Posted April 22, 2014 by Alvin Minon in Comics

KOMIKS REVIEW: The terrors of Malonzo and Pascual’s The Friendzone

friendzone: noun informal; a situation in which a friendship exists between two people, one of whom has an unreciprocated romantic or sexual interest in the other. It is generally considered to be an undesirable or dreaded situation by the lovelorn person.

Last time I told you about how I got fooled by The Other Halfs title but ended up enjoying Mervin Malonzo and Noel Pascual’s terrifying masterpiece. I thought ’twas a romantic piece but turns out it’s a horror story using Filipino folklore. This time I’ll be telling you the chills I got from the second of their horror trilogy: The Friendzone.

I thought The Other Half‘s already great. It’s about a group of children sharing stories about manananggals, monsters that split their bodies in half, leaving behind the lower part while torso and up fly away to hunt down babies and human flesh. Short, dark and terrifying with a touch of nostalgia, which in my case reminded me of blackouts and horror stories told to children to prevent mischief. However, for sequels and following works within the same genre, often audiences would expect less or at least treat the newer piece with a grain of salt. Yet the tag team of Mervin Malonzo and Noel Pascual has once again proven that horror and Filipino folklore’s top of the list in their arsenals.

[Check out our review of The Other Half and interview with Mervin Malonzo and Noel Pascual]

The Friendzone that we all know is terrifying. Or maybe not all of us, only those people who’re stuck with unrequited love (sorry I just have a lot of thoughts on this matter but whatever, you get the point). Malonzo and Pascual’s dreaded friendzone however, is more well, dreadful. Here’s what Noel did: he took the feeling of sorrow and heartbreaking feeling of being turned down by a friend despite the efforts and being stuck as friends, and spiced that up with not ghosts or aswangs but this time, our culture’s fascination with the mangkukulam (witch doctors), gayuma (potions) or whatever it is that induces effects on other people. Determination meeting heartbreak and sorrow leads to desperation and with despair comes drastic actions that may lead to consequences that one may severely regret.

Okay, maybe some of you wouldn’t buy the idea but what’s more magical with the story is how familiar all of this sounds. First, there’s that vendor that sells dubious merchandise. Everyone would be familiar of all those anting-antings, anito, and what not being sold in Quiapo or wherever else in the Philippines, may it be the metro or the provinces. We know they’re there, and in all honesty enticing. And the scenario where some desperate guy actually stops to look and purchase an item isn’t all far-fetched. I’m very sure, one who has experienced passing by such vendor in the bangketa has already imagined or pictured himself what it would be like to inquire and buy some stuff. That on it’s own is scarily familiar and realistic already.

Second there’s the friendzone and heartache and terrors in the latter part of The Friendzone. If not ourselves, I bet all of us would know of a friend who’s been there. Or maybe some movie or story. I just gotta point out how Pascual portrayed that nervousness from confession, that dead silence between yourself and a friend you’re secretly in love with, and the pain that eats away at you once you hear the words you didn’t wish to hear (told you, I got a lot going on about this topic). The story really hits close. And whether it’s some real gremlins eating away at the character in this story, or some metaphorical monsters, I couldn’t be certain but it really helped that Malonzo has made it really gruesome and dark and each panel felt painful to look at.

Finally there’s the ending. I don’t know how I should take it. I can’t believe what we have here is a book that not only showed some familiar terror but also one that’s able to leave a big question behind. I couldn’t spoil but I’ll tell you that those last pages would make you think whether what happened in the story is a scenario a friendzoned person would wish to happen or not.

Mervin Malonzo and Noel Pascual were definitely right when they told me in our past interview that their future projects are materials worth looking forward to. While The Other Half made me feel that it would be great as a series, this one left me with the sensation that it’s already great on its own, short but packing quite a wallop. The dialogues and background stories could be expanded, yes, but this story was already able to convey the sorrow and terror and pain quite amazingly in mere 23 pages.  For those who’re thinking of picking up The Other Half, The Friendzone‘s definitely a must grab and something that can’t be missed.

Alvin Minon