PG Score: 5/10
U-Turn is available on Netflix
U-Turn is an average rehash that does little to stand out. Despite an interesting stylistic alteration and a few reasonably chilling scenes, the movie fails to move beyond the bounds of mediocrity.
Remakes on remakes on remakes on...
This is another remake of the considerably innovative 2016 Kannada film of the same name from Writer/Director Pawan Kumar. The Philippine adaptation marks the fourth retelling of the original and the fifth language (the Tamil-Telugu version was a bilingual release) it has been converted into. The story’s central framework remains unchanged as it follows a reporter who investigates a strange series of deaths and its connection to an illegal road maneuver.
From the outset, Director Derick Cabrido (Clarita) makes it clear that he is adopting a darker tone for this reimagining. While the original is also technically a horror film, it stays mostly within the confines of the mystery and drama genres. He elects to take Kumar’s vision in a much more jump scare-focused direction and leans on supernatural terror and disturbing imagery. He borrows heavily from other ghostly horror flicks, so a high percentage of the intended fright factor is diminished by the all too familiar feel. Where Kumar strived for character development and a compelling mystery, Cabrido opts for cliché scare tactics.
This tonal variation is not all bad though, as some of the makeup effects are relatively impressive and accentuate the more unsettling spectral encounters. There are other times, however, when those same effects are borderline laughable and really detract from the seriousness of the messaging in U-Turn. The special effects department is by and large a mixed bag for the duration of the film. Another highlight is the paranormal horror which hits a high note or two, but it also suffers from consistency issues. The opening segment is particularly effective and showcases Cabrido’s abilities to successfully build tension and land a knockout blow at just the right moment. It is unfortunate that he is unable to achieve this result more often.
Kim Chiu delivers a decent performance as the reporter, Donna. The journalist starts off as a meek cog in the machine who yearns for a chance to write about something the public cares about. When the opportunity presents itself, she grasps it with full strength at the expense of her moral integrity. The shift in ethics is made believable by Donna’s desperate hunger for a story with substance. Chiu’s acting in U-Turn is not anything groundbreaking, but she does enough to convincingly portray the conflicted character. The supporting cast is serviceable, but no one really stands out. Tony Labrusca does an adequate job as Donna’s boyfriend, Robin. He plays arguably the most emotionally invested secondary character and depicts this passion fairly impactfully. JM de Guzman as Kevin, the police officer assisting Donna in her investigation, is severely underwhelming. His performance is rendered somewhat hollow by a dull demeanor and nonexistent inflection. The writing doesn’t do him any favors as it is quite bland and lacks any real depth.
Staying true, at a cost
Aside from the more intensive horror makeover it received, U-Turn doesn’t veer off the course established by the original much at all. For the most part, it follows the blueprint scene-by-scene except for some minor chronological changes. This is largely a negative since some of the memorable parts from the 2016 movie are significantly watered down or brushed over, and the carbon copy format for the unfolding events substantially reduces any tension created by the horror element. Paying homage to the father of the unique premise is understandable, but adding new material or modifying existing content to a greater extent would have been a more commendable method of captivating the audience.
Derick Cabrido shows flashes of horror proficiency during the film’s 98-minute runtime. Unfortunately, those sparks are quickly extinguished by uninteresting dialogue and derivative filmmaking. Anyone considering going down this road would be better off making a U-Turn and watching the original instead.