book: tragic theater

"tragic theater" by g.m. coronelthere is an urban legend that says the manila film center is haunted. and this is the premise, and the promise, of g. m. coronel’s TRAGIC THEATER.

continuing with my horror book pile, i am now down to my last two books, not counting this one and NINE SUPERNATURAL STORIES, which i’ve yet to find. i’ll be hailing a winner soon, and i wish i could say i found one in TRAGIC THEATER. it took me nearly a week to finish the book. so no, this one’s not a winner.

TRAGIC THEATER follows the story of annie, a government employee tasked with the rehabilitation of the manila film center. and immediately, we are taken into the world of the supernatural when annie’s first thought for the rehabilitation is an exorcism–instead of the usual inspection to see if the building is actually still fit for use.

the whole book takes place in around five separate days. the main action happens during two exorcisms, wherein a group of spirit guides try to find out why the spirits of the dead are not leaving the manila film center. a few chapters in, a feeling of foreboding sinks in. or, at least, it was supposed to.

instead, what we get is a half-baked book that seems confused as to what it actually is: a horror book, or a book about emotional trauma.

annie, as a main character, is very flawed. unlikeable and hard to relate to, i found myself wishing the author picked someone else to be his main character. personally, i found her characterization more antagonistic than heroic. though, i think the intention was to make her character tragic, with what she had gone through.

if the author chose to focus instead on annie’s back story, sans the supernatural element, i think the book would’ve been better. annie’s story is not uncommon, and we usually hear (and read) about it on the news. but it’s rare that a victim like annie becomes the main character. the only story that comes to mind with a tragic main character like annie is lino brocka’s ANGELA MARKADO.

or, if the author really wanted a horror story, he could have focused on the story of the manila film center instead.

in trying to make TRAGIC THEATER be more than just a horror story, i think the book lost its identity. and i’m sure it had one when the author was first starting to write the story.

also, to make the manila film center more scary than it actually is, the manila film center’s history was based solely on the urban legend that 169 workers were left to die inside, during the building’s construction. and to build on this background, and the make the place more scary, people’s personal accounts of hauntings are used. and most of us understand, i hope, that not all personal accounts are actual supernatural experiences.

i have been inside the manila film center. and while it is large and a bit creepy, it didn’t feel haunted to me. sad, maybe. but that’s about it.

so i didn’t like TRAGIC THEATER. but as i always say: don’t take my word for it. here are a few more reviews from other people:

me likes art’s book review

artseblis’s book review

and a couple more found at goodreads.

10 thoughts on “book: tragic theater

  1. Hmm, perhaps I was wrong in saying that the novel is well-researched. yes, I’ve watched that episode of I-witness and completely forgot about it. I think it will be safe to say that the novel TRIES to be well-researched, thereby emphasizing my point in the action being interrupted by too much random info.🙂

    • too much info, and too much attempted foreshadowing. and I really dislike the cliffhanger ending. it felt like a very obvious bid to get a second book deal.

      • But a horror story wouldn’t be effective if we cannot connect ourselves to the characters, right? I think this is the reason why Mr. Coronel gave Annie a tragic backstory. It was his attempt to draw a character readers can emphatize with – it’s a feeble attempt, though. There’s also one thing that confuses me; Did the priest(whose name I already forgot, that’s how forgettable the characters are) and Annie had a relationship, like the non-platonic relationship? If yes, I don’t see the point for creating such conflict. If I’d be honest, I would say that Tragic Theater is an ambitious book and that’s why it turns out to be a Tragic Book instead. Mr. Coronel wants to do a lot of things and this had been his mistake.

        And yeah, I couldn’t agree more with this statement:
        “I really dislike the cliffhanger ending. it felt like a very obvious bid to get a second book deal.”

        One last thing, and I pray to God the author won’t see this; why in author bio at the end of the book states that “Mr. Coronel has no background in writing novels, this is his first book” or something to that effect. Did he or the publisher expects that the readers will give him consideration for this?? Ugh. It’s not a reason for giving us a crap.

        Rant end.

      • From what I understand, Annie and the priest only had a relationship in the way that priests and parishioners do. Father Marcelo (I think that was his name) was the one who helped Annie get over what had transpired in her past. Or that’s what I thought, until we find out that Annie didn’t actually get over what had happened to her.

        It is written though that Annie did have a crush on the priest.

        As for the horror’s effectiveness, the author actually alienated me by giving Annie that particular back story. Sure, I feel sorry for what happened to her–but her actions in the present makes her really unlikeable.

        What happens to Annie inside the theater feels very much like a plot device to get the action moving. I mean, what if Annie didn’t have that back story? What then?

        Also, if the author sees this blog post, and our comments about the book, it’s not because he didn’t search for it. I mean, I’m not promoting this blog post because I didn’t like the book. If he manages to stumble upon it, it’s up to him what he will do next.

        Besides, we’re commenting as readers, not as critics.

        Though, about your comment that this book being his first foray into writing isn’t a reason to give us crap–well, I think this one on the publishers. Why did they decide to publish the book? What did they see in the story that they wanted to publish it?

        Plus, let’s not forget that some people did like the book.🙂 We should ask Michelle (and the others who also liked it) why they liked it.🙂

  2. Haha, nice one Aaron. I honestly don’t care one bit about whatever it is the priest heard at the end of the book. And yes, you’re right about that confusion regarding Annie and the priest’s relationship; i expected them to kiss near the end, for crying out loud (which shouldn’t really happen, btw).

    and yes, perhaps the author is too ambitious regarding the scope of the book. he probably wanted to continue writing more about the characters, forcing him to leave a lot of unanswered questions lying around so that readers will clamor for more.

    what i really didn’t like about this novel, though, is that TOO MUCH FREAKIN SPACE IS WASTED! If one omits the prayers and all those “God be with you” blah-blahs, then the book’s thickness would’ve been reduced by half. ugh. waste of paper.

  3. Oh, dear. I’m a contrasting voice in this vivacious conversation. Neither did I think much of the writing nor the characterization. But the more-than-ghost-story got me. The effect was purely on the gut level, no reason, no logic. The fact that the setting was a well known structure added to the impact. I can relate my reading experience to how scary I find some Japanese horror movies, which specialized in making the ordinary terrifying. If something just around the corner can hold such terrors, what more the unknown?

    And I really want to find out what the priest heard on the recording. And I’m willing to plow through crap to find out. I can’t stand mysteries, yet I buy them in the truckloads.

    Anyway, I love reading book posts that generate controversy,😛.

    • I really hope we don’t cause any controversy–or start one. Haha.🙂

      That said, I get what you mean about liking something on a gut level. But this mostly happens to me when I watch movies or television shows, I can’t think of an instance when this happened with a book I read.

      Tragic Theater could have been scary for me, I think. The promise was there. Else, it wouldn’t have intrigued so many people. But ultimately, I think it dragged on the action too much. Imagine, more than half the book happened in the hours from midnight to early morning.

      Horror, for me, is something that happens in an instant. You don’t dwell on it, because when horror sinks in, it loses much of its impact.

      And while I am curious as to what’s in the recording, in the end, I’m not as willing to plow through another book if it’s not better written than this. I’m not judging G. M. Coronel with just one book. If the sequel is just as bad though, I’ll probably just ask you what happens in it.🙂

      [regarding Japanese horror films, the only one that really freaked me out was “One Missed Call.”]

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