A few months ago, I reviewed Acacia Motel, a film about a Filipino demon that has taken up residence in the USA. Now following in its footsteps comes Evil Takes Root: The Curse of the Batibat. Actually, given the number of Filipinos in the US and Canada it’s surprising we haven’t seen more North American films involving creatures from their folklore. It certainly has enough odd and interesting creatures in it. But apart from the 1994 film Aswang about a fetus eating vampire, I can’t think of any others.
Evil Takes Root is the first film I’ve seen that opens with the lead character flagellating himself. Indeed, Felix (Nicholas Gonzalez, The Purge: Anarchy, Anacondas: The Hunt for the Blood Orchid) is so intent on purging his sins he fails to answer a call from his ex Amanda who shortly after meets a nasty end. Following up on her voicemail Felix heads to her hometown only to be attacked by her husband Dr. Noles (Sean Carrigan, 13 Cameras). That’s understandable as they were married when she got with Felix.
However, Amanda’s daughter Sarah (Stevie Lynn Jones, Nancy Drew) is acting very strange. like she isn’t herself anymore. As is Christina (Reagan Belhorn), Father Weller’s (Thomas Downey, Bethany, Dolls) daughter. It seems a Batibat followed Amanda back from the Philippines. And Felix is the only one who has a chance of stopping it.
Director Chris W. Freeman (Sorority Party Massacre, Rivers 9) and co-writer Aaron Mack get Evil Takes Root off to a good start. We know something supernatural happened to Amanda, but we don’t know what. There are several well-shot hallucination scenes as the demon begins to flex its powers. There’s also a scene where the possessed Sarah walks through the rain in only a soaked nightgown that straddles a line between scary and sexy. And as the strange events, and a couple of bodies, pile up the mystery pulled me in.
Unfortunately, once they got me pulled in, they couldn’t keep me there. The film quickly becomes a rather generic horror story. It doesn’t really use any of the actual lore of the Batibat. Although since it usually takes the human form of a naked woman who is both ugly and obese that may be a good thing. A naked Roseanne demon would be taking horror too far.
Instead, it becomes a generic demon. It does possess several women, some of whom get naked, but they’re all typical Hollywood hot type actresses. It all leads to an exorcism of underwhelming proportions rather than any rituals from its native land. Given how overwhelmingly Catholic Filipinos have become, that probably shouldn’t have surprised me though.
Infuriatingly bland where it could have been something interesting Evil Takes Root is another case of wasted potential. if you’re going to import an evil spirit from another culture take advantage of its strange abilities not just its strange name.
Mill Creek has released Evil Takes Root: The Curse of the Batibat on DVD and Digital. You can check the film’s website and Facebook page for more information.