Note: The following review applies for the so-called “international cut” for Seklusyon; the R-13 version with numerous cuts.
More often than not, we get Filipino horror films that stay too much in their comfort zone, not letting any of their genius get out and leave traces of superiority that would elevate such a genre that has been adored by the mainstream in our nation. Seklusyon, however, is different, and delves into horizons that one wouldn’t think that it would dare dip into; ringing a disconcerting bell that it might as well be regarded as a rough, triumphant gesture that exemplifies why the genre (in our country) needs to emulate the way that it thinks and moves. Its message is as relevant as it could ever be; getting politically-minded, and pivoting on the “false prophets” theme all throughout a narrative that simultaneously gives more (insight) that dares to also take away and oppose one’s faith. That is why keeping an open mind is a requirement that needs to be obeyed upon entrance, as it is immediately put into full effect as soon as the mood is set.
Sometimes though, the film is aware and knowledgeable of what it should and shouldn’t do. But in an attempt to show off its intelligence, it starts roaming into places that undermines its capabilities. A glaring example that exemplifies its wrong but not totally sinful ways of unorthodox, modern-day horror filmmaking is the fact that, atmospheric observance is not what it perceives to be its strongest suit — yet the filmic playthings that get left in the open to do their job of delivering scares participate quite decently to serve up modest, goosebumps-inducing sequences; most specially when the two really grip onto each other. With that being expressed, it’s acceptable to grasp that “acting out the horror of the situation” is a job that it can’t fully commit to, but fortunately, when it works, it does work — even if the memorability quickly fades out for some scenes.
What does stick, and brilliantly too, are the intelligent, razor-sharp ideas of commentary that it feeds to toy with our judgments that get punctuated by stand-out performances – if not for one bothersome cast member in the name of Ronnie Alonte that doesn’t quite give out his all. On the other hand though, the child actress, Rhed Bustamante and the rest of her cohorts, almost ace their performances by letting the film’s power speak in magnitudes in the form of their dialogues; giving gradual time to radiate in a manner akin to the William Friedkin horror classic The Exorcist; emphasized further by the themes that take place within the cautionary tale that surrounds them.
When that happens, that’s when you can conclude that you’re watching is a thoughtfully scribed film (which it remarkably is, sans the flaws). A dreadful spirit didn’t truly cling to it, but at times, it oozes its reeking terror in words that, for a lack of a better word, violently fornicates with the mind in ways unimaginable; it’s too vocal for it to not scream at our conscious and conscience out loud, and rain a hellish torrent of words that soundly provokes what we believe in. As this occurrence comes into play, that’s when you also begin to realize that the caliber directorial skill of Matti that pridefully reveals itself after all the shortcomings and misdirection that it had took on earlier in its duration. Much like what he did with his previous MMFF entry ‘Honor Thy Father’, he repeats his signature aggressive, mentally provocative routine yet again in this mind-warping horror pic that speaks in an alarmingly baritone-voice; one that is divulged from a vehicle with a rotting soul and a mind who’s constantly on a search for answers to a crucial yet questionable force that maneuvers so lowly in our society.
Controversial issues are enclosed within its shell, and yes, they should very well be taken as a hit that aims to destabilize such institutions. Just by hearing those words, one could dismiss that surely, Erik Matti has got it in him. He has boasted his talents for the past few years with two politically-charged thrillers that have made it worldwide, and this horrific heathen is inches closer to be becoming a savory masterwork of unparalleled intensities. If it weren’t for the choppiness of some of the editing that makes the shadows of compromise look glaringly obvious, then it would have had a marvelous chance of knocking out even the strongest of the #MMFF2016 competitors.
Seklusyon is a golden reminder that Philippine modern horror can not be all about the suspense and the things that go bump in the night, but also about the horrific reality that we live in; the operose moral conflicts that we encounter and the world that is swarmed with monsters seeking to unleash evil and their impurities upon men. The implications of them getting unloosed truly are the genuine scares that make their mark, and the ending of this parable justifying the triumph of malice exposes us to the real world by projecting hair-raising images or sequences rather that closes the film, and opens our eyes to the painful reality that evil is lurking around, moving in silence. That thought alone gets you the mind running to dark places, lasting in one’s psyche even after weeks has passed – authenticating its status as a powerful horror piece due to Matti’s conjuring of startling imagery and harnessing of biblical terror that signals artistic realism that would get one stunned without remorse. A director’s cut might just better things up, and stack up more soul-hammering frights that would make it more easily insufferable, but nonetheless, the version that we got to see would suffice — thanks to what it has established that lets it make the cut as yet another promising, fascinating and persuasive project from the superbly prolific filmmaker which covers the topic of religion with a black cloth; making it all look rather sinister and vile.
- Seklusyon is now showing in Philippine cinemas nationwide, and is rated R-13 by the MTRCB.