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This is the blog of Ian Rosales Casocot. Filipino writer. Sometime academic. Former backpacker. Twink bait. Hamster lover.

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Thursday, June 11, 2020

entry arrow10:00 AM | The Film Meme No. 47

[47th of 100]. The best horror movie to come out of Philippine cinema does not employ ghosts or creatures from the bowels of lower mythology. But it has a monster in its midst -- the gimlet-eyed father whose Machismo proves murderous -- and it is even scarier because it has all the trappings of reality many of us in the Philippines breathe. We know severe fathers like Dadong Carandang, blustering machos whose harsh words are the laws of the family, whose withering glance settles everything, whose patriarchal privilege means everything he does cannot be questioned. This kind of fatherhood is so common, and is such a given in our culture, that we have even elected it President. To see this film from Mike de Leon now is to recognize anew Philippine society at its most damaged. The film is a shock, but not a surprise. It allows us access to the last few months of the Carandang family, which includes a jittery mother [played by Charito Solis] and a hapless daughter named Mila [played by Charo Santos], both dominated with such precise ownership by the head of the family [played to frightening perfection by Vic Silayan], and ruled over so thoroughly no one even questions the incestuous regard the father may have for the daughter. [That movie date scene is a nightmare.] When she falls for another man [played by Jay Ilagan] -- which is presented by the film as Mila's chance to escape her father's house -- it incites a series of events that would eventually lead to the tragedy we know has to come. The horror is cumulative, but it is thick as the atmosphere of the story, from the claustrophobia of the Carandang bungalow with all its grilled windows and bolted gates, to the tension pervading every family meal. The fact that it is actually based on real events gives the film the added spectre of true crime, like the shivering revelations of Truman Capote's In Cold Blood. I mention that classic of New Journalism because the film is actually an adaptation of a literary work springing from the same well: Nick Joaquin's crime reportage, "The House on Zapote Street." In this essay and in the figure of Mr. Carandang [although in the essay, his real name is Pablo Cabading], Nick Joaquin -- a much-loved and revered National Artist for Literature -- does his most supreme depiction of the biggest heel he returns to now and again in his works: the Pinoy macho, who can either transform [as in Don Paeng Moreta in "The Summer Solstice"] or remain a heel [as in Don Badoy Montiya in "May Day Eve"]. In Cabading/Carandang, the heel becomes a murderer, and he is more nightmarish because real. What a film this is. De Leon has always struck me as the singular Filipino filmmaker who knew best the medium of film as a storytelling device -- he really should be National Artist for Cinema despite what hounds his reputation -- and of his vision, I think he comes closest to being our very own Stanley Kubrick. This 1981 masterpiece reminds me so much of the tautness of Kubrick's The Shining, and we see touches of influence such as the rolling opening credits, the haunted house, and the father reduced to preying on his family. They also display the same cold and breathless intelligence in their storytelling, the same meticulousness to their moviemaking, and the same embrace of disparate genres. (De Leon has done a musical [Kakabakaba Ka Ba?], two social problem films [Sister Stella L. and Batch '81], two romantic dramas [Kung Mangarap Ka't Magising and Hindi Nahahati ang Langit], a supernatural horror film [Itim], a metafictional historical film [Bayaning 3rd World], and a noir crime drama [Citizen Jake] that serves as his polemic versus current political realities.) To date, this masterpiece of Philippine cinema remains unrestored, and unavailable to most, which is an equal tragedy. What's the film?

For the introduction to this meme, read here.

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