Just when I thought it was too late to catch anymore #MMFF2016 films, the festival extends just a little, and there I am in the cinema with the first friend I could find. Our friends raved about Seklusyon on an out-of-town trip, and a girlfriend and I felt bad for not having watched it yet. And so, we did.

It’s a weird feeling to watch a horror flick during the Metro Manila Film Fest (MMFF) that’s not Shake, Rattle & Roll. That horror film series has been on for so long, it’s almost as old as I am. Almost.

In line with the new guidelines that set forth this year’s MMFF, it was only Seklusyon that made the cut for this year’s horror lineup. It sits pretty among romantic comedies and films far from what it is. Is it worth it? Well, let’s see.

Having watched a number of Shake, Rattle & Roll films myself, I was expecting to get myself scared like crazy with Seklusyon. It has been a long time since any horror film has actually been scary during the MMFF, and so I just assumed that Seklusyon would do the trick.

Don’t come into the cinema like I did that afternoon. My friend and I were holding each other, wondering how we’d get to sleep that night. I slept like a baby. Seklusyon was not scary at all. For my standards, at least. I’m pretty much devoid of feelings at this point.

It was not scary, so don’t come into the cinema expecting for a jump-scare extravaganza. That’s not going to happen. But, I assure you, Seklusyon will make you think.

It was a relatively short film, less than an hour and a half. Its story goes this way. Miguel (Ronnie Alonte) is a priest about to be ordained. Before he can be ordained though, he has to undergo seven days of seclusion (thus, the title) at a faraway retreat house with three other would-be priests. This is because it is believed that temptation is at its strongest right before a man enters priesthood.

On the flipside of things, there was a returning priest, Father Ricardo, (Neil Ryan Sese) who was sent to investigate the miracles being performed by the child healer, Anghela (Rhed Bustamante). She could cure any illness or injury, and thus has created quite a following for herself. The priest was skeptical of her, even more so when her parents died and she was left in the arms of a suspicious nun, Madre Cecilia (Phoebe Walker).

By some twist of fate, Anghela and Madre Cecilia ended up in the same retreat house Miguel and his fellow would-be priests were residing, and that was when chaos ensued. The dark pasts of each of these young men were slowly uncovered, and so was the truth about the child.

It was repeated all throughout the film that Anghela was God’s gift to us, but in reality, she was a false prophet. How she controlled the people around her with her allure and power was what was really mesmerizing about the film. We, like the players in the horror flick, are so easily controlled, it led me to question the state of our religion nowadays.

There are so many questions that Seklusyon left unanswered, and those may have been what ruined the film for me. I was so invested in the story of Madre Cecilia, but I only got to catch glimpses of it through Father Ricardo’s research.

I am so used to just laughing at horror films (even foreign ones) because that’s what they usually illicit from me. I expect the moments that attempt to shock me, and so I just laugh them off when they do arrive. I did not have those moments in Seklusyon, although I really yearned for them. Instead, I had questions.

Seklusyon is a good film. I will not go on to say that it’s great. It could have been, but it didn’t exert enough effort to get there. But, it is quite refreshing to see another kind of horror film in the Philippine arena. Horror films are often rooted in the things we fear, and the things we want. I love that Seklusyon made the conscious effort to delve into those things. Had it took enough time to fill in the holes it left open, it could’ve been great.

ilawod

I have nothing but props for its director, Erik Matti, who keeps on delivering hard-hitting films despite the overly commercial playing field recent Philippine cinema has been known for. Thus, I’m curious about Dan Villegas’ Ilawod, the next horror film being built up. It looks like the Philippine horror scene is growing and no longer merely relying on the shock and ‘takot’ factor that has kept it alive for years.

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