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.