The Healing finds the perfectly healthy Seth (Vilma Santos) surrounded by a circle of neighborhood friends, who have incurable diseases, you wonder what made her stick there she is so out of place! Okay, kidding aside, she is an ideal friend who is willing to go out of her way to help them, even if it means taking all of them to a healer, named Elsa, who has miraculously given her father a second clean health slate, and imploring the healer for a reconsideration. Elsa starts ceasing to give services for a crucial reason one abrupt day, but Seth is very adamant she is able to convince her. Seth’s begging is underscored, with Santos summoning all her charisma, mixed with physical movement of suppliance: a soliciting glance here, a slight head tilting there, and a controlled voice of a slim singsong to zeal it.
This imploration is emphasized – better be – because it sets Seth’s culpability for her action, otherwise she will emerge as mere supplementary chaperon, and you won’t do that because she is the Ate Vi. When Seth utters the “please” adverb, or its contextual phrase equivalent in Tagalog, she becomes stamped right there as an accessory for whatever purpose it may bring in the latter parts of the film. And because she is the broker, her guilt is played up to a hilt when she starts to find out her friends are individually succumbing to the curse. When the body count does pile up, it is provided with enough space in between – what, every one day? two days? – for her to piece the clues together. These clues come in excessively handy, you wonder where have these doppelgangers gone in real life they are so rampant in the film.
The doppelganger here is capable of actual physical activities, all horribly non-neutral, it can alter the mortality of the next person. While its idea exists in most mythologies there possibly are, its capability for bi-location does not guarantee physical abilities further than its actual purpose in the paranormal scheme of things: as omen. Of course, helmer Chito Roño is invoking his right to cinematic license of the genre, but given that, at what expense? At viewers’ ability at logical reasoning, the license going past their capacity to relate, much less understand. Because of this, suspension of disbelief flies out the window and they are left there watching cold and uninvolved, only waiting to be shocked by out-of-the-blue, trite tricks.
Almost all performances are uniformly average. Kim Chiu’s attempt at going free-spirit, while a departure from her usual, umh, self, is merely skin-deep. Santos is not bad but she borders on being trivial. During her character’s descent-to-paranoia stage, supposed to show her slow realization to the full implication of her earlier pleading, Santos does not feel wasted. Partially because the camera’s full shots don’t have a first person perspective of her inner turmoil. The performance is further mired by her bane attempt at concealing wrinkles – just face it, blurring and over-lighting can not do the trick no more! The only one who is able to rise above mediocrity is Janice de Belen, particularly because her Cita is thrown into a group to meld in but she manages nevertheless to emerge from just being one of them. De Belen renders a maternal desperation of having to lose a daughter with quiet pathos, her role’s purpose more personal than just a device to elicit cheap shocks.
Writers Roy Iglesias and Roño himself weave a decent three-act backbone, the core of which springing from a sound philosophy that good intentions are not surefire indicators of good results. Seth’s magnanimous desire to help led the receivers to their tragic end instead. When the writing decides to focus on Seth’s slow plunge to self-guilt, it starts to hammer its planting over and over again. Maybe to build up Seth’s descent and her accountability. But this is at the expense of viewers’ ability to get it in one telling. In its attempt to spoon-feed every bit and piece to the audience, the writing ends up unimaginative and belabored. Oh, if only Iglesias and Roño’s good intention is a guarantee to an equally good output, this film would have been it. It is not.