Aswang (1994): Sundance Fest Premiere

Sundance Film Festival 1994 (World Premiere)–Aswang tells the bizarre, but unoriginal, story of a young pregnant woman terrorized by a family of vampires who feed on the unborn.

As a pastiche of classic horror films (Rosemary’s Baby, Alien, The Shining), this low-budget item is so derivative and so awkwardly acted that it might not even hold surprise for its potential audience of movie buffs and college students. Neither scary nor funny enough, Aswang is a self-reflexive exercise that hardly qualifies as a midnight attraction, as it was shown at the Sundance Film Festival.

Peter Null (Norman Moses), the heir to the prosperous Null estate, is in desperate need of having a child to fulfill his mother’s wish and the family’s will. The opportunity comes when he meets Katrina (Tina Ona Paukstelis ), a young, unwed woman, wishing to take care of her unwanted pregnancy. But the new couple needs to convince the eccentric matriarch Mrs. Null (Flora Coker) that Katrina is Peter’s wife and that their match is made in heaven.

Following the conventions of its genre, the story is entirely set in the deserted Null Estate, a haunted house surrounded by a forest. Upon arrival, Katrina is introduced to its residents, who are mostly female: the crippled and nasty Mrs. Null; the doting Filipino maid Cupid (Mildred Nierras), and the mentally ill sister Claire (Jamie Jacobs Anderson), who’s locked in a cabin.

Barry Poltermann and Wrye Martin, the novice scripters and helmers, have obviously seen a lot of horror schlock movies, but they don’t provide plenty of jolts and thrills along the way. Using the legend of Aswang, the mythic Filipino vampire, pic aspires to be a modern update of classic vampire tales, but the predictable plot doesn’t contain the requisite twists; one by one, unwelcome visitors to the house are eliminated in a grisly way.

Technical credits are O.K., though the production lacks shrewd humor and visual style. Now a days, for a horror movie to be effective and make the skin of its viewers crawl, it needs a central creepy idea or some terrifying special effects, but this movie doesn’t have them. Ultimately, Aswang is more gruesome and gross than really frightening.

Credits

Running time: 82 minutes

A Young American Films in association with Purple Onion Productions.

Produced, directed, and written by Barry Poltermann and Wrye Martin. Executive producer, Frank Anderson, Steve Farr. Camera (color), Jim Zabilla; editor, Poltermann; music, Ken Brahmstedt; art direction, Margot Czulewicz; sound, Paul Dickinson; associate producers, David Dahlman, John Biesack; assistant director, Paul Johnson; special effects, Tim Brown.

Reviewed at the Sundance Film Festival, Park City, Utah, January 23, 1994.

Cast

Peter Null…………..Norman Moses
Katrina……….Tina Ona Paukstelis
Dr. Roger Harper…….John Kishline
Olive Null……………Flora Coker
Cupid…………….Mildred Nierras
Sheriff………….Victor Delorenzo
Claire Null….Jamie Jacobs Anderson