Yesterday Children

Reviewed at AMC Kabuki 8, San Francisco, March 1, 2000. (In S.F. Asian-American Film Festival; also in Toronto Film Festival.) Running time: 89 MIN.

Reviewed at AMC Kabuki 8, San Francisco, March 1, 2000. (In S.F. Asian-American Film Festival; also in Toronto Film Festival.) Running time: 89 MIN.

With: Ara Mina, Tonton Gutierrez, Patricia Ann Roque, Carlo Aquino, Pen Medina, Ray Ventura, Jennifer Sevilla, Eva Darren, Ronnie Lazaro, Crispin Pineda , Zad Centina.

Though it tries to treat its lurid theme — pagan ritual-rapes among superstitious rural villagers — somewhat seriously, doses of T&A and a melodramatic last act make “Yesterday Children” seem a rather lowbrow as well as dreary drama. Subpar effort for Philippines helmer Carlos Siguion-Reyna (“Harvest Home,” “The Man in Her Life”) won’t travel far beyond local circuits.

El Nino-related drought is killing crops that pic’s impoverished hamlet survives on, raising fears that a long-dormant secret cult — which sacrifices maidenheads to “the gods of the Earth” — will surface once again. This return to primitive ways is further spurred by the ill omen of a boy being bitten by a snake. Father Joey (Tonton Gutierrez), the area’s newly arrived, hunky young priest, anticipates the worst as his flock dwindles day by day.

None of the few local virgins is safe, not even a prepubescent blind girl. Story plods along, building little suspense until overcooked finale brings on a silly riot of sex and violence. As if hokum quotient weren’t high enough already , epilogue finds chastened populace’s “Lord’s Prayer” sing-along bringing rain at last.

Feature is well-shot but ponderously paced, with some stilted perfs exacerbating script’s blunt, wooden air.

Yesterday Children

(PHILIPPINES)

Production: A Reynafilms production. Produced, directed by Carlos Siguion-Reyna. Screenplay, Bibeth Orteza, based on a story by Adolfo Alix Jr.

Crew: Camera (color), George Tutanes; editor, Manet A. Dayrit; music, RyanCayabyab; production designer, Joey Luna.

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