TIKTIK: THE ASWANG CHRONICLES is a Filipino monster movie I came across on the medium of digital video disc. The box also calls it THE MONSTER CHRONICLES: TIKTIK. I had to watch it because I noticed it was written and directed by Erik Matti, whose 2018 action movie BUYBUST I loved (it’s the closest thing to a “Filipino THE RAID” that I know of) and then I watched his excellent crime drama ON THE JOB (2013).
TIKTIK came out the year before ON THE JOB, but it was well into Matti’s career – looks like it’s his twelfth film. Though it’s not nearly as broad, it reminds me a little of some of the Hong Kong horror comedies I’ve seen, because it’s about a relationship problem and a family and then a bunch of monster shit happens at the same time.
Makoy (Dingdong Dantes) is a cocky young man from Manila who comes to the boonies of Pulupandan wearing sunglasses, smoking cigarettes, talking abrasively, offending everybody. He came to try to make up with his pregnant girlfriend Sonia (Lovi Poe) after a fight. She went to stay with her parents, who he’s never met, and when he shows up Sonia’s mother Fely (Janice de Belen) hits him with a pan and chases him off. But he later runs into her father, Nestor (Joey Marquez, ON THE JOB), who is more welcoming and brings him along to buy a pig to roast for Sonia’s birthday party the next day.
A family friend named Bart (Ramon Bautista, DEATH OF NINTENDO) brings them out to an even more rural place to buy a pig from his cousin Ringo (Mike Gayoso), where they’re accosted by unruly teens and then Makoy fucks up the bartering and they start to leave empty-handed. The teens stop them and sell them a cheaper one. Hmm. Suspicious.
I like the relationship between Nestor and Makoy. Nestor tries to make peace, worried about his daughter raising a kid alone, and having sympathy for Nestor. He blows up at Fely for calling him “Macky” instead of learning his actual name. I bet he was treated similarly by her mom and is still pissed about it. At night Nestor, Makoy and Bart drink and play guitar and sing on the porch, but Sonia comes down and tells him to leave.
Lucky thing he doesn’t, because the pig transforms into Ringo’s son Kulot, leaps naked up the stairs and extends a long, frog-like tongue to lick Sonia’s belly. Nestor made the mistake of mentioning a grandchild might be born, so that pig they bought is an aswang – the name for different types of monsters in Filipino folklore (including vampires and shapeshifters) – and these ones like to eat babies. Makoy disembowels him with a giant fork.
It’s a siege movie. Ringo and Kulot’s teen friends are all Tiktik (a type of aswang) and they gather outside, transforming into beasts, running around on all fours, wanting the baby. The conflict escalates first when Ringo finds out they killed his son and brings an army of adult Tiktiks demanding the unborn baby as payment, then when Ringo’s dad Tatang (Roi Vinzon) arrives and punches through Ringo to pull his liver out. “I apologize for the stupidity of my son and grandchildren,” he says. “But I regret to say that after this I cannot let you live. We are all tired of moving from one town to another.” (They’re like NIGHTBREED.)
The family have on hand an enormous amount of garlic and salt, which they pour all around the edges of the house to burn the skin of unwelcome aswang. For a while it’s a story about the awkwardness of being at the girlfriends’ parents’ house while in the dog house. They have monsters to fight but nobody will give Makoy anything to do. Makoy keeps accusing Bart of being an aswang like his cousin, but of course they’re forced to fight side by side and end up earning each others’ respect.
There’s quite a bit of action: lots of wire work for the aswang leaping and trotting on all fours, a big aswang-vs.-car chase, a part where Makoy chops off a lady aswang’s arms and lower body and throws her torso against the wall and Sonia unloads a machine gun into her.
There’s a sense of humor to it – during the climax a kid named Abel (Jan Harley Licana) kills dozens of monsters by shooting garlicky snacks through a blowgun – but also it’s not fucking around. There’s some heavy tragedy, so the fuckup-making-good-with-his-girlfriend’s-family part stops being as cutesy; they say this never would’ve happened if he hadn’t gotten Sonia pregnant, but also you gotta figure he could’ve just not made her mad enough to go home to her parents, or he could’ve avoided making enemies while out trying to buy a pig. Too late, though, he did all of those things, so the happiest possible ending is for him to accept responsibility and try to do better. He has created a situation where nice guy Nestor gets so upset he runs outside and eats aswang liver as a threat. But I definitely think the grossest part is when a CG crow’s head pokes out of Tatang’s mouth, coughs a bunch of phlegm into his hands, and then the other aswang crawl to him and lick it up.
Some of you rock ‘n rollers may enjoy that there are a bunch of metal songs on the soundtrack, including at least one with a blazing guitar solo. And kinda in that same spirit, in my opinion, it’s full of flashy digital monster FX that are chintzy compared to Hollywood movies. The drool-drinkers transform into animated beasts that don’t look that much more real than the CG creatures in the original MORTAL KOMBAT. But there’s something kinda charming about how crude they look. Sometimes the way they move makes me think of home made claymation.
Also they did better with the climactic bat demon guy. He kinda reminded me of DEVILMAN.
One thing that really impressed me about the movie: I’m pretty sure it was filmed on a soundstage. The military checkpoint really looked like there was a huge backdrop for the sky, and same with the house. If so it’s a hell of a set. It makes sense if you’ve seen BUYBUST, which has a whole favela-like slum built on a soundstage so that they can run around on the roofs and battle. It’s funny, we’re all so sick of green screen backgrounds but this type of artificiality I love. Look at these babies! They’re beautiful!
TIKTIK’s mix of horror, comedy and action is too unwieldy to quite be a great movie, but I really enjoyed its particular mix of qualities and the novelty of its cultural specificity. I encourage you to check it out if you can, but you’d probly have to find an import DVD. I’m also not sure when I’ll be able to get ahold of the 2014 sequel KUBOT: THE ASWANG CHRONICLES 2, with the same characters encountering a different type of aswang the following night. But hey, it’s nice to know there are plenty of interesting movies and directors and monsters out there in the night waiting for me to bump into them some day.