MALEDICTO (Mark Meily, 2019)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Maledicto:

1. It had been two days already and I still couldn’t get over the fact that I paid Php335 to watch this exorcism comedy. Ano bang masamang espiritu ang sumapi sa akin kahapon? Seriously, I could have used that money for a month’s worth of Netflix subscription so I wouldn’t need to leech off my bff’s account anymore. Besides, this was the kind of cheapie horror film meant to be seen on TV on a late Sunday night while battling a serious case of insomnia (an effective cure, for sure).

2. Tom Rodriguez (who might also be affected by Maynilad’s water shortage given his constantly constipated, hadn’t taken a dump in three days look) played Father Xavi, a psychiatrist turned priest (ooh career shift!) that didn’t believe in demonic possessions. As a man of science first, he assumed that there was always a logical, non-spiritual explanation on these supposed otherworldly events.

When asked to perform an exorcism on a possessed kid, the skeptic in him looked for signs that the boy was actually suffering from a medical condition. His initial diagnosis? “Madumi ang ngipin. Baka hindi lang nagsisipilyo.” Hek hek hek!!

3. In the late ‘80s, Phillip Salvador portrayed Father Balweg, a Catholic priest who founded the militant group Cordillera People’s Liberation Army. Father Xavi tried to one-up the said rebel priest by doing such un-holy, mej bad boy stuff like excessive drinking and smoking while playing a somber piece on his piano. His brashness was also evident when dealing with other people, like when he had this conversation with Sister Barbara (Jasmine Curtis-Smith):

Father Xavi: “Ok, I’ll help you, but I get to call you Barbie because your name’s boring.”

Sister Barbara turned Barbie: “Shige ne nge!”

Kaloka ka Sis!!

4. Non-sponsored plug: the screen in Evia was crystal clear and merited the exorbitant ticket price. The movie’s production team probably forgot that these cinemas exist though because in the first scene alone, the bruises on Mara’s (Inah de Belen) face looked like she just had too much fun with the Vice Cosmetics line.

Several scenes were noticeably out of focus and I just kept getting distracted by that hazy filter that blurred the edges in most frames. In terms of visual effects, I couldn’t determine where the swarm of flies came from in the scene where Mara had her mouth open ala The Mummy (parang they were just traumatized by her bad case of halitosis). And in what tacky club/bar would we see these ribbon strips dangling from the ceiling? Que horror!!

5. One of my favorite, laugh-out-loud moments was when Agnes (Miles Ocampo) chased an askal in this eskinita and then it turned on her and bit her. Sabay labas si Manang Sisa (Liza Lorena) who grabbed her bloody hand, looked at her palm, and said something like, “Gusto mo ba malaman sino ang magiging boyfriend mo?” and everything was just forgotten. Gurrrl, never heard of rabies?!

Side note: Agnes supposedly got possessed by the demonic doggie spirit so in the succeeding scene, she was shown wearing skimpy clothes and displayed her new goth look. Anak ng demonyo! Who made this movie? My grandmother?? (Or maybe it was just the rabies?)

6. First time to hear a voiceover while a character was flipping through a book: “Ahh, here it is!”.

Also, first time to see a person’s name crossed out during the end credits. Kawawa naman si Russel Remo.

7. During the exorcism, psychiatrist turned priest and probably turned chef Father Xavi started pouring mounds of salt around the bed. Hala, may balak pa ata siya gawing daing si Agnes! (But wait, wouldn’t her extended, wagging tongue make a better lengua instead?)

8. So there was a sub-plot slash twist about the Church’s cover-up on demonic possessions by equating them with drug use related to a coven of witches with horoscope signs on their palms. Would this be tackled further in the possible sequel that was hinted at by a mid-credits sequence? Juskong mahabagin!!

Rating: ★☆☆☆☆

PENGABDI SETAN (SATAN’S SLAVES) (Joko Anwar, 2017)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

After the first twenty minutes of this Indonesian horror movie, I kept fiddling with my phone to change the assigned message tone for most of my contacts. I probably wouldn’t survive a possible heart attack if I heard bell chimes coming from text messages in the middle of the night. I wasn’t even sure why I forgot to do that after watching The Autopsy of Jane Doe, but the chilling ghost face of the dying mother here was enough reason not to forget this time.

Sadly, the movie couldn’t sustain the scares and resorted to the usual horror movie tropes, ones that we’d already seen in Rosemary’s Baby, Ringu, and even Paranormal Activity 4. By the time the undead rose from their graves with cotton balls up their noses, I was chuckling loudly from my seat imagining the late Chiquito’s comedy films of my childhood.

The deaf-mute demon child was also played by the most adorable kid that it was hard not to feel sorry for him. While his family members wanted him dead, I just wanted to reach out and pinch his cute, rosy cheeks. Good production values overall, though.

One scene involving a record that when played backwards revealed ancient (read: evil) chanting reminded me so much of the time when the Eraserheads was accused of blasphemy and satanic worship by the Catholic Church. I almost broke my Cutterpillow cassette tape trying to figure out how the backmasking thing worked (since Overdrive was apparently demonic). Believing fake news out of blind faith, now that was scary.

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

SPOTLIGHT (Tom McCarthy, 2015)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Spotlight:

1. In one of the many interviews in this compelling film about the Catholic Church’s cover-up of child molestation scandals, a lawyer (played by the superb Stanley Tucci) clearly summed up the overall feeling of helplessness and blind faith when he said, “If it takes a village to raise a child, it takes a village to abuse them.” Chilling words considering that this was based on a true story and the end credits specifically mentioned the cities with reported cases (Manila and Cebu, among others).

2. Kids these days will never understand all the actual research needed to complete a thesis, prior to all the advancements in technology. Information now is just one click (or a Google) away whereas before, you actually had to go to a library (physical, not virtual), sort through the card catalog (that uses the Dewey Decimal System, of course!), find the hard copy of the book, and actually read the entire thing to gather information (without the help of a CTRL+F to search for keywords). Instead of clicking links for news reports, one had to find newspaper clippings and use a microfilm viewer. You wouldn’t really know hard work unless you were a kid growing up during the pre-Internet era.

3. Since this film was set in 2001 (when Facebook was still non-existent), the group of Boston Globe reporters that wanted to do an exposé resorted to manual work (scribbling down notes, knocking on doors, visiting libraries). It was like the most boring procedural TV show and yet you didn’t want to miss every detail that they uncovered. At one point, they had to go over actual physical copies of directories, highlighting the priests that were on “sick leave” before logging the entries in what appeared to be the very first version of Excel.

(Btw, sick leave meant that guilty priests got sent to treatment facilities instead of prison. Now that was really sick.)

4. In one of the most powerful scenes here, a victim recounted the experience he had with an abusive priest. He talked about the resulting guilt and shame, the long-term trauma (some were driven to alcoholism and drug abuse) of that incident, that he was not prayed for but preyed upon, and ended his story with this question, “How do you say no to God?”. How, indeed.

5. On the flipside, one of the priests admitted that he was guilty of molesting kids but showed no remorse, with the defense that he did not get any pleasure from the said act. (And further revealed that he was also abused by another priest.) Horrors!

6. “Pedophile priests are a billion dollar liability.”

“They turned turned child abuse into a cottage industry.”

I have no words.

Rating: ★★★★☆