Aurora [MMFF 2018 movie reaction]

Aurora is directed by Yam Laranas, produced by Viva Films and Aliud Entertainment, starring Anne Curtis.
My rating: 3/5

Every last week of December, movie theaters all over the country only plays Filipino movies, movie entries for the Metro Manila Film Festival. And also every year, there's the debate between "art and the market" when it comes to the movie selections. For sure, every year there is a Vic Sotto film, Vice Ganda film, or the 100th installment of Shake, Rattle, n Roll (I think there's none for this year), and there's the trend of more people flocking to these (usually comedy) movies with the big stars than the movies with more serious themes. For some, most MMFF movies may be a joke. There's really nothing wrong with these movies, a lot of people seem to enjoy them based on the box-office stats.

I don't really go out of my way to watch MMFF movies unless there's something that looks really interesting. I want to see something new, a unique story or another kind of approach than the usual. The trailer for Aurora piqued my interest the most. I love stories related to the sea, and a horror movie by the seaside is something I'd want to watch.

First of all, Aurora is a beautiful film with stunning, haunting images. The visuals are something I find calming. The water, the rain, the gloomy atmosphere. The only thing that distracts from the visuals is the over-the-top, exaggerated classical music that they have to play during the dry, boring scenes just to up the suspense. The effect they were trying to achieve, I didn't really feel. I feel like if they used more subtle music, utilized silence, and not the overly dramatic orchestra score, it would have been haunting and better.

The story is about Leana, the owner of a decrepit, old hostel by the seashore. She lives with her younger sister Rita and their parents are dead. A ship Aurora is shipwrecked near them, and since the accident business has been low except for the relatives of the dead who stay in Leana's inn. People in the town are leaving because of the ship and it's affected most of their livelihoods. When the Coast Guard stops the search operations, some people still want to find their loved ones who haven't been found. One of them offers Leana to help him search for the other missing bodies for a fee. Since she needs cash, she accepts the offer and gets others to help her.

Then, Leana starts to get visions of the dead. Though this is labeled as horror, I didn't really jump off my seat. I'm more likely to stay awake at night after watching Twilight Zone, really. They eventually find one corpse of a man, who isn't in any missing person records. Then the story went weak - as if it's trying to be mysterious, that the tragedy may have been caused by supernatural powers.

There's really no concrete explanation of the events of the film leading to the end. Though it was interesting that Leana and her sister somehow find themselves in the ship and saw the moment when the tragedy happened.

"I didn't understand any of it!" was the common reaction of people going out of the theater. The story seemed to be designed that way, that there's really no explanation. Was there really a curse on the ship? How come Leana experiences all these visions?

I wasn't also entirely convinced by the cast's acting. Anne Curtis was too beautiful to be believable as a poor innkeeper. "Aurora was overloaded!", a simple phrase that they seem to be taking as an unbelievable thing. I didn't really root for Leana. It was worth watching for the visuals, but the rest feels mediocre and the music I find more distracting than moving. Though this has a new kind of storytelling that I hope to see in future movies with a more interesting premise.

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