The moment I heard about Regal Films’ Pwera Usog, I was curious on how this will be presented and how far will it go. “Usog” is actually a curse wherein a stranger gives a person, usually a child a bad stare or an evil eye. The only way to counter this is with the use of saliva. You lick your fingertip then create a cross pattern on the child’s abdomen or forehead while saying “pwera usog!”
The Philippines has had horror films that explored a specific Filipino superstition like Chito S. Roño’s Sukob (2006). This is a wedding superstition wherein one should not get married the same year a relative marries or dies. With a great cast – Box-Office Horror Queen Kris Aquino and veteran actress Claudine Barretto and a beautiful script, Director Roño was able to deliver an outstanding horror film.
But that was 11 years ago.
Fast forward to some recent one is Frasco Mortiz’s Pagpag: Siyam na Buhay, a 2013 Filipino horror film that featured one of the hottest and most popular love team – Daniel Padilla and Kathryn Bernardo (KathNiel). Pagpag is an act wherein a person who attended a wake must visit a public place to brush off the spirits that might have followed them before going home.
Though it wasn’t as good as Sukob, Pagpag: Siyam na Buhay is still a good film. Frasco Mortiz added in a second storyline – a vengeful spirit and some new elements fit for the generation. There was also a bit of comedy and the typical scares in any Filipino horror film.
Four years later, we are treated with another film that explores a Filipino superstition.
Directed & Written by Jason Paul Laxamana
It tells the story of a group of pranksters who scares a homeless girl and accidentally injuring her. One by one, they start encountering a shadow whose glare causes them to fall severely ill and die.
Director Jason Paul Laxamana’s Pwera Usog may be a horror film but it’s more than that. There’s a moral lesson instilled perfect for the youth… basically everyone. Sure, the film focuses on three millennials who are born in an “electronics-filled and increasingly online and socially-networked world” but moral values are for everyone whether a millennial or not. If you don’t practice moral values, then you’ll surely get your just deserts.
“Pulubi siya. (She’s just a beggar.) No one’s gonna miss her.”
Morevoer, Director Laxamana took a different direction. He played with two themes – usog and the origin of the evil spirit who placed the hex – one at a time and then all at once. I have to admit though that there were several silly moments which were surprisingly okay.
There was a scene where Aiko Melendez’ albularyo (a witch doctor/ folk healer) character heals Jean (Sofia Andres) for the first time. Since the classic way of licking one finger and rubbing it on the person’s abdomen or forehead didn’t work, she poured a jar of saliva with magic. Yes, she did! There was also another healing scene where she shouts Pwera Usog! This reminded me of Narda’s transformation to Darna. It was silly AND hilarious.
I guess this really isn’t a regular horror film. In conclusion, Director Jason Paul Laxamana’s Pwera Usog is still decent. It has all the elements of a horror film; not to mention, the silliness that’s rarely seen with a plot like this. I enjoyed watching it and wouldn’t mind watching again. 6/10