I once read a fable about the seven blind men who caught a white elephant and grabbed its different body parts. One declared that it was a palm leaf after touching its ears. One said it was a python, upon touching its nose. The other argued that it was magnificent statue, while holding it’s hind leg, and so on. Finally they sat down together and discussed what they have. They decided that they caught a black elephant.
Horror novelist, Stephen King says that: “fear makes us blind, and we touch it with all the avid curiosity of self-interest, trying to make a whole out of a hundred parts.” Like the seven blind men, we look at horror by its parts, and we finally construct a collective thought of what fear is. We may not still get it right, but our own interpretations are enough to keep us awake at night.
I think this is what Brillante Ma. Mendoza presents in his SAPI (2013). It is commentary far related to what we take regularly as horror, but it is as horrifying as that cold hand under your hair. It may not be your run-of-the-mill ghost story. But if there’s something that exceeds the supernatural, it is the human psyche that’s the most horrifying of all.
TV news reporter Dennis (Dennis Trillo) and his producer Meryll (Meryll Soriano) is working on a documentary about demonic possessions. In a desperate need to get an actual footage, they make a back room deal with Baron (Baron Geisler), a cameraman from a rival network who had the chance to capture an actual exorcism. Everything was doing well until Ma’am Ruby (Ruby Ruiz), the possessed subject, gets televised on national television. Apparently, the footages are not supposed to be aired, and if so, should abide to Ruby’s legal requests to be anonymous.
The film juxtaposes different layers of horrors, that the audience can choose from: the far, unreliable, grotesque and the relevant, the everyday, the familiar.
On the one hand, Brillante provides what the audience wants: the snake crawling out of your vagina, the androgynous zombie with a sewed mouth giving you a blow job, or your doppelgänger looking at you before jumping off a bridge. Though psycho-Freudian and Marxist in their interpretations, the film moves to a more relevant and familiar form of fear. It presents the common themes of shock and macabre, but it intentionally diverts itself, as if saying, “haven’t you had enough, already?”
On the other hand, Brillante presents other carnal truths in the network wars that we are so familiar with, and explores the trickeries of these systems that we are supposed to trust. Beyond the paranormal, the film investigates the critical areas of news writing and examines the bureaucratic machine in all its hypocrisy and commercialism. It delves on one story of a country that is about to go under (the monsoon floods), and the rich still gets richer, and the poor gets free groceries so they’d shut the f*ck up. All at the expense of the truth.
At first, you question the system. Second, you question your trust.
If that is not horrifying, I don’t what is.
I am not a Brillante fan, nor have I ever been a Brillante fan. But this is one of his works that I’d gladly recommend to my friends . It is a critical analysis of what horror is, and how we can make it relevant. In the final analysis, it takes a critical eye to understand that Brillante is presenting to us the elephant. Like the seven blind men, we construct our own interpretations of what it is that we should fear the most.
4.5 Stars out of 5.00