‘Shake, Rattle & Roll EXTREME’ review — Falsely advertised filth

REGAL FILMS’ DECADES-OLD HORROR anthology is a trail mix of junk, but it’s a certain kind of person’s junk, which is to say it’s my kind of junk. There is a bit of alchemy involved in crafting the perfect mix of self-aware sleaze and genuine horror found in some Shake, Rattle & Roll episodes. And on the rare occasion that it does get things right, it’s pretty great.

I attribute the anthology’s staying power to that decidedly Pinoy flavor in SRR‘s horror stories: the undin in “Nanay,” the Lovecraftian tentacle-fridge in “Pridyider,” the murderous…wedding dress(?) in “Ukay-Ukay.” These are unique and original visions. But they aren’t terrifying, at least not in any traditional means. There are truly scary entries, sure, but after so many volumes, it became clear that people don’t (and can’t!) expect the full-on scare-fest one can expect from longer, fuller horror stories.

Regardless of where you fall in the spectrum, Shake, Rattle & Roll is the occasion of a cult — the cult of eating pineapple on pizza…and liking it. It’s the mad genius of adding sweet banana ketchup to spaghetti. It’s a Jollibee mascot doing the mekus-mekus trend on TikTok. It’s an acquired taste for fast food (fast horror? I’m workshopping it): No unnerving revelations about humanity’s hearts of darkness. Just two-plus hours in the cinema giggling, gasping, and cringing with fellow Filipino moviegoers. (Seriously, where else can you watch a sentient Christmas tree murder an entire family?)

Donna Cariaga in “Glitch.” ©Regal Films

That is why SRR films have been a great staple for the Metro Manila Film Festival (MMFF), an annual film fest that doesn’t cloak its commercial intent. Marked in swollen capital letters — EXTREME! — the sixteenth volume of Shake, Rattle & Roll doesn’t necessarily break tradition, but it promises to do what other volumes haven’t done before…making literal heads roll. In fact, to this writer’s knowledge, it’s the first SRR film to have gotten the R-rating from MTRCB (a byproduct, again, of its commercial appeal, being a mainstay in MMFF).

Shake, Rattle & Roll EXTREME isn’t premiering on Christmas Day like it always had, sans for a couple of films prior. However, you get the impression that they intended it to be an MMFF film. The segment at the top of the volume, strangely titled “Glitch,” had to shoehorn an atrocious line of dialogue about a demon named Baal sharing birthdays with Jesus. The story follows a neglected six-year-old who stumbles upon a cursed children’s show called Gary the Goat, a clear Muppet-ification of Black Philip from Robert Eggers’ The VVitch.

It’s the weakest of the three entries, and it’s painful to write that about Richard V. Somes’ work, whose films like Yanggaw and “Lihim ng San Joaquin” from Shake, Rattle & Roll 2K5, I hold very dearly. The segment just fails to cohere into anything watchable, even by SRR standards. The screenplay is wildly contrived; the editing nauseating. You would have hoped that with the EXTREME theming, you would see much of the carnage, but in “Glitch,” you rarely see anything in clear focus, obscuring its only interesting parts (its critique on the iPad generation and that Donna Cariaga being a bona fide scream queen) behind shakycam and unnecessarily caliginous lighting.

Jane Oineza and RK Bagatsing in “Mukbang.” ©Regal Films

Jerrold Tarog’s “Mukbang” is the stronger technophobic horror. It reaffirms the half-truths we know about the internet and puts it through the SRR wringer. Cue Professor Utonium’s intro: “Camp, schlock, and everything nice!” Under the umbrella of “everything nice,” of course, is everything that makes Regal Films more money: a whole spate of real-life influencers serving as perfect prey to a group of shadow people out to take over human bodies. In sci-fi radio times, they were called body snatchers, but in today’s Creepypasta-ridden world, they go by skinwalkers. The same predation tactics apply: find humans to mimic and assimilate.

The techno-horror aspect comes into play naturally, with celebrity-obsessed individuals devolving into subhuman beings disguised as uncanny imitations of how real humans act. That bit telegraphs clearly despite the typical SRR chaos that ensues. The mukbang part is a clear metaphor for society’s modern famine for excesses, much like what Bradley Liew’s “Eater” episode touched on from the anthology series, Now Streaming. My only gripe with “Mukbang” is that there’s no primary influencer we’re meant to…ahem, follow. No character is posed with any redeeming quality, which is also probably the point.

Jane De Leon and Paolo Gumabao in “Rage.” ©Regal Films

The last segment is called, aptly, “Rage.” Think Rob Jabbaz’s The Sadness, but set in a rural barangay. Also new: A symbiote-esque extraterrestrial virus causes the rabies-like outbreak to spread like wildfire. The cast of unlikely survivors is led by Jane De Leon, who plays a med-student visiting her mother for the holidays. She’s joined by her friends, who very quickly learn the mechanics of the citizens’ collective manic violence.

It doesn’t break any narrative ground (a friend genuinely wondered if the makers asked ChatGPT to help write it for the algo), but some moments make it watchable. The gun-toting kapitana is cool. There’s a handful of interesting kills. And it’s hard to miss the social dynamic within the friend group — a microcosmic view of who, ultimately, is prepared (and equipped) to survive. Joey De Guzman is technically proficient, and for the resources he had here, it wouldn’t be unwise if streamers sourced his talents to craft the next Asian binge, a la Netflix’s All Of Us Are Dead.

It’s tough to feign indifference, so I won’t. I don’t quite see enough EXTREME elements as was advertised here. Sure, there are attempts at bifurcating heads off torsos, and heart rippings were ample, but they all barely threaten to reach the threshold. Where is the grunge, the filth, the grotesquerie?


SHAKE, RATTLE & ROLL EXTREME

2023 | Comedy, Horror, Thriller | dir. Richard V. Somes, Jerrold Tarog, Joey De Guzman

Neglected and addicted to gadgets, 6-year-old Lyka befriends a malevolent entity from a defunct children’s show, causing deadly events at home. A group of influencers and content creators gather for a collab in a luxurious mansion. A bunch of thrill-seekers go on a trip to watch a meteor shower.

Official poster for ‘Shake, Rattle & Roll EXTREME’ ©Regal Films