Sunday, November 13, 2022

Alapaap (1984)

... aka: Clouds
... aka: High Clouds

Directed by:
Tata Esteban

Opening with a truly bizarre musical number featuring an apparently confused punk / New Wave-look band performing a harmonica-heavy blues rock number called "Society" in a smoky club, this doesn't get any less addled from there! The band is cut with a bunch of surreal and seemingly senseless scenes (sometimes shot with a kaleidoscope effect added or through a Vaseline-smeared lens) of a dazed audience member gazing at the band while lights flash in his face, scenes of the same man sitting at a typewriter in some foggy black void dressed in a hospital gown and surrounded by blood bags and three men attacking and raping a young woman in the woods and by a waterfall. The same man also envisions he's led to his own casket by nurses with teased 80s hair and large syringes and members of the press. A newspaper headline then announces that a decomposing body has been found near Baguio City. The victim has been identified as Baeg Longed, an 18-year old jungle "maiden". The girl's father, the tribal head, has warned police that if the crime isn't soon solved, he and the rest of the tribe will seek a bloody revenge.

The man having all of these strange hallucinations is a troubled young aspiring screenwriter named Jake (William Martinez) and there's a good reason for the disorienting opening ten minutes. It's all a drug-fueled delusion as Jake lies in his hospital recovering from his latest overdose. His mother (Rosemarie Gil) is fed up with him, yet too busy with work and her social life to offer any support. Jake and a bunch of his pals - director Dave (Mark Gil), his cameraman brother Donald (Michael De Mesa), their girlfriends, Christine (Eva Rose Palma) and Betsy (Isadora Alonzo), an aspiring Scream Queen who wants to "be the next Nastassja Kinski," and the German Shepherd Jabbar (playing himself) - decide to go to the country to shoot a movie. On the way there, Jake has multiple visions of a beautiful, mysterious woman who seems to be coming on to him but disappears just as soon as he sees her.

After some looking around, the friends are able to rent a large home from Mr. Longed (Ed Villapol), whose name may look familiar if you read the first paragraph. Mr. Longed puts them up in a nice old house with covered furniture, but only under one condition: One of the rooms, which belonged to his late daughter, is strictly off limits. Their first night there, the home is already trying to red flag them the f out. Shutters and windows open and close on their own, fireplaces light themselves, a rocking chair starts moving with nobody in it and Donald sees a wooden idol cry blood. The following morning all of the furniture in the home has been thrown around. When Donald, who witnessed some of the strange activity the night before, expresses his concerns, nobody takes him seriously.

As it transpires, Mr. Longed's daughter, Baeg (Tanya Gomez), was raped and murdered nearby just two months earlier and is now lurking the grounds in vengeful spirit form. And, for some reason that kind of defies the traumatic gang rape she'd already suffered, she's very, very horny! She possesses Betsy and has her sneak into Jake's bedroom to seduce him. And then she inhabits Christine and turns the demure girl sexually ravenous, which ends with her slapping her boyfriend in the face and then passing out. Baeg herself materializes topless near a waterfall to lure in Jake. When Dave and Donald stumble upon them having sex, they whip out their camera and secretly start filming, but no girl is in footage when they later view it, only Jake.

After enough strange / inexplicable / ghostly shit goes down that would drive any normal person away (just not these idiots), Baeg decides she's had enough fun and now wants revenge. No, she doesn't head out after the men who actually raped and murdered her, she instead decides to settle for Jake and his friends. Her justification? Well, basically she's impatient, sick of waiting and doesn't like city folk much anyway, so why not? Her father (who'd pulled her spirit out of her body and now keeps her blue decomposing corpse in the locked bedroom) pleads with her not to harm anyone but gets so worked up he keels over from a heart attack! Now with no one to stop her, she sets about possessing and slaughtering everyone in sight.

Story and performance-wise, this is pretty pedestrian stuff, with a thin plot, poor dialogue, unlikable characters and awful acting, though several of these issues could very well be chalked up to the terrible English dubbing on the print I viewed. Still, the exploitative and stylistic aspects are enough to somewhat redeem things. This offers up pretty much exactly what exploit fans want to see; blood, a bit of gore and a heaping helping of nudity and sex. Even the rape scene, which is shown merely in brief flashes at the beginning, is shown in its gratuitous entirety later on in the form of a flashback.

As for the death scenes, there aren't a whole lot but we do at least get a little variety. One of the ladies gets attacked and eaten by the (possessed) dog after it rips off all her clothes, a guy has his brains blown out, another dies by shards of glass after having his head pushed through three different windows and, in the most memorably silly bit, a girl blow dries herself to death (!) until her face is bloody and smoking and her eyeball falls out.

The film's best attribute is actually Esteban, who directs things with plenty of style. There's lots of smooth camerawork, POV shots, tracking shots and weird camera placements, like way up high in the tree tops looking down and underneath a typewriter. There's also some colorful lighting, lots of fog (I guess the "clouds" of the title) and shadow play going on. Regardless of its debits, the film manages to successfully conjure up a dark, dreary atmosphere in a similar fashion to Raimi's original Evil Dead, which seems to have been a strong influence.

Esteban, who took home a FAMAS (Filipino Oscar equivalent) award for his art direction here, also made MAGIC OF THE UNIVERSE (1986), which again starred De Mesa and Gomez, plus Liza Lorena (who has a brief appearance here as a doctor), and was the production designer on Snake Sisters (1984). The only home video release I'm aware of was a 1987 Japanese VHS from Sony Exc!t!ng / Mount Light Home Video. The Japanese video has the English dub, though apparently there's a version in the original Tagalog with fan-made English subtitles that's out there somewhere, which may be the better option if you can find it.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...