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Horror scares up Manila auds

MANILA — Filipino ghosts spirited up auds for a rare local film that outdistanced Hollywood films this fall.

Star Cinema’s “Feng Shui,” starring Kris Aquino, daughter of former President Cory Aquino, beat local and foreign films at the B.O. when it opened in September.

Playing in Manila until late November, it grossed P100 million ($1.8 million) in its first five weeks.

While the pic was inspired by Asian horror hits “The Ring,” “The Eye” and “A Tale of Two Sisters,” the success of “Feng Shui” has encouraged local filmmakers to come up with more Filipino ghost tales.

The Metro Manila Film Festival (Dec. 25-Jan. 9), which used to be peppered by fantasy flicks and superhero stories, is screening two horror pics this year. The fest shows only Filipino films — part of the city government’s scheme to support the Filipino movie industry.

Festgoers are looking forward to “Spirit of the Glass” by Jose Javier Reyes and “Sigaw” (Scream) by Yam Laranas. “Spirit” is about a group of young people whose beach resort trip goes awry when they inadvertently summon a gang of malevolent spirits on a Ouija board.

“Malikmata” (Mirage), Reyes’ fest entry last year, was one of 2003’s top grossers.

Regal Films’ “Sigaw” is about a haunted apartment building where the residents are as trapped by their own human frailty as they are by the confined space, and the ghosts that haunt the place.

“I want the audience to bring home their fear,” Laranas says, “to be afraid of being left alone in their house or in their room, to feel a chill when they walk in empty dark corridors.”

Another horror film, “Pasiyam” (Nine Days) is now showing in local theaters, although not in the fest. The title refers to the traditional novena offered for the newly deceased so that the soul will not wander on earth and disturb the living.

But horror flicks are not the only attention getters in the fest.

There are two films set during the Japanese Occupation in 1941: “Aishite imasu 1941” is a gay love story between a cross-dressing Pinoy and a fierce Japanese captain.

“Panaghoy sa suba” (Call of the River) is “not just the story of a river. It’s also about an important chapter in our history,” says its star, Cesar Montano. He also co-wrote, produced and directed the movie, which is subtitled and spoken entirely in the southern Filipino dialect of Cebuano.

Montano, a Filipino southerner, says he wants to revive the Visayan movie industry, which once flourished alongside the Manila-based studios.

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