As of writing, I am playing the movie “Dalaw” in my background. Actually, I already watched this horror flick last Sunday. It’s just that I want to re-run it again and scare myself. Yes, at this time of the month that I should be scared to beat all the deadlines from graduate school, I am even frightening myself with movies that I wish to awaken my lazy and sleepy senses.
I’ve always been a fan of Pinoy horror flicks. I find our fright fest a combination of “kakornihan” and clichés. However, despite the predictability of the plot and the in-your-face spooky scenes, I adore our own katatakutan. Interestingly, the stories and plots are intertwined with our beliefs and religious system. Today, I will share to you the TOP 10 Trademark of Filipino Horror Flicks.
1. White Lady. Even before Sadako crawled into the limelight, Filipino Flicks are known for a ghoulish girl who wears a white long dress lurking around town. At times, this lady has a long hair, floats and usually crosses the road to distract a driver who passes by in a dark and eerie street. End up, that driver will get into an accident. Of course, who would forget the movie “Ang Babae sa Balete Drive.” While Zsa Zsa Padilla who changed into Mary Walter is just convincing to portray the white lady. In most stories, a flashback is presented to justify the white lady’s mysterious death. Normally, it is associated with a woman who is raped and is thrown in some abandoned land, or a girl was abandoned on the day of her wedding and opted to commit suicide and soon ran for revenge.
2. Haunted House and Barkada. A traditional horror flick, especially Regal Films produced, won’t be complete without a complete roll of fright fest in a haunted house. In most occasions, a group of teens would lose track in their way, get a flat tire and will find a house in the middle of the night. Without an option, the group would stay in a haunted house, and yes, experience a haunting command. On top of these, the haunting experience doesn’t scare you at all because you are simply distracted with the “love team” and the funny antics by either a gay persona in the group, a sosyalera, a superstitious yaya, and an old confused driver who must (in the first place) should bring and know all the tools to fix the car.
3. The Kasambahay. Vacations are well loved by Filipinos. Mostly in films, this is portrayed as part of the plot in horror movies. Normally, the setting is shot in a province or some far rural place where there’s no access to mobility like phones, etc. Perhaps, Filipino movies have a tradition in showing the “unexplained” and “ghoulish” experiences happen in a rural setting where there’s a high concentration of superstitious beliefs. Apart from the vacation escapade turned into a nightmare, what spices up the plot is the presence of a weird kasambahay. In most movies, that person dresses oddly, has physical deformities, mumbles, and suddenly appears in the middle of the night and does some prayer or ritual. With the Urban based and modern bakasyonista seeing the kasambahay’s practices, the play of horrifying imagination begins.
4. Manananggal. For a time, the manananggal has been part of the Filipino pop and real culture. During the 90s, the manananggal was considered an icon in some horrow flicks. If I’m not mistaken, Alma Moreno played a role. The concept of the manananggal, normally a girl whose upper body separates from the lower part and turns into a big scary bat-inspired entity, has evolved in Philippine provinces. True or not, the story about the manananggal may not only represent stories that evolve in towns, but is also used in the urban setting to scare those children who doesn’t want to sleep at night and are hard-headed. As I remember, our housemaid before would even say to me that the manananggal would come and get me if I don’t sleep. Too bad or thank God, I haven’t see a manananggal except in the corporate and modern jungle.
5. Zombies. Even before Plants vs. Zombies or the gore fest shines in American horror movies, we have been “smitten” by the presence of zombies in our movies. Then again, instead of getting that scare, we always end up with looking at the substandard production design of the zombie’s look. Yes, even us can do their make-up and move slow with a hunch back to become a convincing zombie.
6. Dwende/ Dwarf. Part of any early Filipino horror movies is the presence of those fashionable dwarves or dwende. If I’m not mistaken, the concept of the dwende is an extension of Philippine superstitious beliefs which originates in rural areas or provinces. Interestingly, the dwende is portrayed as a whimsical being that shares good and sometimes bad magic to others. These dwarves wear a colorful dress, pointed shoes and hats. Plus, their ears are pointed as well. But hey, I do believe in their powers to hurt those will destroy their house; in our cultural beliefs, their oasis is designed like a small mountain of soil leaning over a tree. In one incident, my brother got these bruises after playing near a tree with the pile of mud. Thankfully, after a ritual was made, my brother recovered. We just then discovered that my brother might had hit the house of the dwarves.
7. Vampira. The vampires are the fast moving versions of lethargic zombies. And in Philippine horrow movies, I am convinced that vampires are magnificent characters that give us enough scare especially when we were kids. Who wouldn’t remember Maricel Soriano who once took a role of a vampire. With all the deep and demonic voice paired with a face of terror, vampires open the door for further imagining an eerie encounter with a tragic death.
8. Mangkukulam/ Witch. Witches have always been a signature character in Philippine horror movies. They do not only possess that mysterious and deep set eyes, they also find comfort in a room filled with candles, a rag doll, bunch of pins, and an indescribable altar. To extend their imagery, witches in Philippine movies get a hair, a picture or any material owned by the person they hate or despise, to deliver a curse. Soon, they utter the “Latin phrases” and the curse takes effect. In my opinion, the revenge inflicted by the witches to mortals articulate great and terrifying powers.
9. Exorcism. Exorcism has been part of Filipino cultural beliefs. They originate in, again, provinces. Through out the years, exorcism has been central in Filipino horror flicks. While there are a lot of portrayals about it, I am more scared seeing a child who is possessed with a bad spirit. These possessed kids do not only appear in doors, windows, hallways, they also stare at you with some bloody eyes and wild aura. Plus, they talk like an adult and do beastly responses. They push you away and even throw a heavy cabinet. To solve this, a priest will be called. During the battle, the rosary and the bible will flew out. Soon, the holy water shall restore the child’s innocence.
10. Comedy. Some Filipino horror films won’t be a stand out without the presence of witty and corny lines delivered by exaggerated characters. I guess, this is more terrifying to see than letting the real horror unfold. Why? Because comedic parts destroy the flow of what could possibly be a successful terrorizing scene. Imagine, you don’t only get to jump out of your seat as you watch the flick, you also fall out of place with all the funny banters. But then again, relating to our culture, our understanding of reality is an amalgamation of genres, just like in movies; we laugh and we cry; we play with our emotions. And this reality is captured by movies which lead to the definition of what is really scary, something that is a blockbuster in the eyes of the producers, and plays safe by mixing different genres in order to rake in profit.