Although there isn’t much to it as a horror movie, Yanggaw is an effective family melodrama that explores a different side of the aswang myth.
Junior (Ronnie Lazaro) and his wife lives with his children in a simple rural town. One day, his daughter Amor (Aleera Montalla) comes home with an unknown infection. Without any money to pay for proper medical care his wife Inday (Tetchie Agbayani) is forced to bring their daughter to Lazarus (Erik Matti), a healer who informs her that Amor has been infected with a venom through her ears. After a few days, Amor turns into an aswang.
The movie is an innovative take on a local myth. It explores the moral and psychological effect of an affliction on a person and the people around her. Amor is changed against her will and struggles along with her family, who have their own set of problems to deal with. The interesting irony is that the family ends up protecting a threat from the village.
Ronnie Lazaro and Tetchie Agbayani portrays a believable couple whose life is slowly torn apart by the consequences of keeping Amor. They, along with a son and his family, live under one roof with an aswang. All of them are torn between familial duty and self-regard – should they stay and contend with her transformation, leave for their own sake, or disown her?
Apart from the lives of other people who are directly affected by her presence, she also has an indirect effect on others as well. Duplo (Joel Torre) is deeply troubled and changed by the sudden eruption of violence in his community that he is bound to protect.
Unfortunately the low budget has a big effect on production design. Lighting and sounds do create a creepy atmosphere but the horror scenes fall flat. There isn’t much to Amor’s transformation – she looks more like a disheveled cannibal than a mythical creature.
The movie has also been widely criticized for the use of the Ilonggo dialect (it didn’t bother me because I didn’t know the language but I guess it would have been a distraction for others). While the ending is touching, it’s still an overlong melodramatic scene that you would typically see from telenovelas.
Despite this, Yanggaw is a fresh take on the usual Aswang horror story. In essence it’s not just about how a supernatural element takes over a person. It shows how an affliction brings out the best and worst of people.
My Rating: 6/10