Why "Nilalang" will draw in a crowd during the Metro Manila Film Fest (MMFF) because of its R-16 rating.
With a storyline befitting a graphic novel of the dark/supernatural genre, "Nilalang" draws the viewer into the gritty streets of Manila. Here, NBI special crimes division agent Tony (Cesar Montano) encounters a malevolent spirit bent on torturing, mutilating and killing beautiful women--including his estranged girlfriend--just when he thought he had killed the perp years before. Anybody close to Tony is now a target, including his partner Jane (Meg Imperial)--a beautiful, confident, and ingenious woman who secretly pines for Tony (well, it's an open secret--because apparently everybody in the agency knows this, except for Tony).
The spirit, which had engaged in a killing spree before in Japan, is now bent on finishing off what seems to be the remaining line of women from a particular samurai's family. Now entangled in Manila's underworld, Miyuki (Maria Ozawa) tends to the family business, while her younger sister Akane cares for their aging father. When Akane goes missing and their father is found slain, Miyuki is forced to join the investigation to end the spirit's reign of terror. Portrayed by Ozawa, Miyuki is sensual, but no-nonsense when it comes to business at hand, and never shirks from a fight when it's up to her to do her duty. (And apparently, she isn't shy about showing off her impressive collection of tattoos.)
At 53, Cesar Montano looks poised to inherit Eddie Garcia's crown as the action-star-na-walang-kupas, trading smoldering looks with Ozawa, trying his darndest (in character) to ignore Imperial's feminine charms, while trying to reconcile the fact that he has a supernatural adversary who has to be vanquished with blood, cursed objects, and rituals--apart from the de rigeur bullets. It's a pity they didn't expound on shibari--the Japanese art of rope tying--which figured prominently in the opening credits and scenes--only to be neglected later on, dismissed as a cult practice (it isn't).
Using some scenes shot to great effect in dim conditions, the action/thriller will certainly have viewers staying through to the end to see the story's resolution, which gives you the feeling it's setting the scene or world-building for more movies of the same vein. Possessing good visuals, imaginative production design and clever editing, "Nilalang" will pretty much have many red-blooded Pinoy males at the MMFF throwing their money at the ticket counter, saying "shut up and take my money". If it does well, co-executive producer Wesley Villarica hints at a director's cut and other possible merchandise (editor's note: a graphic novel, please!) in the pipeline.
While supernatural flicks featuring detectives isn't new to the Filipino audience, the premise of "Nilalang" makes it intriguing enough to entice curious cineastes.