“It’s about increasing the tension of a movie even to the last, ‘wow.’”
Nostalgia is the one word that encapsulates the widely known Shake, Rattle, & Roll (SRR) horror anthology film series. In the Philippines, Shake, Rattle, & Roll marks a cultural touchpoint for the nation, both a Halloween special and a reflection of society today.
Produced initially by the now-defunct Athena Productions, Inc., the influential series began in 1984. Six years after, Regal Films, founded by Remy and Lily “Mother Lily” Monteverde released Shake, Rattle, & Roll II following the same sequence of three hair-raising segments.
Regal started by bringing Japanese cult movies including Ultraman and Godzilla to the Philippines. Today, the production company’s library of films comprises over 1,000 movies to date with a rotating roster of Philippine cinema masters including National Artist Lino Brocka and international filmmaker Lav Diaz. Aside from SRR, the production company is also celebrated for its Mano Po anthology.
The SSR franchise has released 15 movies spanning from 1984 to 2014 and has become the longest-running series in the history of Philippine cinema. Known for its gruesome accounts and harrowing narratives, Shake, Rattle, & Roll has shaped Filipino horror for decades through its relevance to Filipino mythology and folklore.
Every year, the series is released around Christmastime for the Metro Manila Film Festival. The series has worked with both up-and-coming and established creatives, including National Artist Ishmael Bernal, Peque Gallaga, Lore Reyes, Kris Aquino, Don Escudero and Iza Calzado to name a few.
Roselle Monteverde is Mother Lily’s daughter and the COO & vice president of Regal Entertainment Inc. For years, Roselle produced the SRR series alongside her mother.
For Shake, Rattle, & Roll 8 (released in 2006), Roselle took the reins of the beloved series and produced her first installment comprised of “13th Floor,” “Yaya,” and “LRT.”
What was so unique about the much-anticipated lineup of horror films is that it also provided glimpses into the anxieties of what Filipinos were experiencing in their day-to-day.
“Sometimes, [a movie] is just reminding you of what is happening [in real life]. It can be sociopolitical or [even] relate to how you’re dealing with life. Even with an aspect of work, anything that can affect you. Film mirrors people’s lives,” Roselle tells Vogue Philippines.
The anthology was inspired by Mother Lily’s first experiences of her mom scaring her. “When I was young, my mother would always frighten me because I was naughty and this led me to not being able to sleep,” she shares. “She frightened me with aswang and manananggal and it made me [even more] restless. I would behave and even [eventually] wanted to scare myself [with my own films].”
The Monteverdes grew up with Filipino fables and legends—stories that happened to people they knew. This yearning of continuing tradition and passing down these stories from generation to generation is what sparked their interest in horror. Throughout the series, a Yaya (nanny) takes the form of aswang, refrigerators become cannibalistic, nuns transform into manananggal, and honeymoons turn into ghost stories.
Vogue Philippines sits with both Mother Lily and Roselle Monteverde as they look back at the series and divulge what made it so impactful.
Shake, Rattle, & Roll is one of the longest-running film series in the Philippines dating back to 1984. Can you tell us what it was like creating such a monumental series?
Roselle Monteverde: My yaya would tell stories about aswang. We grew up with tales about how they would eat and kill people. Sometimes, when you think about it and have real accounts from someone in your household—it can really happen. It’s my imagination that can haunt me. It’s the fear of not seeing anything and [imagining] what it can do to you. That’s how Shake, Rattle, & Roll received its target audience. It never fails to deliver. The scarier they get, the more frightened they get. They want more. It’s like an adrenaline rush. It’s a different part of entertainment for them—it’s the thrill. It’s like riding a rollercoaster except you’re trapped in four walls watching it. It’s much better that you’re watching it.
Horror is part of the folktales and there are a lot of mythologies like tikbalang and tchanak. We wouldn’t use visual effects because everything was made from scratch. We made puppets like the tyanak where people would move with live effects. There were moving intestines, people getting bitten with a wound which was created live from organs. In the ’80s and ’90s, these were the live effects. The director’s task was to use sound design to build up scary scenes. Creatures were modeled, reproduced, and controlled with a remote control like in “Undin”—they were mechanical puppets similar to robots.
What were you inspired by and how did you inject this into your films?
Roselle: Both Mother Lily and I are huge horror fans. Although, she can’t finish Shake, Rattle, & Roll. She always leaves because she’s been there the entire time through producing.
What is your fondest memory of the series?
Roselle Monteverde: There are so many. I loved “Undin” and “LRT.” Of course, “Manananggal.” “Nieves” was also good. It’s a story of a person who brought their friend to the province, not knowing that everyone in that community are aswang. [Although] I look forward to watching it and making it every year. I get excited when they show me pictures of monsters and what they would look like [in the films] before they get reproduced in other stages.
SRR marked a cultural touchpoint in the Philippines. Decades later, people are still remaking it today. How do you feel about this?
It’s nice to hear that. It’s a legacy. It’s been appreciated by a lot of people and some of them make it something they look forward to watching especially during Halloween. It inspires you. It challenges us more [as producers] on how to level up every time we do another series.
What do you think of the current state of horror?
Roselle Monteverde: The traffic today is a horror, that’s a good starting point. Horror is not just monsters; it can be psychological. There are so many factors that can terrorize you, especially nowadays. Something that you don’t expect can terrorize you. Then you realize that when you watch [Shake, Rattle, & Roll), it can happen [to you]. For example, in “Yaya” the person that is taking care of your children and that is staying at your house can actually be an aswang and that’s why she’s taking care of your children.
I don’t think it’s really about the current state of horror, but the entire state of movies now in the Philippines. During the pandemic, everything was on hold. Now we’re starting to create again. The state of horror [today] is rediscovering and reinventing again. That’s the perfect term for that.
How has the film industry evolved overtime? Can you give us a few examples?
Roselle Monteverde: When you produce a movie, you start by looking at life and you project that onto the film. Creating movies is a self-centered thing. It’s really about research and developing the aspect that people can really relate to their life. It must be something they can situate themselves in and imagine for themselves. It starts when someone can imagine being that type of character. That evolves and times change. For example, you can’t really include traffic in the 1980s and the 1990s. Now, you can put that in a movie and people can relate.
What was your favorite film in the series and why?
Mother Lily: All the episodes are my favorite. It’s my life’s work so it’s important to me. When you produce, everything becomes your favorite.
Can you tell us about any obstacles you overcame throughout the series?
Roselle Monteverde: The obstacle is the creation of the monsters. The monsters are essentially your star. That is a big challenge already . We don’t want to redo what we’ve done before. We want to always reinvent and rediscover.
Mother Lily: It’s the suspense. From the first part to the last part, you must continue throughout the entire film.
Did anything paranormal ever happen while filming the series?
Roselle Monteverde: There are places that [we have visited] that are really invested in the other dimension and the underworld. [For these places] We would get a paranormal expert to help us continue our shoot and let us continue our work. When you know that house is haunted, we would ask permission for whoever is living there out of respect to allow us to work. Just in case, so there won’t be any accidents and people won’t get hurt.
Do you ever get scared?
Roselle Monteverde: For me, it’s like an adventure also. All these unknowns make you more serious and think, “Is it really true?” Not knowing what can really happen, you need to stay safe yourself. It’s important to bring someone who can be able to feel and be able to communicate.
There have been a handful of reviews and analyses about how Shake, Rattle, & Roll reflects the sociopolitical climate. Can you tell us your thoughts on this?
Roselle Monteverde: This is subjective. We never thought of it that way. Giving thrills and suspense and delivering that to the audience is what we wanted to do. It’s easier to create a movie this way because it releases you of any nuances. There’s more freedom in creating. You’re giving yourself constraints because you’re doing this for a specific purpose. The challenge gets bigger when there aren’t any.
Filipinos view Philippine mythology based on the iconography from Shake, Rattle, & Roll. How did you research on the creatures included in the movie?
Roselle Monteverde: We did our research through folklore. It’s something that is passed on from generations. You learn about the underworld, its creatures, and about the creatures in other dimensions. It’s not something you learn at school. When we were growing up, that’s what you hear from people in the household—their [firsthand] experiences and the experiences of friends in the provinces. Who knows if there’s one here, you wouldn’t even know right? They have their own world.
Renowned “Pridyider” was directed by National Artist Ishmael Bernal. What was it like working with him?
Mother Lily: Ishmael Bernal was a brilliant director. He could create movies in a way that other directors couldn’t, especially in City After Dark. The title was [originally] banned by Ferdinand Marcos when he was in charge of the country.
How do you choose which directors you work with?
Roselle Monteverde: We choose directors who are passionate. They need to film movies that they’re passionate about, otherwise it doesn’t work. It’s not that typecasting them, it’s really about where their passion lies. Not all directors can make a movie on horror or family drama or comedy. It’s really matching their passion and their way of thinking with a movie.
Watch the entire Shake, Rattle & Roll movies, courtesy of Regal Entertainment, Inc. here.