MOVIE REVIEW: See it or skip it: The Missing (Metro Manila Film Festival 2020)

As the only horror entry in this year’s Metro Manila Film Festival, Regal Films’ The Missing certainly had to meet a lot of expectations from horror aficionados.

Unlike in previous years, the annual film festival is not shown on movie theaters, but rather employs the Upstream online platform to deliver the movies to audiences, owing to restrictions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

This changes the viewing experience drastically, especially for a horror film. There was no doubt that Regal Films, the studio behind the epic Shake Rattle and Roll franchise, did its best to deliver something out of the ordinary.

Plot: Iris (Ritz Azul), a restoration architect, is commissioned by a former professor to work on his ancestral home in Japan. As good as she is in her work, Iris suffers from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder after she witnesses her little sister’s kidnapping. While working on the project, she begins to be haunted by ghosts that have long been residing in house.

From the outset, the film seems to be clear cut. A haunted house in Saga, Japan; a woman who is struggling with her personal demons, and an underlying possibility of rekindling an old relationship.

While the story had great potential, the movie admittedly had a lot of problems, one of them being the cast’s acting. At times, lead star Ritz Azul seemed to be overacting while in others, she seemed to be delivering the bare minimum. I get that her character was trying to deal with her mental health issues by showing a stoic facade but at times, her line delivery was too monotonous you would think she was delivering a monologue.

The story also proceeded at a snail’s pace in order to inject the jump scares that audiences seem to expect from films of this genre.

For horror newbies, it might work out, but if you’ve been watching horror for a while, the scenes are fairly predictable. A ghost’s reflection on the mirror, check. A ghost coming face to face with the protagonist, check. A ghost trying to drown lead character, check. A dusty haunted house filled with boxes of evidence, check. We also get a couple of chase scenes in the woods and a major reveal in the end. It was textbook horror.

The film does make use of amazing cinematography to capture the beauty of Japan. It may even inspire viewers to travel to the Japanese prefecture after the pandemic is over. The film’s musical score was also on point, although at times, it was too calming to cause any real sense of panic.

The Missing did everything by the book but it fell short of being memorable. The horror element is passable at best but the real challenge is feeling a sense of connection to the characters because they have too much going on. It muddles the film’s message and audiences will have a tendency to feel confused over what it is trying to say. Is the focus on mental health or the mystery?

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