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CINEMALAYA 2019 | MOVIE REVIEW: ‘Tabon’ (2019)

Xian Lim’s directorial debut will make you question a lot of things. Here’s my review of Xian Lim’s ‘Tabon’.

Tabon is about a man whose father has just passed away. As he fixes all the plans for his father’s funeral, he starts to unravel the secrets that his father—and his whole family—has hidden from him his whole life.

One thing that I liked the most about the film is the mystery behind what this man’s father really was, and why they’ve decided to keep it from him. Without spoiling anything, it involves some sort of ritual, which maintains its mystery until the very end, but not in a good way. I literally had no idea what was going on even after the film.

There is some merit to Lim’s creative choices. A few scenes stood out for me, mainly because of how weird and how bizarre they’re willing to get. Although when viewed as a bigger picture, it all doesn’t add up. The story is messy, and most of the time, you don’t really know what’s happening on screen. There’s some potential in there, but it’s all muddled by the bad writing.

Christopher Roxas is the lead actor here, but he doesn’t really seem like it. He doesn’t really have a strong screen presence, and his voice doesn’t stand out especially when throwing dialogue with his co-actors. Ynna Asistio isn’t really effective as well, it felt like she was reading her lines from cue cards the whole time. I guess the best performance (and arguably the best scene) in this film would be from Benjie Felipe, in a sequence where he loses control of his mind and takes us on a trippy journey through his thoughts.

I guess it all has to do with the writing and direction. Even the most talented actors ham it up with a lousy script and without the guidance of an excellent director. I guess it’s fine since it’s Xian Lim’s first directorial job, but if it were any other director, this film would be an unforgivable mistake in their career.

The film achieves its dark and mysterious atmosphere, and there’s some great frames to look at, but at this point, it’s just all style and no substance. The film is also peppered with some false jumpscares, accompanied by some pretty loud scoring which is baffling to say the least. It hurt my eardrums more than it actually scared or shocked me. It’s a really annoying aspect of the film, but to be honest, any badly-executed jumpscares can ruin any film.

Tabon isn’t the worst I’ve seen from Cinemalaya, but it’s definitely not the best. There are some commendable creative choices that director Xian Lim makes, but overall, the film fails to enlighten its viewers, and it fails to answer all the questions it opened up throughout the story. If only the film had better writing, and if it focused on the more interesting parts, then we would’ve had a decent film to watch.

My Rating: 5/10

Here’s the full trailer for ‘Tabon’:

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