REVIEW: Jerald Napoles proves comedic genius in ‘Pagpag 24/7’

We first see main characters Mitoy and Boying (Jerald Napoles and Nicco Manalo) sitting on a sidewalk curb, mulling over their planned robbery of a convenience store called Mang Kanor. 

The letters of the signage flicker under the night sky exploding with intermittent thunder. The letters K and R are busted. 

We immediately understand that Napoles’ Mitoy is the dull friend, reading the store name as “Mang Ano.” And as the duo plan their pilfering, the comedy becomes increasingly funny.

‘PAGPAG 24/7’ movie poster. | PHOTOGRAPH COURTESY OF Viva Films

Napoles, who has proven for so long his impressive comedic range that extends beyond slapstick comedy, is complemented by the effortless and naturalistic Manalo. It’s fun watching and listening to the two in their verbal jousts, delivering candid, authentic, snappy dialogue. 

This is what makes Pagpag 24/7 — Viva Films’ latest offering from its factory of surplus B-movie theatrical releases — actually funny. First-time director JR Reyes cleverly capitalizes on Napoles and Manalo’s natural rapport and gift of gab. 

The humor switches between corny and laugh-out-loud, but more so the latter, with the script’s unpredictable punchlines and one-liners that are often refreshingly wholesome. 

The plot itself is nearly nondescript. It centers on best friends Mitoy and Boying who reunite years later after getting separated from that botched nighttime robbery of the Mang Kanor store. Their newfound (and still bruised) friendship, however, is made complicated by their encounter with spirits of the dead. Yes, this is a horror-comedy.

The title refers to a Filipino superstitious belief. It’s the ridiculous tradition of making a pit stop before going home after a wake to shake off the spirit of the dead and prevent them from following you to your home. 

In the movie, the Mang Kanor store is frequently used as a pit stop for pagpag, until it eventually became a 24-7 convenience store hilariously called Heaven Eleven — home to a bunch of angry ghosts shaken off or abandoned by their loved ones. 

Mitoy and Boying find themselves working together in the nearby funeral parlor called Libing Legend (yes, they do know how to use puns). They have a dead-looking manager who has a blind assistant/best friend (Star Orjaliza), who is tasked with physical comedy. 

While Mitoy plays safe with superstitions, Boying is a cynic. Strangely, Napoles’ character starts off as an idiot but inconsistently ends up as the more intelligent of the two for not being superstitious. 

The narrative is more interested in comedy than horror. Nothing in the movie delivers tension, scary thrill, or fun-scares. It feels like a straight comedy — but is burdened to fulfill the obligatory horror side, which is dragging and uninspired.

The abandoned ghosts trapped in the convenience store are underused and serve as mere props. Sadly, Nikko Natividad’s obnoxious character is cringe-y — the forced character feels like a sore thumb. 

It’s truly the comedy that propels Pagpag 24/7. You could imagine the writers of the movie laughing out loud while penning the script. That’s the thing — Pagpag 24/7 does not take itself too seriously, hence the humor feels easy. It’s unpretentious and does not try to be more than its flimsy script. It’s enjoying itself — flaws and all — for the heck of it. 

Reyes also enhances the scenes with his dynamic camerawork, while also making sure that his supporting cast is committed to their characters. 

Danita Paner as Mitoy’s love interest is perhaps Viva Films’ most versatile actress. From her dramatic take in the cloying Instant Daddy to her comedic role here as a random pretty lady with a poop-streaked face, she is a natural. 

While Pagpag 24/7 is just another one of Viva Films’ low-budget popcorn movies, it stands out for delivering easy laughs, buoyed by its gifted lead actors, particularly Napoles.  

This is not a movie to be educated on the origins and other Wikipedia information on the superstitious belief of pagpag, or a deep examination of its cultural impact. The movie’s objective is pretty clear: to just give you a silly good time at the cinemas.  

3 out of 5 stars

Now showing in cinemas