The last movie Black Sheep and Star Cinema released in March, before the implementation of the Enhanced Community Quarantine, was director Bradley Liew's arthouse horror flick Motel Acacia. You most probably weren’t able to catch it since it was only in theaters for a few days before the lockdown. You are in luck, though, as you can still catch another Liew masterpiece in the iWant series—The Tapes. It's a bizarre crime story that is also essentially a horror-thriller written by Dodo Dayao (writer-director of Cinema One Originals 2014 Best Picture Violator). It also stars Sam Milby and Yassi Pressman with Ricky Davao, Dominic Roco, and Cherie Gil.
I’ve only recently acquainted myself with iWant's content by catching the pilot episodes of practically all its notable series. The Tapes, by far, has got to be my favorite pilot of all so much so I finished the series in one sitting!
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Sam and Yassi are police officers Cruz and Lagaac on a mountainous province in 1999. It should be noted that this tandem is sort of a reunion after their first team-up in the romcom Ang Pambansang Third Wheel. This time, however, they are purely serious colleagues in the police force—a breath of fresh air for a male-female tandem. They receive video tapes showing tidbits of footage of Judy Evangelista who has gone missing. There also seems to be a cult involved and the cliffhanger of the pilot episode is one for the books. Could there be a supernatural force involved? I just had to see more of this, 'cause that pilot was top-notch. +4
As officer Cruz, Sam leads the cast of this series with utmost ease. Sure, his Tagalog has a twang but they fix that in scripting by, of course, making him an amboy, like he always is in all his roles anyway. With that aside, he gives the character the needed depth and gravitas as a superb policeman despite being a recovering alcoholic who suffers from these mysterious headaches and memory lapses. +3
Yassi is a revelation in a very challenging role as Cruz’ partner. She is stripped of her usual glamorous bearing while going through a separation and custody battle for her son. She nails each and every emotion with just the right intensity that her character needs to get across in each crucial scene, sans the usual melodramatic tropes. She is also badass as a lady cop, which is such a big turn-on for a lot of guys, I’m sure. In one of the episodes’ post-credits, she does real pushups from the start 'till the end of the credits. If that does not spell 'girl power,' I don’t know what does. +4
To compliment our two leads’ performances is an equally outstanding support cast with the police chief perv played by Ricky Davao; his eccentric wife played by Cherie Gil; bar owner and Cruz’ mysterious best friend played by Perry Dizon; and bombshell gone missing Judy Evangelista played by Barbara Ruaro. All actors deliver solid portrayals with no weak link to weigh the material down. +3
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What I also particularly love about this series is its look and feel. Pao Orendain’s cinematography elevates the material to be at par with other international series owing to its perfectly composed shots. Each camera movement and placement plus how each scene is lit adds to the enigma of the world that The Tapes tries to build for the audience. With the frames mostly in shadows, it gives us a feel of the grimness of that town that just feels as surreal as the events occurring within it. +4
The series’ visual storytelling is quite strong with haunting imagery all throughout the show. Just imagine a half-naked man with a giant goat’s head and a pair of schoolboys in uniform carrying a glass of milk. These images remind me of my favourite music video of all time Garbage’s "Push it." At the end of each episode is an interesting clip as the credits roll. I already mentioned about Yassi doing pushups, but there are also other quirkier ones like the guy with a teddy bear mascot’s head, dancing like he’s on TikTok, which is really creepy and amusing at the same time. +3
Have you ever tried entering an escape room that gives you just the right amount of information to get to the next step in order to complete the mission? That was how Dodo Dayao’s writing felt like. You are just given enough clues to want to know more, but you don’t exactly know where the plot is taking you. It’s like walking through a room blindfolded that you just have to trust whoever is holding your hand to take you to the right direction, and this is how Bradley Liew’s direction felt like. The synchronicity of the writing and direction is one of the best things about The Tapes. +5
With a total of 26 points, which is an unusually high total for me, I think it’s pretty obvious that I loved The Tapes immensely. I hope I’ve enticed you enough to stream it without giving you much of a clear mental picture because I’d really rather you experience the thrill of it on your own. Having six episodes of around 25 minutes each, it essentially is a two and a half hour film but it is keenly written as a series with strong cliffhangers at the end of each episode. Watching it was a breeze and you would just have to get to the next episode as soon as you finish one, which is what it was specifically designed for. The finale hints of a next season which I hope would be soon in the works 'cause there is still much I want to know behind the secrets of that cold, dark town. The Tapes is undeniably one of the best horror or thriller flicks that have been produced locally, which is proof that we are more than ready for the global platform.
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Photos courtesy of iWant