Jun Lana's August scare tactics
Philip Cu-Unjieng (The Philippine Star) - August 31, 2009 - 12:00am

Film review: Tarot

MANILA, Philippines - It’s Halloween in late August (and early September), thanks to Regal’s new horror flick — the Marian Rivera/Dennis Trillo starrer, Tarot. Coming on the heels of Mag-ingat Ka Sa Kulam, noted director and award-winning screenplay writer Jun Lana once again proves how he’s one of today’s masters in providing the scares and chills that we anticipate from films of this genre. The creepy soundtrack, the twists and turns in the plotline, the false starts and macguffins, the sudden appearances just when we’re exhaling our sighs of timid relief, they’re all here and accounted for, making the audience stay on the edge of their seats; and forgiving the lapses in credibility. In fact, while there is a somewhat convoluted storyline that attempts to make sense of the mayhem and corpses that pile up, we all know that the real meter for films of this sort is how many times it has made our hearts skip a beat, or have us watching with eyelids at half-mast! And on those scores, the audience that watched the screening was more than appreciative of how Jun managed to sustain the horror quotient of his film.

The film opens with a backstory of young Cara (who eventually grows up to be Marian Rivera) — a child who’d spy on her manghuhula lola (Gloria Romero), and would already feel the tarot cards were speaking to her. Her mother (Susan Africa) pleads with said lola to spare Cara from exploring this “gift.” As she blossoms into a young woman, while on a hiking trip with fiancé Miguel (Dennis Trillo), Miguel inexplicably disappears, forcing the hand of Cara to turn to those cards to find Miguel. The cards do “speak,” but the Miguel they find also brings something back with him — something dark and ominous. And we’re thrust into a world of deep family secrets and long-lost friendships, of betrayals from loved ones and from unexpected quarters, of tests of forgiveness and compassion, and a world of cults and suicide pacts. There’s this theme of how things in nature are primeval, mysterious, and powerful, and how complacent urban life is no match for this force when it decides to take on a malevolent hue.

The support cast of Roxanne Guinoo (as Faye, Cara’s best friend), the aforementioned Gloria Romero and Susan Africa, Celia Rodriguez and Dante Rivero, Niña Jose (as the young version of Gloria’s character) all ably add texture to the story and provide telling signposts for our discovery of the fates of Cara and Miguel. Ultimately though, it is the central story of Cara and Miguel that carry this film. Even before her rise to teleserye stardom on GMA, the forays of Marian in various films and guest-starring roles proved she could hold her own in the acting department, and if anything, Dennis, for me, will always be more actor than movie star. It’s their acting that gives this film a center upon which all the CGIs and special effects can now drape themselves on, and effectively bring about the suspension of disbelief.

CARA CARA AND MIGUEL CELIA RODRIGUEZ AND DANTE RIVERO DENNIS TRILLO GLORIA ROMERO GLORIA ROMERO AND SUSAN AFRICA JUN LANA KA SA KULAM MARIAN RIVERA MIGUEL
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