Director: J. Erastheo Navoa
Starring: Niño Muhlach, Jimi Melendez, Cecille Castillo
Here's a truly bizarre children's fantasy from the Phillipines that somehow manages to be equal measures charming and creepy (O.K. mostly creepy) while containing enough freaky imagery to send many an unsuspecting Western viewer's head spinning in disbelief.
The convoluted, yet linear story begins as baby Rocco (played by local child star, Nino Muhlach) is born the same night that his parents are viciously gunned down (exactly by whom is never made clear... to me, anyway). Fast forward eleven years and Rocco is being raised by his grandmother. She warns him not to display his newly found powers (which includes superhuman strength and the ability to crouch down like a ball and roll violently into things) and weakness (he loses his powers when exposed to water). Turns out easier said than done however because the evil scientist, Dr. Meagele has been conducting experiments on the locals, transforming them into either vampires or werewolves. After defending his home against one said lycanthrope, word spreads about Rocco, the Stone Boy. He is lured by a trio of witches who after weakening him by dousing him with water, tie him to a spit and prepare to dine on him like a Roast Pig (this is by far the most disturbing image in the movie). As the witches turn into wolfies, the heat from the fire that our hapless hero is basting on restores his strength. Fighting them off (as well as huge vampire bat that attempts to carry him off) Rocco seeks refuge in a cave. There he bumps into Vulcan, an elderly immortal who tells Rocco of his legacy; that he is himself, half immortal (on his father's side) and must travel to the land of the little people to free his parents souls which are in limbo. Allying himself with said little ones and receiving help from a suspiciously Darna-like woman warrior, Rocco is off to the rescue, battling a Cyclops and various other nasties in his quest to free his parents' souls.
The film takes a little while to really get rolling (much like our Boy-God himself) but once it does... ooh mama! It is hard to believe that this film was aimed at the kiddies, what with the gore and carnage on display, but it indeed was and that makes the proceedings all the more... let's say exotic for a lack of a harsher adjective. It lacks the extreme violence that is found in more adult Filipino fare like The Killing of Satan (which I previously reviewed), but there is plenty of eyebrow raising stuff going on for a family oriented fantasy.
Overall, Rocco, Ang Batang Bato with it's decidedly cool low budget effects and genuinely creepy visuals, shapes up as recommended viewing for fantasy fans with a penchant for the decidedly different. Just make sure you know what you're getting into before diving in.
*** / ****