‘Cry No Fear’ is an Unconvincing Thriller

Ella Cruz and Donnalyn Bartolome take part in a tedious game of cat-and-mouse

by Philbert Dy

Cry No Fear tells the story of half-sisters Kaycee and Wendy (Donnalyn Bartolome and Ella Cruz), who don’t get along very well. When their actor father goes away for a shoot, the two are left alone in their house with their helper Dory (Sheree Bautista) during a typhoon. On the first night, a family shows up at their gate, begging for some food. They turn these people away, and this sets off a chain of events that will find the sisters terrorized in their own home. With the typhoon knocking out power and phone service, the two are left to fend for themselves against malevolent intruders.

 

The most intriguing bit of the movie involves the intruders. There is a sequence in the movie that involves the sitting around a dining table, about to partake in a meal. The scene suggests a sense of civility and decorum that is being maintained in defiance of their circumstances. They may be violent, and they may be in the middle of a criminal act, but they still have to wash their hands and say a prayer before eating. It’s a cool idea, but the film doesn’t really take this any further. Past this scene, who these people are hardly matters.

Most of the picture plays out as the game of cat and mouse, with the sisters trying to evade the intruders. And it isn’t very convincing on a practical level. A lot of these sequences just aren’t very well designed. A typical one in this film involves cutting between the protagonists and their pursuers, with little sense of their positions relative to each other. It sometimes feels as though the intruders are in a completely different part of the location, weakening the overall sense of dread that these girls might be caught.

 

In general, the movie doesn’t do enough to make its mechanics work. Films like this will always have a little leeway when it comes to dealing with reality, but this movie exceeds any reasonable limits. Its characters make really odd choices. A gun is introduced at one point in the film, and it never stops feeling strange that nobody seems to be able to hear all the gunshots fired in this house. People in the same house don’t seem to able to hear the gunshots. And any scene that involves the sisters hiding strains credulity, because they always seem to be making so much noise.

The film sports a dim, desaturated look that does get across the rainy setting as well as the darkness these characters are facing. What also comes across, however, is an uncomfortable dose of male gaze, the camera for all intents and purposes leering over its two main stars. Neither Donnalyn Bartolome or Ella Cruz make much of an impression here. Once the chase starts, the two characters are pretty much interchangeable. Whatever foundation they might have established in the first act doesn’t really pay off, leaving the actresses with very little to do.

 

Cry No Fear has just a trace of something more substantial in it, but it doesn’t really get there. Taken purely as a thriller experience, it doesn’t really work. The physical mechanics and logic of the chase and the ensuing violence don’t add up, making it difficult to invest in anything that’s happening up on screen. And while it does get kind of silly, it doesn’t really get ridiculous enough to embrace as trashy schlock. It feels muddled and thrown together, its elements never really advancing a greater vision. Stuff happens, and then other stuff happens. It just isn’t enough.