Let’s Switch Souls

Am I still... Me?

Villa Estrella could be best described as a mainstream montage, a papier-mâché piñata of Rico Maria Ilarde’s lesser known films. Numerous reference are seen in this film that has been employed from the mysterious lady coming out of the water of Sa Ilalim ng Cogon, the water element also present in Shake Rattle and Roll 2k5 segment ‘Aquarium’. The religious iconography, gun chasing incidents and twist obsessions of Altar is quite perceivable as well. I have seen all of these films. I could say that Ilarde is not only inspired to make horror features, making a credible name in the genre, but also has the skills both as a technician and a storyteller. Villa Estrella is an entertaining suspense story with a dash of romance and horror twists.

Altar could have been a good commercial release but unfortunately it did not happen. But I could still be right in what I said in my review of the film. It is easy to discern independent filmmakers who could be really useful in the mainstream film industry. This is especially for their artistic skills to be employed and blend it with film economics, you could never complain. I also felt the same way with the indie director Jade Castro’s romantic film Endo, the director of the mainstream romantic film My Big Love (although I was not able to record or write what I have said in that). Ilarde’s artistry surely did not suffer and have made really bold moves especially in his recent film.

Ana (Shaina Magdayao) is an advertising agent who is suffering from an abusive father played by John Estrada. She is forced to make up with Alex (Jake Cuenca), the son of his best buddy played by John Arcilla. They are business partners and his father is convinced that the reconciliation with her and Alex could be beneficial since the collapse of their finances. Unfortunately for Ana, she has a steady boyfriend Dennis (Geoff Eigenmann) who convinces her to elope one night but due to the promise Ana gave her deceased mother, she opted not to leave his drunkard and abusive father. Not surprisingly, that was a wrong move for Ana because by the next day, Alex has planned to taken her with him in the undeveloped resort they had named Villa Estrella.

Ana suddenly feels terrible about the place mostly for the peculiar attention being given to her by the Mang Gusting (Ronnie Lazaro). He tells her of her childhood and with her supposedly closeness with Andrea, her missing daughter. Ana is quite withdrawn from her past and insists Alex for them to leave the place but he resisted. As the night is going near, Ana familiarized herself with the place and befriends the startling and enigmatic Giselle (Maja Salvador).

Writers John Paul Abellera and Adolf Alix Jr made a good task in layering drama, romance and horror in the film. But I could still feel the artistic voice of the director Ilarde in evoking a credible assailment on this kind of genre. His images are somewhat predictable but the imagination of a suspenseful atmosphere and the logic behind the mysterious evil spirit residing at the soiled swimming pool is totally understandable.

Ana has suffered emotional trauma and it is quite easy to be convinced why she forgets her past. But when unexplained things happen, almost all the people in the Villa feel the intensity and mystery, well except for Alex. He could have focused too much with his undying love, he could have been possessed. In the middle of the chaos, Dennis harps in to save Ana but gets troubled with the lost of his friend. At least he’s still optimistic and logically finds his friend near the backyard. But he soon falls in a deep dungeon where he finds a little sneaky secret that could unlock all the ambiguity of the resort.

It’s a bit fun though when you think about the ending. Could it really be possible? I mean, it’s so cool if you will ask me, it could really lead to a catfight. And yet again, Alex will always be dumbfounded and literally has no instincts that someway or somehow; all the things could have been altered. Villa Estrella is a commendable film and the money you allocate for this will not be wasted. But to the most discerning eyes, the film is not all out scary, so watch out for this factor as the film has fused in other genre devices from drama to romance and even comedy.

Charlie Koon's Rating:

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