair bound father (Arevalo) is brought to a faith healer (Ramirez), ably assisted by her brother (Torre). The herb juice concocted by the faith healer given to the patients to drink before sleeping is believed bring healing.
The next day, Seth & the neighbors were shocked to see her father fully recovered from the stroke: no slurred speech, ambulatory, alert & oriented.
The news spread like wildfire & one by one, we are introduced to Seth's circle of friends who have medical issues. All want to be brought to the faith healer by Seth for healing.
One male has severe psoriasis in his torso, Dubai OFW (Pokwang) has a diabetic peripheral vascular cellulitis on the right lower extremity; a woman is unable to speak due to an enlarged tumor on her throat; a young daughter is blind since birth (De Belen portrays the mother); a married woman has a tumor on her right breast. Seth's step daughter (Kim Chiu) has a severe kidney disease.
The group (sans Kim) is with Seth in a van, en route to the faith healer who lives three hours away. While in the van, their discussion ranges from hope (Pokwang states she can go back to Dubai & work again to support her loved ones if she gets healed & passes the physical exam), to doubt: "That faith healing thing, it's just a psychological thing, a money making gimmick", states the husband whose wife has a breast tumor.
The eager beaver group, with Seth were met by Torre who tells them off that her sister, the faith healer is ill & is unable to see any patient, including those already ahead of them.
Seth was persistent. She summoned the healer to see her friends. Ramirez reneged. Before she could 'heal' them. a man who has no heart beat is brought to her & not knowing he was already dead, 'healed' him. Or 'brought back to life.' This is the beginning of the curse: he went on a rampage, shot Ramirez & others to death.
Put in prison, he makes life hell for those Ramirez allegedly healed, one by one. He is the devil incarnate.
Seth's friends' health issues were resolved, albeit temporarily, including Kim Chiu's. One by one they each has a doppelganger who wrecks havoc around them before 'the twins' die violently. Each victim has a nightmare & sees a crow in their dream before they turn to others & themselves.
Seth's son (Del Rosario) plays a crucial role in the movie, especially in keeping her half sister Kim from her evil twin . While Santos is the linchpin to find the root cause of the mayhem around her, her son serves as an able support.
I will not reveal the ending so as not to spoil the future viewers of this classic in the making.
The movie has a cohesive plot. The editing is brisk. The story telling is to the point. The jolts, the surprises, the building tension as the plot thickens makes you squirm from your seat. You can't take your eyes off the screen so as not to miss the details, the foreshadowing, the conflict resolution.
From the impressive opening credits, to the alternate theme colors of blue, red, yellow & white, you know the movie is special.
The ensemble acting reminds you of such sleuth movies as Murder on the Orient Express & Death on the Nile, where Rono is able to flesh out the best from each actor or actress, no matter how small the role is, whether in a group or singly . I particularly like Janice De Belen, Pokwang, Robert Arevalo (in a groovy role that Sildenafil users could relate to), Kim Chiu, Joel Torre & Martin Del Rosario.
Vilma Santos is in almost every frame. It is a most restrained performance, akin to her Urian winning Amanda Bartolome character in Dekada 70 where she has mastered "doing less is more." As the key figure or the cause of the sad fate of her friends, Vilma is able to effectively use her eyes to show fear, guilt, sadness, even remorse. Her best scenes are when she tells her son Martin to not leave Kim from his sight, while calling from a cell phone, her confrontation scene with Kim in a car while Martin is driving the van & her hair raising, thrilling confrontation scene with Kim, the evil twin.
Viewers who adore the cookie Shirley in In My Life & Dolzura Cortez, the martyr Marilou in Relasyon & even the politicized Sister Stella L. & Amanda Bartolome may miss them in Seth but with further viewings, she will grow on you & even root for her as she battles the enemy.
AND join her in paraphrasing Ephesians 6;12. "For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places."