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The Fridge

New York Asian Film Festival 2013

Regal Films ; 90 minutes

Director: Rico Maria Ilarde

Written by on July 11, 2013 

Let’s face it; some ideas have a limited shelf life. Rico Maria Ilarde’s The Fridge (Pridyider), now playing the New York Asian Film Festival, is a perfect example of that fact. Originally a short segment in the 1984 Filipino horror anthology Shake, Rattle and Roll, The Fridge has been expanded by Ilarde into a full-length feature, losing a good bit of its original demented charm. It’s really a sin for a movie about a possessed killer refrigerator with Lovecraftian tentacles to be boring, but whole passages of the picture coast along with little to no reason for being and when the icebox isn’t trying to eat someone, the inexperienced cast can’t keep the rest of The Fridge from spoiling.

What’s missing from the equation here is a welcome d0se of camp. At first, it’s startling to realize that Ilarde is treating his premise with complete straight-faced sincerity, building backstory, motivation and tragic consequences for his villainous home appliance. His heroinne, Tina Benitez (Andi Eigenmann) has come all the way from San Francisco to visit her homeland of the Phillipinnes  but her trip is rocky from the start. There’s a creepy, disfigured man who keeps popping up ominously, strange bottles of icky grue randomly appear on the kitchen table, and every now and again, the damn refrigerator gobbles someone up. Like any good horror movie protagonist Tina spends too much time being less concerned than she should—she sees the fridge extending its appendages and sucking in poor schmucks—before finally leaping into action with the help of odd neighbors, and eventually a goofy shaman intent on exorcizing whatever foul beast lurks inside.

Early on, there’s some fun to be had with The Fridge because of the bug-nuts idea at its center, but as Tina starts exploring her backstory and it becomes clear that the fate of her mother and father are tied to the evil inside the refrigerator, everything grows mundane and fatigued. It’s less fun to learn about the grisly, Poe-esque history of the fridge than it is just watching the thing chomp down on unsuspecting visitors to Tina’s place. That sincerity Ilarde expresses for his concept is misplaced, largely because the visual effects are extremely cheesy and support a tongue-in-cheek approach.

In addition, when The Fridge presses in on the dark familial drama it loses steam; Eigenmann is fine as wide-eyed survivor girl but she can’t carry any of the emotional beats and she has almost zero chemistry with J.M. De Guzman, playing Tina’s school-days crush James. The titular monster is hilarious as a sight-gag and occassionally unnerving in its first few attacks, but the absurdity of a killer fridge just can’t support enough tension for a feature. There are a few nice flashes of creativity—the Fridge helpfully stockpiles the severed heads and body parts of its victims on its shelves—and the odd bit of humor here or there, but nothing that wins us over to what Ilarde is trying.

One of the reasons for skepticism is that there was no reason to expand this story; it’s a wicked little idea for a short, and the same things that make it best-suited for that are also the reasons it fails in long-form. Ilarde, as a horror helmer, makes a fine-looking little movie that can’t quite outpace its budget but does the trick with some macabre gore effects and midnight movie set pieces. Hardcore horror fans will likely have more patience with the carnivorous fridge, but I suspect that their generosity will only go so far.

In many ways, The Fridge reminds of the Thailand horror comedy Buppah Rahtree, also about an apartment full of eccentrics, a room haunted by a sinister past event, and a vengeful spirit taking on out-of-their-league ghostbusters. The difference is that Rahtree expertly managed its tonal shifts, and could blend pathos and terror and deliberate, broad-comedy pratfalls with complete ease. The Fridge is scattershot, and the result is like checking your own icebox to find that the settings are out of whack; the stuff on the low shelves is overheated and soggy, and everything at the top is frozen stiff. Provided he can calibrate his own style, Ilarde might be able to produce a tasty horror endeavor the next time out.

The Fridge played at the New York Asian Film Festival. You can find details here.


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