Aswang (1994) - This is a story centered around a Filipino vampire myth called the Aswang a vampire with a long tongue that feeds on the fetus of a pregnant woman. The baby is either still born or may survive to become another creature, well at least that is the definition in this film. In the opening credits the myth is shown in shadow puppets with the appropriate horror oriented music by Ken Brahmstedt. It sets the stage for what is a pretty enjoyable little horror movie. I like when I get to see a common genre like a vampire film with a slant I did not know about. This one delivers with a slow building start and a chaotic and satisfying finish. There are a couple more movies out there with this title so pay attention to what you are buying so you see this one. The pacing works mostly because the film is a bit short in running time at 82 minutes. At a budget of $70,000 dollars the film makers Wrye Martin and Barry Poltermann certainly get their money's worth. Filmed in the midwest United States with mostly local actors you would worry that the film would suffer but the quality is most certainly passable.
Katrina (Tina Ona Paukstelis) is a pregnant young lady looking to solve her problem through an arrangement with a wealthy man. He is Peter Null (Norman Moses) a rich single man looking for a heir to his fortune, an heir that Katrina can supply. In return she will come to the mansion for the birth and be well compensated for all her efforts. She arrives married in name to Peter in her seventh month of pregnancy. At the mansion we meet the sickly Mother Olive Null (Flora Coker) played with a simmering evil she is the matriarch of the vampire family. They all look human mind you it is only at feeding time do we see the cloudy eyes and hose like tongues. Also in the house is caretaker Cupid (Mildred Nierras) a Filipino nurse and protector for Olive. Katrina also learns that there is woman described as a touched sister Claire Null living in the small house out back and is warned never to go out there.
I liked how subtly the script pushes at Katrina to warn her that things are not quite right with this family. At dinner in the house they are pushing an intoxicating cider on her without care for the fetus inside her. This leads to the disturbing scene where the Katrina passed out on the bed has her baby tasted by Peter. So uncomfortable a scene that the directors shot it first so figuring that if the actors could handle that they would get through the entire process. The scene plays so well because it is obvious there is no sexual connection between Peter and Katrina. She has a boyfriend and is selling their child to this family, it is strictly a business arrangement. So after drinking too much of the cider to see he writhing on the bed as Peter buries his head in her crotch it is very disturbing. Even creepier the next day when he reports to his mother that the baby is almost ripe, and it is a girl.
When a trespasser on the land needs to be dealt with so we see how the Aswang can create a mucus sack around the victim and save the person for consumption later. This of course is never really explained in the legend. Do these creature eat live people as well as infants? Anyway the story really picks up pace in the second half as Katrina goes from feeling a bit uncomfortable with the group to waking up during a feeding time. The chain reaction from that propels the third act into its final crazy leaps that includes an aswang hanging by its tongue, captivity in the crazy woman's house, a severed hand, fire, blood, birth and death It really is a great act and although Moses as Peter is a bit too over the top in his delivery it does not spoil the fun. So definitely a recommend from me on Aswang even with its flaws it is a very cool take on vampirism.
Odds and Ends
- Seemed like there was an ode to The Evil Dead (1981) in the film where we see the low to the ground camera shot as it travels out of the wood to the door of the small house which has a remarkable resemblance to the house in the Evil Dead movie. I figured it had to be on purpose but did not find anything online to confirm it.
- The epilogue scene that occurs 5 years later was probably unnecessary because it was pretty clear from Cupid's reactions in the final battle what was going to happen. Still the cloudy eyed Aswang child was creepy.
- Also known as "The Unearthing" I viewed the Aswang titled disc put out by Mondo Macabro