Mikhail Red’s horror film has a cool poster, at least?
“The way of God was the only way I knew to help her. But God wasn’t enough for her.”
If Eerie is the first horror movie you’ve ever seen, you might get a kick out it. You might also come out of it thinking that this genre isn’t quite what it’s been hyped up as. The story of counsellor Pat Consolacion (Bea Alonzo) who works at a strict catholic school after the suicide of one girl (Gillian Vicencio) will be familiar to fans of the genre: spooky Christian symbolism, a dimly-lit gothic school, a needlessly harsh sister superior (Charo Santos-Concio) and at least one schoolgirl ghost dominate this picture. The building blocks are solid, but the end result is about as formulaic as the genre can get.
Writer-director Mikhael Red tries a few interesting things here and there: for example, in giving Pat a child counsellor job and the ability to talk to ghosts we have a sort of reverse Sixth Sense, and one of the first scenes – of Pat talking to Erika, the girl who killed herself – does mean that we’re drawn in quickly to what might be a fresh take. It’s a shame that those hopes are quickly shattered. I will give the film credit in that, true to its name, it is pretty eerie. Red has learnt a lot when it comes to building atmosphere and like some of the better horrors out of Hollywood Eerie definitely emits an air of unease throughout. To call any of it original would be a stretch, certainly, but at least you can see the effort. Train of the Dead this is not.
Eerie seems to be an exercise in Western-style (or maybe even J-style) horror filmmaking, but emulates a period that was played out and tired years before this film even came out. In a world where we’ve moved on to arthouse horrors like Us, Hereditary, and The Lighthouse this Conjuring and Ringu business seems woefully outdated. This possibly played out differently in the Philippines, where (from quick cursory research, correct me if I’m wrong) it seems a lot of horror stories stem from urban legends, curses and mythical beasts over traditional ghosts.
Still, it’s hard to recommend even with that consideration. Because while Eerie does live up to its title, it doesn’t do a lot in terms of giving us actual scares. The frightening moments are almost entirely jump scares preceded by a crescendo of violins, just so you know one’s coming. It’s not particularly spooky, nor does it do a lot else new. What’s annoying is that it starts out quite promising, with Pat speaking to Erika’s ghost, promising a different take on hauntings. Ghosts who are willing to communicate offer a world of fresh possibilities, but the movie drops this angle fairly quickly in favour of the more typical approach of having overly made-up actresses appear suddenly, accompanied by the appropriate musical sting.
The comparison I made above to The Sixth Sense is apt in more ways than one. The child-counsellor angle fits, as does the idea of one person being able to talk to ghosts, but it borrows more than that from Shyamalan’s work: specifically, his pacing. But while his better movies tend to work towards some kind of payoff, Eerie never really bothers and instead just delivers us scene after scene of long shots and silence. At least it also copies the Shyamalan formula by having – spoilers, I guess? – an interesting ending that doesn’t recontextualise the entire film like Sixth Sense did, but does give it an ending which ultimately works better than 90% of the film.
I don’t want to sound belittling, but the best way to sum up Eerie is that it’s a really good attempt at making a straightforward ghost story. It certainly succeeds on a few technical aspects – I didn’t even touch upon some of the performances, which are convincing throughout – but is so sorely lacking any real tension or sense of dramatic timing that it constantly falls flat. Eerie sets the bar not very high for itself, but still can’t quite leap high enough. At least it sticks the landing.
Verdict: Eerie commits the worst sin a horror film can: being phenomenally boring.
Overall entertainment: 4.5/10
Sex: Sir, this is a catholic school!
Scares: 2? Maybe?
Missed mirror-related jump scares: So many. Stop trying to be subversive.
Spookiest thing in the movie: That blindfolded Mary statue
Director: Mikhail Red
Writers: Mikhail Red, Rae Red, Mariah Reodica
Bea Alonzo – Pat Consolacion
Charo Santos-Concio – Mother Alice
Jake Cuenca – Julian Castro
Maxene Magalona – Sister Mia
Mary Joy Apostol – Clara
Gabby Padilla – Joyce
Gillian Vicencio – Erika