Kim Chiu, Janine Gutierrez defy thespic odds in spooky starrers

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Kim Chiu in “The Ghost Bride”

The Ghost Bride” gives Kim Chiu good reasons to crow and scream about, thanks to director Chito Roño’s penchant for turning obscure tales into elaborate stories that benefit from his flair for narrative exoticism and plausible yarn-spinning.

When the family of Mayen Lim (Chiu) falls on tough times, it finds its unexpected “savior” in matchmaker Angie Lao (the sinister Alice Dixson).

The imposing “businesswoman” comes to the perpetually cash-strapped family’s “rescue” with a quick-fix proposal that leaves Mayen torn between following what her heart desires and sacrificing personal happiness in exchange for a life of comfort and convenience.

As the cautionary proverb aptly forewarns, “Beware of Greeks bearing gifts.” But, the choice becomes less Solomonic for Mayen when her longtime beau, Clinton (Matteo Guidicelli), breaks her heart and instead decides to exchange marital vows with the Cebuana he was betrothed to.

Will marrying a dead man in a ghost-marriage ritual in Xinjiang, China save Mayen’s family from financial ruin and social humiliation? Maybe so. But, when the reluctant ghost bride turns her back on her agreement with Angie, the supernatural powers of the protective bracelet she acquires from the botched deal transforms into a deadly curse that puts the lives of her loved ones at risk.

The visually scrumptious production isn’t as cohesive as it should be, especially when it allows slow-grinding detours to weigh down its narrative progression. It owes much of its color-bathed allure to the stifling atmosphere of doom and danger it proficiently builds, which helps viewers suspend disbelief that Mayen is indeed in dire need of help after she gutsily rescinds her deal with the devil.

The movie doesn’t just boost Kim’s box-office cachet—it also provides enough “breathing room” for the 27-year-old actress to improvise as a performer, and not just lazily ride on the horror genre’s crowd-drawing coattails.

In terms of physical “characterization,” there isn’t much attempt for Kim to diversify and “look” different—a case of missed opportunity—but, the over-all effort is nevertheless a step in the right direction.

Another indication of maturity is the relative absence of Kim’s acting “crutch”—her distractingly high-pitched voice. The actress has been effectively coaxed to deliver her lines using a lower vocal register, so her performance is devoid of its usual eardrum-puncturing shrillness. As a result, she turns in a more focused and “accessible” portrayal.

Janine Gutierrez

Janine’s turn to shine

After all, a shrill voice isn’t always synonymous with urgency or excitement. The minute it overstays its welcome, it always leads to viewers’ annoyance—so, if she wants them to take her seriously, Kim is better off without it.

The attractive leads of the Halloween season’s other local chiller, “Spirit of the Glass 2: The Haunted,” don’t just encounter vengeful spirits when they unwittingly unlock a portal into the netherworld—they also open a can of worms that unleashes the deeply guarded secrets of a family that can’t stand by its selfish decisions or control its calamitous indiscretions.

Even with his derivative movie’s been-there, done-that contrivances, director Jose Javier Reyes manages to put the production’s cast members (especially Cristine Reyes, Daniel Matsunaga and Benjamin Alves) through their thespic paces, although they aren’t really required to do much.

For her part, beauty queen Maxine Medina is a sight to behold onscreen, but she needs more experience to convincingly “conceal” her insecurities and knee-jerk acting style.

The film itself succumbs to the law of diminishing returns because it fails to introduce innovations that can turn the inherently predictable genre on its head. But, the production’s better-realized section takes shape soon after the morass of dodgy plotting involving the Ouija board takes the narrative back seat.

In fact, the movie deserves to be seen because, in our view, it accomplishes something that no other big-screen project has managed to do: It brings out Janine Gutierrez’s thespic edge!

We’ve always been fond of Janine not only because of her stellar good looks, but also because she is one of Tinseltown’s kindest stars. But, in a fiercely competitive world like the industry she wants to thrive in, “niceness” has its occasional drawbacks.

This time, however, Lotlot de Leon’s gorgeous daughter proves beyond any doubt that nice girls don’t always finish last.

As a brokenhearted woman who suffers the dire repercussions of choosing family obligation over romantic affection, Janine goes the extra mile to convey convincing grit and conviction as a vengeful femme fatale—and that’s something to cheer about!

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