CineFilipino Movie Review: Ang Tulay ng San Sebastian (Bridge of San Sebastian)

Ang Tulay ng San Sebastian does not offer original scares, but this distinctly Filipino horror flick has something to say, if you’re willing to put up with its shoddy visual effects.

Bong and Francis, driver and nurse, are now driving back in an ambulance to their home province from Manila where they dropped off a patient. It is nearing midnight of a Good Friday. As traffic thins out along the highway, Bong finds it hard to keep himself awake. To help Bong stay alert, the two men agree to tell each other road ghost stories. Eventually, Bong recalls that it’s bad luck to tell ghost stories on a Friday. They might just come true, especially on a Good Friday when Christ is dead.

Ang Tulay ng San Sebastian is a distinctly Filipino horror flick that mixes Philippine folklore and urban legends, creating what looks like  a Halloween version of Groundhog Day.

It starts with an premise that’s interesting enough to make you watch and see how its characters will escape their fate. The movie excels when it toys around with its characters’ minds, who can’t help but fall into superstition. When you’re inside a van in the middle of the night with no sign of civilization except a bridge that doesn’t seem to end, imagination gets the best of you.

The two unfortunate souls who get trapped in this nightmare is played by Joem Bascon and Sandino Martin, whose exhaustion, despair and desperation are convincing. The rest of the cast also did well.

Ang Tulay ng San Sebastian has an interesting premise and a chilling first half but devolves into a silly flick along the way.

The movie losses it effect when it reveals the ghosts, ghouls, and monsters rendered in shoddy visual effects. The plot throws its two characters into different paths as they try to deal with the situation in their own way, only to reveal supernatural set-ups that don’t make sense.

The movie finishes with a contrived ending that doesn’t make any sense either.

In hindsight this is what the movie intends to do – throw you in a loop of hopelessness. Despite its limited budget, it’s brave enough to push the material and feature different elements of Philippine mythology. Also, some of the horrors featured in the story stem from evils that have pervaded the nation. In one scene, Francis and Bong witness a family get assaulted by hold-uppers who have killed everyone else on a bus they rode in.

Ang Tulay ng San Sebastian does not offer anything new nor will it scare you to your core, but if you’re willing to forgive its B-movie special effects and embrace it silliness, it has an allegorical tale of Filipino society’s unending plight against violence and attachment to needless superstition.

My Rating: 6/10


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