Movie review: Bela Padilla a perfect fit for 'Spellbound'

Fred Hawson, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Feb 05 2023 01:00 PM

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Magician Victor (Marco Gumabao) performed to sold-out audiences with his unique magic show which incorporated horror elements. One of his employees was Yuri (Bela Padilla), a glum girl who kept to herself and never joined in any of their company dinners. One day, when Victor went to check on Yuri in her house after an interrupted phone call, he realized that she can see ghosts who follow her around, either to ask for her help or to simply harass her.

After the commercial success of Filipino versions of hit Korean films like "Miracle in Cell No. 7," "Miss Granny," and "A Hard Day," Viva Films goes on to adapt yet another one. The original "Spellbound" was released in 2011 written and directed by Hwang In-ho (his directorial debut), one of the Top 10 box office hits that year. The female lead star was no less than Son Ye-jin, best known to Filipino k-drama fans as heiress Yoon Se-ri in "Crash Landing on You."

If the role called for a quirky rom-com heroine with a dark side, chances are Bela Padilla will fit the bill perfectly. Padilla's portrayal of the miserable Yuri was likable and delightful, someone whom you'd want to help out. Yet, she can smoothly shift to heavy drama mode when the story called for copious tears. That serio-comic scene when Yuri was on the phone with her friends Anne (Sarah Brakensiek) and Vanessa (Moi Bien) asking advice was just so good.

Bela Padilla and Marco Guamabo in 'Spellbound.' Viva Films
Bela Padilla and Marco Guamabo in 'Spellbound.' Viva Films

Marco Gumabao played up his leading man charm and drama chops as Victor. The role also gave him a lot of room to flex his comedy skills, which he had. Some of his gags were repeated, like how Yuri ripped apart Victor's shirt at the front (the second one was not as funny as the first). His funniest scene for me was that when a very nervous Victor was hiding behind Yuri, holding on to her arm while they were investigating a ghost with a flashlight.

Rhen Escano was a vengeful ghost in her first film "Untrue" (2019). This time around, she was again playing a vengeful ghost, but with a very different motivation. Escano's "Adan" partner and classy Vivamax beauty Cindy Miranda played Victor's girlfriend Trisha, a part we hoped would have been more substantial. Pop singer Ronnie Liang had a small role as Tony, a guy Victor set up for Yuri. His horror scene in the elevator was the scariest of all.

The combination of rom-com and horror is not very common so this plot was interesting, especially the backstory of why she became very aloof and withdrawn. However, as this is an adaptation, the remarkable plot is not originally Filipino. While we acknowledge that Korean writers can really whip up the best plots, we wish that Filipino filmmakers can also come up with imaginative and innovative original material worthy of our local talents. 5/10. 

This review was originally published in the author's blog, "Fred Said."