ShakeRattleRollHere it is, the 1984 three-parter that launched the phenomenally popular—in its native Philippines, at least—SHAKE, RATTLE & ROLL film series.

This film, like its follow-ups, is a compilation of three standalone shorts, each with a different writer and director, rather than a proper anthology horror film a la DEAD OF NIGHT or CREEPSHOW. As of mid-2011 the SHAKE RATTLE & ROLL series has a dozen entries, with part twelve appearing in 2010. Oddly enough, the first of these films, whose success kicked off the series (and so seems destined to be known as SHAKE RATTLE & ROLL 1), is the only one of them that has never been released on VCD or DVD.

“Baso” starts things off. In it several young twerps fooling around with a Ouija board inadvertently summon up a dark force. It causes some recently buried corpses to become reanimated just as one of the twerps is marrying his sweetheart, with the lovebirds attacked by a rotting zombie on their wedding night. More zombie insanity occurs until the non-zombified humans inevitably turn on each other.

In “Pridyider” a woman and her daughter move into a new house and get quite a scare: a dead animal awaits them in the refrigerator! This is just the start of a ruthless campaign of harassment by the malevolent refrigerator, which tends to emit unearthly moans and growls. One day its door unexpectedly bursts open to knock a young woman across the kitchen—and then repeatedly slam shut on her head! The daughter is drawn to the refrigerator one night and, after getting off on the feel of the refrigerator’s mist on skin, is literally sucked into the thing. Not to worry, though, because the girl’s mom figures out how to stop the fridge’s reign of terror: unplug it!

The final segment is “Manananggal.” The setting is a forest during the Christmas holidays. A young man wanders the area with his guitar, hoping to serenade a local maiden. She’s cool to him, and the following evening he discovers why: she’s a manananggal, whose torso detaches from her legs each night. The winged demoness spends the remainder of the night terrorizing the guy and his family in their house. The guy has poured salt in the still-standing bottom half of the gal’s body so her torso can’t return to it, but his family will have to endure her harassment throughout the rest of the night…

The first of SHAKE, RATTLE & ROLL’S segments, Emmanuel Borlaza’s “Baso,” flat-out sucks. It’s slow moving and talky, with the horror elements outweighed by a sappy romantic triangle upon which Borlaza lavishes far too much screen time. As for the zombie madness of the final scenes, it’s accomplished with very little flair or inspiration.

“Pridyider” (meaning Frigidaire) is a far stronger segment. The director was Ishmael Bernal, widely acclaimed as the Philippines’ top filmmaker, who demonstrates an admirable command of the medium. The narrative, concerning a haunted refrigerator, is total nonsense, but Bernal’s masterly use of wide shots and innovative sound design make for a memorable experience. My only complaint is with the annoying attempt at tacking on a rational explanation for the whole thing, via the intervention of some cops investigating a murder.

Finally we have the Peque Gallaga directed “Manananggal,” inspired by a fascinating creature from South Asian folklore: a woman whose torso sprouts large flapping wings and literally flies off, leaving the bottom half of its body behind. Extremely bare-bones in concept, the segment contains an overabundance of padding, most notably a daytime sojourn the protagonist has with the actors of a passion play (seemingly intended to inject a note of Catholicism into an otherwise mythological based account). The monster woman’s transformation also leaves much to be desired, utilizing too much discordant editing and primitive animation. The remainder of “Manananggal,” however, is a richly atmospheric joyride as the protagonist desperately tries to protect his family from the flying beastie.

Vital Statistics

Athena Productions

Directors: Ishmael Bernal, Emmanuel H. Borlaza, Peque Gallaga
Producer: Ivo C. Quijano, Mark C. Quijano, Dante G. Virata
Screenplay: Jose N. Carreon, Amado Lacuesta, Uro Q. dela Cruz
Cinematography: Ely R. Cruz
Editing: Jess Navarro
Cast: Charito Solis, Herbert Bautista, William Martinez, Janice de Belan, Rey “PJ” Abellana, Joel Torre, Irma Alagre, Emily Loren, Arlene Muhlach, Mon Alvir, Peewee Quijano, Lito Gruet, Rosmarie Gil, Mary Walter, Tony Carreon