By LORRAINE C. SUAREZ
THE SEA is a haven for lost things. Beneath its cerulean depths is a collection of tragic narratives: abandoned shipwrecks, aimlessly drifting cargo, and wayward souls. It has stories to tell, and it travels in the form of listless waves that come to life upon reaching the shore.
Misfortune seems to reign in the life of Leana (Anne Curtis) after an accident claims the lives of both her parents. The task of managing her family’s business, as well as taking care of her younger sibling Rita (Phoebe Villamor), falls into her hands. On her own, she tends to her sister and presides over their run-down inn by the seaside. Her circumstances are only worsened by the sinking of the passenger ship Aurora, the aftermath of which leaves her business stagnating even more and forces her to find other means of supporting herself and her sister.
An opportunity arrives in the form of bereaved relatives mourning the loss of their loved ones who were on the ship. Stricken with despair due to the coast guard calling off the search operation, they offer Leana a hefty amount for every corpse she finds from the shipwreck. With no other way out, Leana hesitantly accepts, triggering a chain of paranormal events.
From the director of horror movies such as The Road and Sigaw, Yam Laranas’ Aurora is an official entry to Metro Manila Film Festival 2018. Through captivating visuals, Laranas’ film features a bleak atmosphere captured in wide aerial shots of the sea along with a color scheme of depressing shades. With its gloomy aesthetic, the film highlights a dismal and solitary feeling further enhanced by an eerie orchestral soundtrack.
However, when it comes to the storyline, the film does not exhibit the same quality it did with the visuals. The film did a splendid job of fleshing out the protagonist in the earlier parts. Leana’s personality is established as one full of desperation and determination to survive, and these traits are what exactly push the premise of the story—a premise that was left widely unexplored due to her halted development in the latter part. Rather than fleshing out Leana by delving deep into her flaws and morality, the film chooses to cage her into a two-dimensional role by illustrating her as a goody two shoes, a quality that contrasted starkly with the earlier portrayal of her motivations. This decision is done in favor of advancing the supernatural elements of the plot—elements which are inserted far too late.
As the movie progresses and nears its climax, its message gets drowned in the sea of bad CGI effects, choppy transitions, unforeseen side character developments, and an underdeveloped protagonist. Its main point is lost due to the constantly shifting focus: first, on the ethical struggles of Leana’s character, then on to the expansion of paranormal aspects, and lastly, onto a hastily-inserted side plot that criticized the workings of big business capitalism. Aurora seems to yearn for multiple valid points, but instead, all it produced was an incoherent narrative.
In the end, the film squanders its potential by following the formula of mainstream horrors. What could have been a psychological horror filled with depth and relevance turned out to be just a cheesy mess. Much like the ship’s victims, Aurora’s chance to stand out among other local horrors has now sunken into the unfathomable bounds of the sea. F