Aswang is a horrifying tale of intrigue, filled with malevolent creatures mired in mystery and shadow. A tale as old as time, with wisps of nostalgic horror of the unknown throughout. Nah, I’m just screwing with you, it’s nothing like the above description. However, it isn’t as bad as I thought it would be. This is a movie of moments. It has moments of goodness, but then falls down on it’s face like a double amputee in a sack race. Before we get into the movie itself, let’s have a little talk about the Aswang.
I had never heard of an Aswang before this movie. I had no clue what one was. Luckily for me before the opening credits the movie gives us the definition. Per the definition we learn that an Aswang is a Filipino Witch that feasts on the unborn fetus of pregnant women. Ok, now we at least have an idea of what to expect from this movie. However, later in the movie, there is a professor who comes upon the home of the Aswang’s (cue the 50′s theme music). He goes home and looks through his encyclopedia and the movie gives us a close-up of the definition. I was just starting to say “we know, it’s a Filipino wit..” when out of the blue the encyclopedia gives us the definition that an Aswang is a Filipino vampire that feasts on the unborn fetus of pregnant women. What? Now, I know a lot about monsters and from that knowledge I can glean that Witches have a subtle difference from Vampires. Why is this movie lying to us and to what purpose? I decided that I had to do some extensive research into the mystery of the Aswang. After looking at Wikipedia for 3 minutes, the plot thickened like a three day old gumbo in the Louisiana sunshine. From what I learned I think that Aswang must be a Genus (definitely not a genius). According to Wikipedia and legend, what the Aswang is includes the following but not limited to: a vampire, a witch, a ghoul, a tik-tik, a Mananangal, a shapeshifter, and a werewolf. Holy shit! This is either the most frightening or most retarded looking creature ever. Here’s a picture I drew of what the Aswang must look like.
In the movie, they look just like people but with dirty contacts and a long proboscis that looks like a garden hose spray painted red. What’s even more interesting than what the Aswang is, is what you can do to ward it off. You can carry a red bag full of ginger and gold coins (which I do anyway) and this prevents them from coming near you or lifting you up. You can also ward them off with stingray tails (done and done), sterling silver swords, and pictures of old women. Yeah, you read that right, if you are a good grandchild, and carry a picture of your beloved grandma, show it to the Aswang, and it will find it so hideous that it must run home and fill it’s eyes with paprika to wash the sight of the elderly away into a red haze of spice. To find out if a person is an Aswang, it tells you to bend over and put your head between your legs and it will be revealed. This just seems to be begging for trouble. If this thing has a huge tongue about 20 feet long, the last thing I want to do is bend over in front of one of these sons of bitches. I saved the best for last and I am seriously NOT making this up. Another thing to do to combat the Aswang Wikipedia tells us is: “Throwing semen at aswang is also said to irritate them.” Really? No kidding? I?m pretty sure that I’m not an Aswang but I can guarantee you that if someone threw semen at me I’d be pretty irritated. I think this probably goes for just about every sentient being on the planet. Could you imagine being chased through the woods, taking the time to procure this substance, and then turning to face the beast, whipping you hand towards it, and yelling into the night “Put this in your pipe and smoke it you undead bastard!” And if you were the Aswang, how could you possibly react to that? “Rraaarrrr…ew what the hell is this? Is this semen? what the fuck! Did you just throw semen at me? Why would you do that? That’s so uncool man!” or something to that effect. I guess having a pet monkey could come in handy if you ever decide to take a trip to the Philippines.
I’d like to stop for a minute and just say that I want to add to the zeitgeist another euphemism for masturbation. We’ll just call it “irritating the aswang”. I figure it could be used in situations like this:
Mother: Billy you’ve been in the bathroom for an hour now, what are you doing in there?
Billy: I’m just irritating the aswang!
Mother: Oh, my son is so brave for fighting off that vampire-witch-ghoul-tik-tik- Mananangal- shapeshifter-werewolf!
Billy: Shut up you old hag you aren’t my real mom!
On to the movie. It opens with a girl making the decision to give her baby up for adoption. She’s still pregnant at the time and goes to meet an attorney and the adoptive parents, a brother and sister (ew). They make a deal that she will go to the families house, pretend to be the man’s wife for a couple days, then give birth and go about her business. So it’s like Juno except with better dialogue and more Aswangs. On the ride to the family home, we find out the family’s name is Null and they own the biggest apple orchard this side of the Rockies. The location scout didn’t do the best job, because I only counted two apple trees on their land, and the apples were dying. Peter Null gives rules about the trip and tells the girl “Don’t forget, you are always Katherine, forever.” Could this be foreshadowing? Yes, is the answer to that riddle. Before they get to the house, the movie cuts to Professor Plum (he looks just like Plum with the glasses and jacket and all so that’s how we’ll refer to him) walking through the woods with his dog. I think they are looking for truffles, because what else to Professor’s and dogs do in the woods alone? Don’t answer that. The dog starts barking and Prof. Plum uncovers a baby’s skull. These woods must be swarming with Aswangs!
They get to the house, and it’s a mansion. I mean this place is huge, but it’s filled with chickens. The location scout also screwed up here. Sometimes you see the back of the house and there is an old run down guest house (they spent too much on the mansion) and sometimes it’s the ocean behind the house. All surrounded by woods and orchards. Location, location, location. We find out that they have a challenged sister who lives in the shack: very progressive of them. We get introduced to Peter’s mom, an old woman (she’s really an Aswang, so I guess she can’t look at herself in the mirror because it scares her) who is mostly sucking on an oxygen mask the whole movie, and we meet the maid; Cupid. Note to screenwriters: if you want to break tension easily in a movie, try having someone named Cupid in your movie. This will end any suspense you try to build when you invoke that characters name. Example: “The time has come for you to know the cold clutches of death; Cupid”. The girl, Kat as they call her from here on in, must be pretty naïve not to see the signs of trouble coming. At dinner the first night, Cupid listens to her belly and says “the baby is just ripe!” Sign number one. I know these people deal with fruit on a daily basis, but you don’t refer to unborn children this way. Then they get her to drink copious amounts of spiked Apple Cider (Cupid made it herself). Sign number two. Everyone gets pissed at her because she gets drunk and wants to dance so they ship her off to bed, where she has a surreal dream ( this is a cool moment). The next day Professor Plum makes his way past the house, where Peter flips out on him, but then invites him to dinner (don’t do it Plum!) which he eagerly accepts (dumbass).
At dinner, things are kind of strange. Plum goes on to talk about the food and how it’s very exotic. They are having chicken. The men adjourn to the study (Clue number 1) and Peter shows him his extensive art collection of 3 paintings. One of these, being a picture of an Aswang. Plum goes home, finds his dog wrapped up in a web (so I guess aswangs are spiders as well) and gets overtaken by the garden hose tongue. Back at the mansion, we get our first glimpse of the mother Aswang. Her tongue must have a GPS device in it because it goes down stairs and into the room to try to get at Kat’s baby. She stops it just in time by shutting the window on it (wait, didn’t it come from upstairs?) and we cut to the mother dangling from the ground by the tongue. Peter cuts off the tongue and rushes her inside. So naturally, Kat decides that it’s time to go check out the shack. She finds Plum in there, barely alive and he tries to warn her to get out. But she doesn’t go and ends up finding the sister, who comes at her with a chainsaw. Kat fights back with what turns out to be the world’s strongest garden hoe. She swings it at the sister with all the energy of a newborn but somehow is able to lodge the hoe 4 inches into the woman?s forehead. Kat is able to escape but ends up getting brought back to the house by a drunk-driving police officer. He only serves the purpose to get killed.
The rest of the movie is made up of the family trying to get the mother to feed on the baby. They chain Kat up but she escapes by cutting off her own hand and then hiding. But alas, they find her again (bet she wishes she didn’t cut her hand off now as she sucks at hide and seek). The mother dies before she can feed, so Peter just wants to kill her and asks Cupid to do it for him. But just in the nick of time we see a tongue come out of Kat’s dress. Baby Aswang! How and when did this happen? So Cupid, in a moment of heroics, kills Peter. This doesn’t make any sense because she’s obviously been helping these people do this for years and now for no reason she has a change of heart? The next scene shows us a graveyard full of Katherines (foreshadowing came true!) so we are lead to believe that this Kat died too because we don’t see her again. There is a small epilogue that shows Cupid and the Babyswang praying together, then her eyes open, dirty contacts! Like we didn’t know she was an Aswang or something. This scene must be for those tuning into the last 35 seconds of the movie.
So that’s Aswang. Like I said in the beginning, it’s really not that horrible. It is really grainy so it looks kind of like a movie from the 70?s and it has a few scenes that actually build some tension. The movie is a little freaky up until you see the Aswangs, then it just gets kind of cheesy. It also kind of spits in the face of the legend because it clearly states that these are Filipino creatures, but the only Aswangs in the movie are white rich people. We didn’t land on Aswang Rock, Aswang Rock landed on us! I guess the message in this movie is don’t put your child up for adoption or else it will turn into some weird amalgamation of urban legends, and also to give me an excuse to use the word ‘Aswang’ about one hundred times.