Director Erik Matti’s latest MMFF entry goes against the expected in this religious thriller.
With the unconventional lineup in this year’s Metro Manila Film Festival, looks like movie fans are still deciding which films to watch to complete their holiday break. Set in the 1940s, at first glance, it seems easy to write off Erik Matti’s"Seklusyon" as just another dark, understated, and religious-themed horror film but along the way it reveals itself to be way more than just that. The story focuses on the lives of four deacons who have one week to decide if they want to continue on to priesthood and they must do this in an isolated house (hence the title) in the middle of a forest with no outside distractions.
Unlike his initial MMFF films "Mano Po 2: My Home" and "Pedro Penduko Episode II: Return of the Comeback," director Erik Matti chose to make his way into this year’s controversial festival with a seemingly low-key horror film that seems promising enough, and without the usual fanfare. Case in point, the film’s lead stars are almost all relative newcomers led by "Flordeliza" child actress Rhed Bustamante, Hashtag member Ronnie Alonte, and indie film actress Phoebe Walker.
Ronnie Alonte plays Miguel, the lead among the four religious men (played by Dominic Roque, JR Versales, and John Vic De Guzman) who vow to spend the next seven days in silence and prayer. But during their stay, their hidden demons slowly come out to haunt them in different ways and the audience begins to realize that nobody is as innocent as they look in this film. Although the most typically scary moments of the film happen during the first half of the film, director Erik Matti made sure the horror he intended to impart to the audience was spread out until the very last scene.
At the same time, in another town, Father Ricardo (Neil Ryan Sese) is on a special mission to investigate the authenticity of a young miracle healer called Anghela (Rhed Bustamante) who proves herself to be an even bigger revelation as an actress with this role. When tragedy strikes Anghela’s family, she is brought to the house where the deacons are by the mysterious Mother Cecilia (Phoebe Walker). Rhed is impressive as she constantly shifts gears from innocence to malevolence within the same scene. By the end of the film it’s still hard to decide if you want to save her or run away from her because of how she breathes life to the otherworldly role. When Anghela and Mother Cecilia take over the deacon house, things become even more challenging for the four men as they encounter even more horrifying moments inside the house.
Even with all the scary and surprising moments in the film, "Seklusyon" does not use a truckload of special effects nor resort to gore or excess violence to justify its status as a horror film. In fact, part of what makes "Seklusyon" such a scary movie is that it uses universal human emotions such as guilt, love, remorse, and greed and turns it into an instrument of fear to make sure we don’t leave the theater without feeling even a little bit rattled.