Filipinos fascinated with the macabre

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Tasked to direct all three episodes of “Shake, Rattle & Roll 14: The Invasion,” acclaimed filmmaker Chito Roño knew that he had to team up with the country’s most awarded scriptwriters.

The combination of Roño and scriptwriters Ricky Lee, Roy Iglesias and Rody Vera sought to “shake” up the durable Metro Manila Film Festival franchise.

Roño had collaborated frequently with Iglesias and Lee in the past, but it was his first time to work on a script by Vera, best known for writing the Cinemalaya winner “Niño.” (Vera was one of lyricists of Roño’s musical, “Emir.”)

In separate interviews with Inquirer, Lee, Iglesias and Vera expressed very serious thoughts on horror and the Pinoys’ curious fascination with the macabre, even in the thick of the holiday season.

Vital social function

Iglesias, who wrote the apocalyptic episode “Unwanted,” explained: “I think Filipinos love horror because it takes them back to their childhood when parents told scary stories to make the kids behave.”

These stories, Iglesias noted, impart lessons on “danger, the unknown and the significance of understanding the many forms of evil and how to deal with them.”

Lee, who wrote the episode “Pamana,” agreed that horror fulfills a vital social function. “In developing countries like the       Philippines, horror is a way to purge all the terrifying things, the injustices and poverty around us,” Lee said. “We want to laugh at these real-life horrors… social problems that have no solutions. The fear of the unknown is most intense among those who suffer most in life.”

Vera, whose script for “Lost Command” tackles the evils of militarization, wants to see horror merging with realism in future “Shake” movies. “There may be hundreds of aswang movies out there, but I want to add to that and probe into the dark psyche of the Pinoy collective unconscious: pre-Christian versus Christian.”

Everyday life

Vera is also thrilled by the prospect of turning historical incidents into a horror flick, like he did in “Lost Command,” which alludes to the vigilante squads of the 1980s.

Lee and Iglesias both dream of writing horror flicks grounded in reality. “I want a film to resonate, to have a ring of truth to it,” Iglesias said. “I’d like to write a thriller that dramatizes the horror in everyday life beyond ghosts and monsters… to the realm of evil in the real world.”

Horror and history

Said Lee, who wrote a novel about a nocturnal creature, a manananggal (“Si Amapola sa 65 na Kabanata”): “If I had my way, I’d write a horror movie that involves historical figures like Jose Rizal, Andres Bonifacio and Ninoy Aquino—a horror film that explores social inequity and injustice, or one that explores Filipino identity.”

Vera is very much aware that “going to the movies should be a fun ride, but not necessarily a sleigh ride.” He finds it interesting that “mushy holiday movies don’t fare as well as fantasy, horror and comedy flicks” during the Metro Manila Film Festival.

It didn’t escape Iglesias’ attention, either, that horror movies consistently make a killing at the tills even during the supposed season of spiritual renewal.

Instant thrills

Said Igelsias: “Horror offers instant thrills. It’s like going to the carnival and riding the roller coaster. And it’s more fun to watch a horror flick with the entire barkada. It’s a form of bonding.”

“It’s a communal experience,” Lee agreed. It’s ironic, he said, that “during the year’s happiest season, people want to see the darkest possibilities in the human condition. It’s thrilling, pulsating, titillating.”

(E-mail: bayanisandiegojr@gmail.com.)

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