Diverting folklore-inspired trash-horror from the Philippines. The
film plays precisely as you might expect given its extremely limited
resources (in terms of budget and inspiration), but it’s always
fascinating to see the bizarre creatures of Southeast Asian folklore
The critter on display in 1989’s IMPAKTITA (a.k.a.
BAT-DEMON) is an Aswang, a prominent component of Filipino
folklore that can transform into various animals at night, drinking
peoples’ blood--especially that of infant children and unborn
fetuses--while assuming the guise of a human during the day.
Unsurprisingly, Aswangs tend to be portrayed as women, as is the case
here. The Aswang is not to be confused (although it invariably is) with
other Southeast Asia based creatures like the Manananggal
(referring to a woman whose torso sprouts wings and detaches from her
Penanggalan/Krasue (referring to a woman whose head lifts
off her body and floats around with its spine and innards attached).
Aswangs can also be seen in such films as 1990’s SHAKE,
RATTLE & ROLL 2, 1992’s ASWANG and its 2001 remake, and also a March,
2014 episode of GRIMM.
One night in a secluded village a man is killed by an
unseen flying somet2hing. Shortly thereafter a baby girl is
born…to a woman who, it just so happens, is the monster. That monster is
a giant bat creature, or Aswang, into which the woman transforms at
night and drinks peoples’ blood. That continues each evening until the
villagers get fed up and come after the Aswang in mass. The creature is
killed, leaving behind its infant daughter Cita.
Cita is a normal kid, it seems, but for the fact that
she has an unnatural liking for horror comics and inexplicably gets
freaked out in a church. As a teenager Cita falls in love with a nice
guy and all seems well in her world--until one night she’s lured to a
cemetery by her mother’s spirit, who informs Cita that on her 18th
birthday she’ll become an Aswang like her ma.
Things continue to go downhill from there, with Cita
set upon the night of her eighteenth birthday by a gang of rapists who
abduct and have their way with her. Their mistake! As promised, she
transforms into an Aswang, with her head sprouting black fur and wings,
and detaching from her shoulders. In this manner it flies around and
rips a couple of her tormentors apart.
From there we move further into Cita’s adulthood, to a
time when she’s become a successful fashion model. Her demonic heritage,
however, remains--and a good thing too, as her surviving tormentors are
still afoot. Needless to say, further attacks by Cita in her Aswang
guise are imminent, as well as an exorcism, a wholly implausible
regeneration and a denouement in which the spirit of Christianity wins
Trashy entertainment is the order of the day here,
meaning you’d be wrong to expect things like logic or character
development, much less subtlety or lyricism. In their absence director
Teddy Page fills the screen with great deal of sensationalism: there’s
at least one gratuitous kung fu brawl, some PG rated (but fairly
lascivious nonetheless) sex appeal, a gory stabbing and a fiery ending.
Although made in the late 1980s, IMPAKTITA has a
curiously archaic 1970s movie air, evident in a ridiculous romantic
montage of young lovers running in slow motion through pastoral settings
(although there is a good shot of the lovers smooching behind a roaring
fire that aptly foreshadows what’s to come) and a fashion photo-shoot
that likewise feels at least a decade out of date in its outrageously
disco-fied music and outfits.
There are some effectively horrific bits, such as the
periodic shots of the bat demon silhouetted over a full moon and the
memorably histrionic climax. The transformation effects, evidently
inspired by Rick Baker’s work in
AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON, are
every bit as silly as you might expect. Truthfully, I don’t think
there’s any way to render the sight of a woman’s head sprouting bat
wings and detaching from her body in a manner that isn’t silly!
Regal Films, Inc,
Director: “Teddy Chiu” (Teddy Page)
Producer: Lily Monteverde
Screenplay: Bugsy Dabeo
Cinematography: Vic Anao
Editing: Edgardo Vinarao
Cast: Jean Garcia, Richard Gomez, Nida Blanca, Gloria Romero, Aga
Muhlach, Rez Cortez, Ruel Vernal, Mario Escudero, Romeo Rivera, Ruben
Rustia, Toby Aleja, Judy Ann Santos