MMFF review: 'The Missing' misses with overused horror tropes

Fred Hawson

Posted at Dec 28 2020 07:02 PM

A scene from 'The Missing'

Architect Iris Valerio (Ritz Azul) was an expert on the restoration of old buildings to their former glory. She suffered major depressive disorder following the kidnapping for her younger sister Nicole, and had to stop work and take medications for it. On recovery, she accepted the offer from old boyfriend and colleague Job Arca (Joseph Marco) for them to work for their professor Riku Watanabe (Joe Ishikawa) to restore their 109-year-old ancestral home in the outskirts of Saga in Japan.

Before going to the house, Iris, Job, and Job's young apprentice Len (Miles Ocampo), were already given amulets which were supposed to be able to ward off evil spirits. While working inside the old house, Iris began to see ghostly figures. At first these were only fleeting wraithes with long fingernails. Then she, along with Riku's son Aki (Seiyo Masunaga), saw a figure coming out of a certain wall of the house. Finally, the malevolent spirits (who looked like a cross between Sadako and Valak) frankly manifested in front of her, even attacking her.

It was unfortunate that the character of Iris just so happened to have a psychiatric condition that needed medication to treat. Psychological stress and substances (either taking them or not taking them) had always been the convenient scapegoat used to rationally "explain" supernatural sightings. This was such a trite and lazy overused trope in horror movies which I thought wasted whatever genuinely creepy things "The Missing" had going for it.

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That whole sequence with Len going back to the house to search for a missing worker Daiji was most illogical. First, why should it be Len looking for Daiji when there was another worker Fumio with them? Second, she went into the house calling Daiji's name, but why was she looking through drawers and boxes as if she could find Daiji inside? Then why did she make a crazy decision to go down to look around the basement by herself?

The chilly air of autumn, supposedly the time ghosts and ghouls visit the living, fully complemented the atmosphere director Easy Ferrer created for the film The uniquely Japanese phenomenon of "kodokushi" (old people dying alone in their homes with no one finding out for a long period of time), and practice of "hitobashira" (burying a person alive at a construction site to appease gods for safety from calamities), further added to the chill. Too bad Ferrer had to resort to overused horror tropes to pull this promising premise through.

"The Missing" had 12 nominations coming into the MMFF 2020 Awards Night. These were for: Best Picture, Director, Screenplay, Actress (Azul), Child Performer (Masunaga), Cinematography (Marvin Reyes), Production Design (Popo Diaz), Editing (Renewin Alano), Musical Score (Jessie Lasaten), Visual Effects and Sound.

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

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