Screaming pagod

Review by Vives Anunciacion

Ispiritista: Itay, may moomoo!
Directed by Tony. Y. Reyes
Written by RJ Nuevas, Tony Y. Reyes, Antonio Tuviera, Nino T. Rodriguez
Starring Vic Sotto, BJ Forbes
GP / 105minutes
Regal Entertainment, APT Entertainment

There’s so much noise from all the screaming and shouting in Ispiritista, it should be enough to scare audiences away from the hammy horror comedy. Alas, it’s making money at the tills. Apparently, what’s keeping the local movie industry alive is the same reason that’s killing it. Formula.

Vic Sotto plays Victor Espiritu (how inspired), a sulking widower and lonely father to Tom Tom (BJ Forbes.) By day Victor pretends to be a spirit medium (ispiritista), conning people who have problems with the paranormal. But it is Tom Tom who can commune with the departed, it takes a while for Victor to understand the situation.

For the most part, Ispiritista is a collection of Victor’s slapstick antics as a quack medium and chick magnet, aided by two sidekicks Jose (Manalo) and Wally (Bayola). The remaining one-fourth of the movie is split between Tom Tom’s ghost sightings in school, and a very nasty haunted house that starts and ends the movie. The movie is populated by Eat Bulaga! mainstays.

Ispiritista is reminiscent of Peter Jackson’s The Frighteners (1996), but since the original Ghost Busters (1984) there have been numerous ghost buster adaptations and spoofs in local and foreign movies. Ispiritista’s storyline is dated, as if it was made in the 80’s. Even the performances are overused, not since the Tito, Vic, and Joey days have a movie had so much slapping and hysteria. Wally gets hit in the face many times, at the back of the head several times, and at one point, is hit on his bald forehead by a pair of small pliers. So much for physical comedy.

From start to finish, everyone practically screams. There’s a ghost – scream. Another ghost, flail hands in air – scream. A slap in the face – scream. It’s the movie with the hammiest acting in the world, almost, BJ Forbes has a natural knack for acting.

These are superficial encounters compared to what really ails Ispiritista. Sotto’s character, Victor, is a self-centered, spineless dickhead who risks his own son’s life at the haunted house so he can help the aunt of his love (lust?) interest (played by Cindy Kurleto). Victor is portrayed as a stud chick magnet who gets catcalls even from ghosts (though off-screen, Bossing somewhat projects the same image.) Victor dates sexy girls while he is moping over the death of his wife (played by Iza Calzado).

Victor ignores Tom Tom most of the time, and when he finally does, lets Tom Tom do the job he can’t do himself. In the end, Victor doesn’t save the day, the ghosts do that themselves. Victor doesn’t go to jail, and instead is rewarded for his simple supplication. Victor is overwhelmingly forgiven by the people (and the ghosts) he offended and gets the girl.

The disturbing part is the accepted practice to reward a mediocre life (or a mediocre movie) – is it really culturally ingrained in Pinoys to blankly forgive offenders no matter what the offense? It’s one thing to forgive an offender, it’s another to pretend as if nothing has happened at all. Now that’s worth screaming at.

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