Twenty Years Later: Aswang (1992)

After a convo with a friend that went from the upcoming Erik Matti movie about Tiktik to the 2011 movie Aswang, and ended up on the original 1992 Aswang, I busted out the Google-fu to find the said movie (because video rental shops have long since died around these parts) and thankfully found a copy. Personally, I found the original movie terrifying, as all children of the 90’s probably were – and it wasn’t just because I was in grade school when it was first released.

Aswang stars Manilyn Reynes as the faithful yaya/nanny Veron, mini-Aiza Seguerra as the mischievous surot Catlyn, Aljon Jimenez as the token tall-dark-and-handsome-good-guy Edgar, Berting Labra as awesome driver and aswang deterrent Mang Dudoy, and Alma Moreno as the titular Aswang. Alma Moreno is gorgeous in this movie, and aptly has an “I can seriously bite your face off to get to that tasty liver of yours.” ominousness to her. Lilia Cuntapay, the queen of Philippine horror flicks, also makes an appearance.

Aswang (1992) Manilyn Reynes and Aiza Seguerra
Ikaw, pag nakain ka ng aswang, kukutusan kita.

Re-watching the movie 20 years later is an enjoyable, if surreal, experience. With that in mind, here are some notes:

>> In local folklore, aswangs are creatures that are similar to vampires. Except they a. will eat you and not just drink your blood, b. can shapeshift into a whole zoo of animals, c. will roost on your roof and use its very long tongue to eat the baby in your womb, d. have a weakness for fresh liver (i.e. YOUR fresh liver), e. have an unhealthy and probably fattening fondness for children, and  f. don’t sparkle.

>> Libog: Nakakamatay could have been used as a tagline for this movie. Within 15 minutes of the film, the aswang lures Joey Marquez, as Emil, deep into the forest. Emil, thinking that the pretty woman was his friends’ “birthday gift” for him, was killed, disemboweled, and subsequently eaten – all thanks to his, well, libog.

>> Approximately two tanks of blood were used in making the first 20 minutes of Aswang. First, we see the aswang chowing down on Emil (see above), then the movie switches to a house invasion. I didn’t notice this before, being a child and all, but this movie actually has some social commentary. Who is scarier, the monster or the people who are monsters?

Aswang (1992) Berting Labra and Manilyn Reynes
Mang Dudoy and Veron

>> This movie was made in an era when shoulder pads can be used as protective clothing.

>> Berting Labra is pure awesome in this movie; you can probably hear Mang Dudoy’s giant steel balls clang during his death scene. Leo Martinez plays Doctor Abraham, the token well of knowledge character, who at one point gets called “Doctor Pulpol” by another character. Two veteran actors are cast as goons: Dick Israel and Pen Medina. John Estrada plays a bumbling movie goon, while Janice de Belen plays Rosita, a pregnant woman. If you know local folklore, then you’d know that aswang are crazy about fetuses and that this fun fact does not bode well for Rosita’s baby. Eva Ramos and Rey Solo are also in this movie, as Emil’s hysterical mother (nearly all of her lines are hurled at people) and Morris the Shades Goon respectively. Even Mary Walter is in there someplace.

Aswang (1992) Alma Moreno roof scene
Oh God, she’s up there. Probably up on your roof too.
Aswang (1992) Alma Moreno roof peek
This pic made you think twice about building a house with light materials, didn’t it?

>> I’ve checked out the IMDB page, and apparently, the small town’s police force is meant to be a joke (both literally and figuratively) as they are sarcastically named after the Three Wise Men: Melchor, Gaspar, and Baltazar.

Aswang is directed by Philippine film giants Peque Gallaga and Lore Reyes. The story is credited to both, together with Don Escudero. Jerry Lopez Sineneng and Pen Medina are credited with the screenplay. Twenty years later, the film is still goose flesh-inducing and thoroughly entertaining. It doesn’t disappoint those who remember it, and believe me, it’s one of those 90’s movies that stuck in my head (filed under “HALA ANDYAN NA” or “HOSHIT IT’S COMING”). There are many valuable lines/pieces of advice in this movie, though the one that really got to me in the second viewing was courtesy of Doc Abraham:

Kahit saan naman may aswang, kaya dapat lahat tayo mag-ingat. (There are monsters everywhere, and that’s why we should always take care.)

Yep, there’s an awful truth in there. There are monsters and there are normal people, and sometimes you can’t tell them apart.

Aswang (1992) Alma Moreno
Go on, take her hand. What’s the worst that can happen?



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