Writer-Director Rico Maria Ilarde has been making fantasy fright films since 1988's Z-Man. I wouldn't call him a master of horror, but he's at least a mason of pulp. In his latest, 2007's Altar, which gets a theatrical release this week, the economy of his mounting affects the overall impact -- it's not scary -- but the elements have a tingly charm. Zanjoe Marudo plays a retired boxer assigned to do construction work with a precocious buddy (Nor Domingo) in a remote, haunted house.
The real trademark of Ilarde's movies is the casting of bodilicious actors as lead machos who must battle the monsters (previously, they included Yul Servo, Carlos Morales, and Monsour Del Rosario) -- of course a subversion of the usual horror practice in which the terrorized hero is a woman, but no longer the gender novelty that it was since 1987's Evil Dead 2. I enjoyed watching the vertical, lean-beef, ex-model Zanjoe peel off his shirt, or work up beads of sweat, or burst into a torso-grinding dance (though clothed), or generally be a convincing emotional actor. It's the brief sight of him bare-chested in body paint that got me through the parts when the story logic began to malfunction. Not exactly homoerotic, especially when the maids in short skirts arrive as paramours, and only occassionally sexy, Altar is a truly unpretentious B-movie, yes, but just an okay one.