Aurora Poster

AURORA (2018)

The Philippines have, over the years, produced an incredible number of genre films. Many of these ended up released to the drive-in circuit by companies like Dimension, (the original one), independent international and, of course, New World. Now the drive-ins are gone, and they go straight to video, in the case of Aurora, to Netflix.

The Aurora is or rather was a cruise ship. It crashed into the rocks near a small village with considerable loss of life. As the film opens, the Coast Guard is calling off the search for bodies. This is hard on both those whose relatives bodies haven’t been recovered and on Leana (Anne Curtis, BuyBust). Her inn is failing in no small part because the ship came to rest right in front of it. The searchers staying there were all that was keeping it going. Things look bleak for her and her young sister Rita (Phoebe Villamor)

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Things take a turn for the better when she’s offered a deal by some of the relatives of the still missing passengers. They’ll pay her for recovering any of the bodies that wash up on the shore. She partners with a local fisherman to look for bodies among the rocks off the coast. But any disaster of this magnitude also creates a lot of unquiet spirits. Spirits that are not happy with their watery grave.

Director Yam Laranas is no stranger to this kind of film, his credits include The Echo and Patient X. He’s familiar with the makings of a horror movie. Sadly, what went into making Aurora is familiar as well. Nightmares, whispering voices, half seen apparitions or hallucinations. By the time Rita starts acting oddly, we know exactly what is going on.

The tag line for Aurora is “The dead will find their way home”. The film does try to do something with that in the last act. But rather than be different, it’s confusing and illogical. What could have been an exciting last act falls sadly flat.

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The only novel angle to Aurora is that it involves a shipwreck and lots of underwater activity. But there’s a subplot involving why the tragedy occurred, and how it was covered up. Which brings that into line with standard plotting. And gives the ghosts a reason to be pissed off. It also means we get lots of abysmal CGI. Not only of the wreck, but of the Aurora laying against the rocks. Given this was fairly high budgeted for a local film, the sub-SyFy CGI is inexcusable. Even worse is the fact, it was nominated for “Outstanding Achievement in Visual Effects” at this year’s FAMAS (Filipino Academy of Movie Arts and Sciences) awards.

Well-intentioned but ultimately dull and derivative Aurora can be skipped. If you’re in the mood for horror made in Manila, you’re better off with the Blood Island Trilogy.

Aurora is available on Netflix. You can check for other release plans on the film’s Facebook page.

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