WARNING: THIS BLOG CONTAINS BODYCOUNT. HIGH RISK OF SPOILERS. ENTER IF YOU DARE.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Filipino Maniac: Basag Ang Pula (1984)

Basag ang Pula (Philippines, 1984)
Rating: ***1/2
Starring:  Ace Vergel, Snooky Serna, Liza Lorena

(Before I start, I would like to give a big shout out to Jenny Lo for helping me finally see a copy of this surpringly hard-to-find film! It's people like her why I'm proud to be one with the horror community!)

It's quite a shame my home country, the Philippines, never have that much of a demand for gory slasher flicks because rare cheesy gems like Basag Ang Pula shows that, if we really put a lot of effort to it, we could do a fun and messy bodycounter.

Basag starts with a treat by taking a varying stab on a well-known Filipino urban legend; a father drives to a party to pick up his teenage daughter only for their car to run out of gas while enroute back home. The father gets out to find fuel, leaving his daughter inside the car to have someone guard it. This eventually proves to be a terrible idea when a crazed man suddenly attacks the car, frightening the girl into hysterics. The cherry on top? The man slowly reveals that he just freshly decapitated her father and he has the keys...

Another offscreen death and an opening credit later, the crime scene is now swarmed by cops, reporters and curious cats alike, and though they are baffled by the lack of motive for the killings, they are certain this is the work of the same maniac who apparently have been murdering folks around the city recently.

The following morning comes with us watching our killer, Fernando, living his day catching and torturing rats while experiencing horrid childhood flashbacks. Later that very night, he ventures off to do some more human hunting, this time cock-blocking a horny pair of teenagers before fatally stabbing the boy and chasing the girl into the streets when she escapes. The screaming and struggles draw the attention of patrolling officials, however, prompting Fernando to back off and hide inside a school bus where he murders the driver after the man threatens to tell on the cops.

In a stroke of luck, the bus turns out to be a hired transport for a large group of high school girls attending a retreat and Fernando seizes the opportunity to pretend as the murdered driver's nephew to drive all the way to another city, escaping possible capture. Of course, it wasn't long before he can't hold back his murderous impulses once he and the class reach the retreat and the need to start another killing spree catches up to him soon.

While not necessarily a great movie per se, Basag ang Pula does work as a cheesy exploitation flick, somewhat bringing an amount of grit and teeth to an otherwise cheddar-tainted story of an opportunistic murderer slaying his way through a class full of party and/or sex-hungry teenagers. (And teachers) It could have been nothing but hokey hamminess comparable to some late 80s American school girl-in-peril slashers such as School Girl Screamers (1986), Blood Sisters (1987) and The Last Slumber Party (1988), with some scenes actually looking like it was going for that kind of mess (An Ouija board scene between the girls and their recently murdered classmate, anyone? How about a bonfire dance-off between the class goof and the local retard?), but Basag found a way to present itself as this dirty and grim looking creature for over most of the movie's entire run, mainly thanks to our villain's unsettling character and the sheer relentlessness of his attacks, elements played the straightest and grounded Basag in place as a genuine horror movie.

Though our villain is nothing anywhere as remarkable and noteworthy as many masked slashers reigning the box offices of their time, his seemingly unprovoked killing streak and often robotic personality (courtesy of actor Ace Vergel) gave him an unpredictable edge, resulting to a rather sizable killcount consisting of often brutal dispatches without being that gory or inventive. (our killer only wielded two murder weapons: a hunting knife and, later, an automatic rifle) Two notable occasions Basag showed some worth for shock value were the beheading reveal at its opening scene and one part in the middle of the movie where a mentally handicapped man found himself at the wrong place, in the wrong time and through the bad end of a blade.

If there's anything that doesn't really help our antagonist stand above other slashers villains, it would be the climactic reveal of how exactly Fernando became this unhinged wherein his reasons and accompanying flashbacks reveal a tragic romance gone fatal, a cliche nearly as overused as the abusive parental figure when it comes to past traumas. This did lead to a minor mystery whether one girl in the retreat may or may not be Fernando's tragic lover who mysteriously disappeared from his life, but the lack of focus on this supposed sub-plot made it pretty weak and corny, succeeding only to give our killer a reason to hold back on committing a complete stab-a-thon.

Oddly, too, is that Basag's also one of the few slasher titles that spent a good amount on writing and building up a possible final girl among its characters, only for her to be tossed aside in the last act and have the movie stretch 20 minutes more to switch itself from "horror" to "action thriller", with Fernando arming himself with a semi-automatic and shooting down armed cops on pursuit. It's certainly a curveball I never saw coming from this film (though it is nothing really new for me. Gotta blame Severance (2003) and The Majorettes (1987) for that one), but I overly enjoy its sheer silliness and macho-inducing reek, a kind of nostalgic grandeur of over-the-top entertainment that only vintage Filipino exploitation flicks can induce.

A rough little gem of a rare slasher, Basag Ang Pula was a challenge to find but I can honestly say that the hunt was well worth it. Cheesy and grim in the right balance, this is one foreign entry that deserves a quick look for all slasher completists and horror purists.

Bodycount:
1 male head seen
1 female murdered offscreen
1 male stabbed with a knife
1 male had his chest dragged open with a knife
1 female had her throat slashed with a knife
1 female killed, blood spill seen
1 female stabbed with a knife
1 male stabbed in the gut with a knife
1 female stabbed in the head with a knife
1 male knifed in the nape
1 female stabbed on the gut with a knife
1 female mentioned killed
1 male stabbed to death with a knife
1 male stabbed to death with a knife
1 male shot dead with an automatic rifle
1 male shot on the head
1 male shot dead with an automatic rifle
Total: 17

7 comments:

  1. Sir, saan nyo po napanood yung basag ang pula?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It was through Youtube via private video. A kind user was generous enough to share it with me.

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    2. Pahelp naman po kung paano ko sya mapapanood sir, curious po kasi ako sa movie nya e.

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    3. No need to pay. I'm spreading the love.

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    4. Pashare naman po kung paano makapanood please :(

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    5. Dude, the link's there on my prior response.

      Delete