“Tiktik: The Aswang Chronicles” (2012) Will Leave You Clamoring For More Dingdong

Directed by Erik Matti

Synopsis
Impudent, cocksure Makoy (Filipino heartthrob Dingdong “Yeah, That’s His Name” Dantes) rides a motorized tricycle from Manila to his pregnant ex-girlfriend Sonia (Lovi Poe, in at least her second Aswang movie)’s parents’ house in the sticks of Pulupandan to apologize for a falling out (it’s mentioned that porcelain was smashed; I assume dishes were thrown). Sonia’s mother answers the door. “Go on, fuck off, you ass.” she admonishes. Sonia comes to the door and gives her repentant babydaddy the what-for as well. “I can the child raise without you.” she states. “You’re such an asshole.” Makoy begs her to return home with him.

She refuses.

Tiktik 2

Flag The Philippines

Frustrated, Makoy walks off to buy Mighty brand cigarettes (an obvious sponsor, one of many) from a conveniently stationed kiosk. “[Sonia] is the first woman here with a university degree.” the saleswoman explains to him. “That is the reason why Fely, her mother, she guards like an egg.”

Makoy heads back to the house where Sonia’s other parent, Nestor, is unloading goods from his car in the driveway. The two introduce themselves. I wouldn’t say they hit it off, per se, but exhibit a mutual, unspoken understanding. Makoy volunteers to buy a pig for the family for grilling in celebration of Sonia’s pregnancy, and the pair departs. Their quest leads them to an unfamiliar end of the town. There, a gaggle of smartass kids assembles before Nestor’s car, blocking access to the road. Makoy honks the horn a lot. The kids proceed to lip off, and flash sinister looks, even more sinister when it’s noted that Sonia has a bun in her oven. The father of the punk youths appears and deescalates the situation, allowing Makoy and his papi-in-law to haggle the brats down to a fair price and make off with a pig.

On their way back home, the twosome retrieves Nestor’s closeted-but-not-very-well (he wears bright red lipstick) servant type Bart from the town market. Upon arrival, everyone sits down to dinner. Sonia and her mother trash talk Makoy some more, questioning his motives, calling him Mickey Mouse, then retire to their rooms, claiming they’ve lost their appetites because oh my god he’s so fucking horrible, leaving the men to get merry with drink on the porch as the sun sets. Sonia finds them. She ain’t havin’ none of it. Miffed and surprised that her babdydaddy is still hangin’ around, she demands he get lost for a final time. Makoy looks to be leaving moments later, but stops in his tracks at the sight of the night sky above forebodingly swelling with storm clouds. Sonia’s father perks up, a look of alarm on his face. “Makoy, the Aswang. I feel her.” he states. “They are already close. Surely they are close.” Apparently, Aswang attacks are a fairly common occurrence here. So the menfolk hurry inside. Meanwhile, the piglet they leashed up in the kitchen is shapeshifting into a human, steam rising from its naked, writhing body.

Following a painful looking transformation, the Trojan pig-person stealthily slow-motion jaguar bounds into Sonia’s bedroom, where she lay sleeping. It hikes her dress up to her stomach and moves in with a long, slobbery tongue. Sonia wakes up. As any woman would do, she screams. Makoy rushes in with a comically big fork and impales the creature. Its innards get wrapped up on the tines like spaghetti (below). Sweetness.

Tiktik 6

The shady kids and their dad that our heroes bought the pig from in the first place are then shown emerging from the darkness surrounding the house. They’ve come for Sonia’s baby.

To make matters worse, the leader of these shapeshifting Aswangs arrives some time later with reinforcements. A jet-black bird emerges from his mouth like a Xenomorph’s inner pharyngeal jaw, regurgitating a bloody, yolky substance into his cupped hands. The other Aswangs drink from this substance and morph into quadruped werewolf creatures. This is when shit gets intense. Will the Sonias be able to fend these beasts off and protect their home in traditional Night of the Living Dead style?

One relative of the Aswang, the Krasue (or Ahp) is described as a woman's head and entrails that floats around at night in search of dead cattle to exsanguinate.

One relative of the Aswang, the Krasue, Leyak, or Ahp, is described as a young woman’s head and dangling entrails that float around at night in search of babies and dead cattle to exsanguinate.

What are Aswangs, Anyway?
Aswangs (the first “a” is short, ex: apple, the second “a” is pronounced like an “o”) are inherently evil creatures of Filipino folklore believed to exist by as many as eighty-seven percent of their home country’s inhabitants. Beyond that, it’s difficult to say. Conceptions of these creatures have changed over time due to colonization, religious influence, the nature of oral tradition, amalgamation with liberties taken in popular fiction, and confusion with similar Filipino folk-creatures including the Tiktik, Wakwak, and Manananggal (though it’s also arguable these three are just regional variations of each other and the beast in question). As such, descriptions are especially pliable, ranging greatly from region to region and person to person. Despite this, a few common threads can be found. Aswangs are most generally thought of as shapeshifting people eaters with long, proboscis-like tongues. They share characteristics with vampires (their aversion to garlic and religious symbolism, for example), werewolves, witches, ghouls, and the so-called “viscera suckers” of Southeast Asia, like Thailand’s Krasue (above right). They live normal lives in the daytime, and transform into any number of animals at night, most often dogs, humanoid wolves, and large boars. They sustain themselves by consuming human flesh, whether it be in the form of extracted hearts and livers, young children, the sick, or unborn fetuses slurped from expectant mothers’ wombs. Their presence is said to be signaled by repetitive tik-tik, ek-ek, wak-wak, or sok-sok noises. Bottled coconut oil will boil when they’re near. Garlic, onion, salt, ginger, crosses, holy water, the Lord’s Prayer, gold, silver, bronze, needles with broken eyes, ash, incense, large crustaceans, sawfish snouts, stingray tails, fire, the smell of burning, and sunlight can all be used to repel them. Their powers are linked with small, black chicks that inhabit their bodies. Kill the chick and you kill the Aswang (major source: The Aswang Phenomenon (Documentary, 2011)).

Review (SPOILERS)
Tiktik: the Aswang Chronicles is faithful enough to this source lore, incorporating a majority of these beliefs into its narrative — though it also makes certain things up for dramatic effect, like its titular creatures being “blazingly fast” enough to keep up with cars, and the way they disintegrate into embers when killed, like the vampires from Blade.

Tiktik is a major Filipino production reportedly filmed entirely on green screens using the post-production color separation technique most commonly (and fittingly) referred to as “green screening”. It’s visually fast-paced, and will keep your attention in this respect, boasting an overall stylish execution, slick cinematography, and frequent split screening — I’m not sure if the film’s editors were referencing Brian De Palma, something more recent like 24, or if they just liked the technique, but it works really well here.

Having been filmed entirely on green screens, this one’s packed to the gills with CGI (computer generated imagery), which conspicuously gets worse as the movie wears on, as if its animators ran out of time, or stopped giving fucks. While most of these graphics range from aesthetically pleasing (the comic-style intro, backgrounds and scenery) to serviceable (various objects, etc.), the were-creature and Super Boss Form Aswang animations toward the end are especially poorly rendered and rigid, like jerky stop-motion. Are we sure this wasn’t produced by the Syfy channel? For what it’s worth, I’ve read these effects were rushed so the film could be entered in Filipino film festivals, and are being retooled for international release. Crosses fingers for Region 1-or-free DVDs.

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True, Tikitik mightn’t include the best, or even competent, creature effects, but it’s far from a dud. Its saving grace is threefold — 1) its foreign novelty, something it simply possesses by default when held alongside the comparatively vanilla Western horror films I’ve become accustomed to for the last twenty-some years, 2) its sense of humor, which translates well between cultures, and is even helped along by an hour forty’s worth of nosebleed causing subtitles, and 3) Dingdong Dantes as Makoy, whose courage bordering cockiness in the face of almost certain death is the best kind of unlikely heroism. Cheer him on as he goes from an angsty pretty boy to a badass, buntot pagi (stingray tail whip) cracking one-man Aswang killing army.

Tiktik’s story is, well, present (if extremely by-the-numbers and played-out) exploring the interpersonal relationships between these characters, the lengths to which friendship and family loyalty can be tested, maturity, responsibly — “men doing what men are supposed to do”, to paraphrase Twitchfilm’s review — but takes a back seat to everything else that I’ve mentioned. The movie, in short, is an action-fest, sometimes to the point of parody, overflowing with dodgy, CGI creature effects, Molotov cocktail explosions, and low-gravity, harness-assisted Matrix maneuvers, broken up with humorous moments, that culminates in a slow-motion melee set to an 80s-sounding, foreign-language heavy metal song. Aswang as you go into this thing knowing The Philippines at its best still ain’t Hollywood, and don’t expect more than a fun, direct-to-video-quality creature feature, you’ll enjoy it. Recommended.

A Few Questions
•Uh, what? Below is an actual subtitle.
Tiktik 1
 
 
 
The Verdict
I’m normally not big on movies that rely this heavily on CG animation, though I have to admit, I had a blast with The Aswang Chronicles. Check it out, it’s on YouTube (link above). Note: the upload contains lots of pop-ups and watermarks. I’ve blacked out the watermarks in my screen shots.

Recommendations
the sequel: Kubot: The Aswang Chronicles 2 (2014)
Flying Monkeys (2013)

Horny House of Horror Butt Rating: Two Butts
Butt Scale 2

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3 Responses to ““Tiktik: The Aswang Chronicles” (2012) Will Leave You Clamoring For More Dingdong”

  1. How did I miss this review? Bitchin’, with an apostrophe, is the only appropriate response. I have to see this.

    Liked by 1 person

two cents here

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