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Rufa Mae Quinto gets serious in ‘Ang Huling Henya’, a zombie movie with a heart

Rufa Mae Quinto.

Don’t look now but Philippine cinema’s resident Booba is making a 180-degree turn in her new movie, Viva Films’ “Ang Huling Henya,” opening on August 21.

“This time I’m serious,” the star says, quoting a headline from one of the movie’s posters.

Here’s another headline: “Ang zombie movie na may puso.”

Yes, “Ang Huling Henya” is a zombie movie with a heart that showcases a serious Rufa Mae in drama mode. It is also a sci-fi action movie with a family story at its center.

“Walang peg ang movie,” notes the film’s wroter-director, Marlon Rivera who made a splashy debut two years ago with the critical and commercial hit “Ang Babae Sa Septic Tank.” “Wala pang ganitong klaseng pelikula, kaya hinihingi namin ang pang-unawa ng viewers.”

Director and star are only half-kidding. It’s a different kind of movie with a different kind of Rufa Mae.

“Ang Huling Henya” revolves around a neuro-scientist and undercover agent named Miri (Rufa Mae) who gets sent back to the Philippines by her boss after bungling an operation that led to her partner’s death in the hands of an enemy. She works in an international agency that protects scientists and inventors worldwide from organizations that are out to steal their works and use them for self-serving purposes.

While in Manila, Miri gets assigned by the agency to investigate a case involving an apparent zombie attack.

This leads her to uncover a long-running underground operation by a covert organization engaged in abducting high-IQ individuals to extract serum from their brains to be turned into mind-altering designer drugs that get sold to rich clients. The science procedure turns these brainiacs into brain-dead zombies.

The case eventually brings Miri to a shocking discovery: the parents that she and her younger brother thought had died in an explosive encounter with unknown assailants when they were kids are still alive. Notably, they are unwittingly involved in the drug organization as the inventors of the technology.

Rufa Mae plays Miri straight, with almost none of her trademark “todo na ‘to!” “leveling!” and “go go go!” Booba-isms and Rufa Mae-isms. She also eschews the fully dolled-up appearance (heavy make-up, long fake eye lashes, colored contact lenses, big hair, cleavage-baring dresses) that she has sported in all her movies. Instead, she adopts Miri’s more natural, stripped down shirt-and-jeans look as envisioned by Rivera.

It’s a welcome change for the actress who feels it’s about time she did something new going into the third decade of her career. “Matagal ko na talagang gustong gumawa ng movie na kakaiba,” Rufa Mae says. “Kaya nung kinuwento sa akin ni Direk Marlon ang concept ng movie, na-excite ako. At talagang kinarir ko ang project na ‘to.”

Rufa Mae’s preparations for the movie included martial arts lessons for the film’s various fight scenes. She also had to brush up on her English and learn a few lines of dialogue in French.

“I think Rufa Mae will surprise many people with this movie,” Rivera says. “Not only with her look and the various skills she showcases but, most importantly, her flair as a dramatic actress which nobody has seen before.”

“Ang Huling Henya” also stars Edgar Allan Guzman, Candy Pangilinan, Ayen Laurel, DJ Durano, Robert Sena, Kean Cipriano, and Ricci Chan.