November 8, 2013
A Brilliante Mendoza movie is an awaited event among Filipino cinephiles. After all, he is the only Filipino film director who had won a Best Director award at the Cannes Film Festival.
Admittedly though, his films (like Serbis or Kinatay) are not really the easiest ones to understand or like for the casual movie fan. His last film Thy Womb (starring Ms. Nora Aunor) seems to bridge that gap, arty and award-winning, yet still relatively commercially appealing.
It is interesting then to see this current film "Sapi" to see if he will create a film that will bring him into the mainstream consciousness. A good horror film is usually a crowd-pleaser. Unfortunately, it went the opposite way from that. In fact, even Mendoza's most ardent fans will most probably not like this one for various reasons.
Meryll (Meryll Soriano), an SBN producer and her reporter Dennis (Dennis Trillo) air a feature about a demonic possession. Problem is that this sensational footage had been surreptitiously bought from the rival network PBC cameraman Baron (yes, you guessed right, Baron Geisler). Aside from professional sanctions following this serious infraction, Meryll, Dennis and Baron all begin to be tormented by ghostly visions and events. Or are they?
OK, we cannot expect the story of a Brilliante Mendoza film to be told plainly. Yet artistic it may be, the film still needs to tell its story well. The main story about the stealing of footage was unimaginatively plotted. There was absolutely no way Meryll et al. could have gotten away with their unethical actions, and they do not even try.
Also, how come so many scenes in this film happen without any seeming logical reason. What was the point of that whole scene in the cheap restaurant? Just to have a Mercedes Cabral cameo? What was the point of showing Dennis cruising the streets for a prostitute? Because a Mendoza film is incomplete without a gratuitous sex scene?
The last hour was a blur of terrible supernatural events which seem to be happening to the guilty trio. Yet confusingly, their lives just go on as if nothing had happened at all to anyone of them. Did anything happen at all? In Sapi's most memorable scene, Mendoza showed a big horrifying creature coming out from a vulva (shades of the controversial graphic birth scene in Thy Womb but made more shocking). But in the next scene, everything seemed business as usual with the girl, everything forgotten. Truth to tell, these "horror" scenes were not really scary at all, recurrent thunderbolts of lightning notwithstanding.
So for me, Sapi did not really succeed as a horror film. The social commentary parts about the media war, or even about the garbage and the flooding, were shallow at best. The camera was very shaky (though thankfully not as dizzying as Mendoza's Captive). The cinematography was pale and washed out, since majority of the film occurs in the rain or in the dark. The acting of the cast was compromised by the inexplicable things their characters were made to do. The editing is a jumbled mess of non-sequitur scenes.
I guess there nothing really much that I liked about this film. That said though, I will still be looking forward to the next Brillante Mendoza film. 3/10.