Wednesday, May 11, 2022

Census Bloodbath: Tagalong

Year: 1984
Director: Ben Yalung
Cast: Ace Vergel, Snooky Serna, Liza Lorena
Run Time: 1 hour 58 minutes

Plot: Basag ang pula follows Fernando (Ace Vergel), a murderous maniac who poses as a bus driver to escape from the cops and ends up driving the graduating class of a girls' school to a secluded vacation spot. Of course he can't help but murder quite a few of them once they get there, and he is particularly obsessed with the bemulleted Chiqui (Snooky Serna).

Analysis: A note: The only way this film was accessible to me was in unsubtitled Tagalog, so there are certainly nuances I may have missed. However, it's a particularly straightforward plot.

Basag ang pula is a curiously unfocused movie. If it has merely stuck with the idea of "maniac bus driver offs students," it would have been totally palatable, even with its roster of kills that mostly just involve the killer brandishing a knife and the victim going "oof" without any gore to speak of or maybe a smear of red. Especially considering the fact that there are approximately 80 students running around this movie, chittering nonstop, it could have been a gonzo good time if he just worked off that platter of Meat over the course of a night. However, the film keeps getting distracted and eventually lands on a third act siege out of First Blood that is much less exciting to witness than the slasher movie that precedes it.

However, the slasher itself isn't half bad. There are wholly decent suspense sequences scattered throughout, including a "killer has the keys and the victim inside the car" scene that isn't quite up to the level of Scream's corresponding scene but doesn't shame itself by being in the same sentence with it. There's also a good "backseat killer" sequence and a dreamlike setpiece where trees are drenched in fog and purplish moonlight that is quite something to behold.

I also really like the way the score incorporates the tune of "London Bridge" after it is first introduced to the film dietetically, which ties in with the film's interest in presenting a Silent Night, Deadly Night-esque exploration of the killer's childhood and about how sex and violence can get mixed up in an impressionable psyche.

However, the film's strong elements, however robust and surprising, aren't quite enough to overpower the general anemic quality of the filmmaking in general. The exterior night scenes are too darkly lit to parse out much of the action, and while it moves more quickly than a two hour film otherwise might, there are long lulls where it becomes clear that none of the schoolgirls are going to emerge as actual characters worth following. And despite the film's reasonably high body count, too many of them survive to justify including so goddamn many of them in the film at once.

Killer: Fernando (Ace Vergel)
Final Girl: Chiqui (Snooky Serna), even though the movie forgets about her
Best Kill: In true Jason Voorhees style, Fernando appears to slit a woman's throat with the non-sharp side of the knife blade.
Sign of the Times: Chiqui's mullet is so thick and lustrous it looks like the tail of a seal.
Scariest Moment: Fernando menaces a woman who is locked inside a car by rubbing his lips all over the car window, leaving a slimy trail of saliva.
Weirdest Moment: Bored, Fernando builds a sand castle on the beach while the girls swim.
Champion Dialogue: N/A
Body Count: 15; not including a woman who is presumably killed offscreen early on because she's not where we saw her last when the cops show up.
  1. Car Man is beheaded offscreen.
  2. Makeout Boy is stabbed in the gut.
  3. Bus Driver is stabbed in the chest.
  4. Teacher has her throat slit.
  5. Temptress is stabbed.
  6. Rainstorm Girl is stabbed.
  7. Red Cap Boy is stabbed.
  8. Headmistress is stabbed.
  9. Caretaker is stabbed.
  10. Pigtail Girl is stabbed in the gut.
  11. Cop is stabbed in the back.
  12. Cop #2 is stabbed.
  13. Sharpshooter is shot.
  14. Rope Climber is shot.
  15. Fernando dies in a bus crash after being shot a lot.
TL;DR: Basag ang pula is intermittently speckled with solid suspense sequences, but it's overlong, underlit, and too busy to focus on very much.
Rating: 4/10
Word Count: 711


  1. A bad two hour slasher movie (really? two hours? like, actually?) in a foreign language? You poor devil. But, man, your commitment is acknowledged.

    Reminds me I should watch First Blood someday.

    1. Nevermind, hour 58, says so right there. Wow.

    2. Never doubt my commitment to sparkle motion! And yeah, I expect that kind of runtime from the Bollywood slasher movies I do, but the Philippines really did me dirty.