Clarita is the latest release of Black Sheep, the film outfit that targets the millennial market. To date, they have produced Exes Baggage, To Love Some Buddy, Sakaling Maging Tayo, Oda Sa Wala, Alone/Together, and Between Maybes. Jodi Sta.M aria plays the titular role, and she is joined by Ricky Davao, Romnick Sarmenta, Alyssa Muhlach, and Arron Villaflor, among others.
Ricky Davao has been in the business for several decades already and is no stranger to horror flicks. “Hindi ko na maalala kung ilang horror films na ang nagawa ko. For the longest time, I was part of Oka Tokat, siguro for about 6 years.” He recounts the challenges working on the set of Clarita. “Maalikabok, mausok, sobrang init. But we were all happy working together, knowing that we have a good project. We have good material. Feeling namin maganda siya.”
“It’s very physical. Nakakapagod. Kaming mga pari, naka-sutana. Doble-doble. Naka-polo sa loob. Sa totoo lang, after every scene, hanggang medyas, basa sa pawis.” Ricky plays one of the priests who performs exorcism on Clarita. “In this particular film, we were asked to deliver lines and prayers in Latin, so we had to really memorize. It was a good thing that we had somebody on set who explained the meaning and how to pronounce it. We had to deliver a different language, with conviction. That’s challenging for me.”
A director himself, Ricky commended how director Derick Cabrido handled the cast. Direk Derick explained that it all boils down to respect and trust for his actors. “I respect their craft,” he said. “Binigyan ko sila ng laya kung paano nila iinterpret ‘yung characters nila. After the first take, kung meron akong comments or notations, doon ko palang sasabihin. Collaborative naman kasi yung naging approach namin sa paggawa ng pelikula. Pero before that, hindi ko muna ine-explain, because they are more than capable.”
Arron Villaflor, sporting a new hairstyle he dubbed “the Keempee”, was also one of the priests. “Ang hirap pala mag-play ng priest,” he shared. “May mga specific movements at specific gestures ang pari, lalo na kapag nasa simbahan at nagmimisa. ‘Yung actions, minsan stiff. ‘Yung pagsasalita, dapat proper.” He found these difficult, but appreciated the freedom and guidance that Direk Derick gave him. “Kailangan din magkaroon ng pasensya: pasensya sa init, sa paghihintay, sa technical problems na nagyayari sa set.”
“Ako nahirapan talaga ako, kasi buong buhay ko hindi ako nanoood ng horror film,” admitted Alyssa Muhlach, who plays Emilia in the film. “Actually, even ‘yung reactions, I had a hard time with the intensity of the emotions.” What helped her a lot was the direction given. “I spoke to Direk and he really guided me. Ginawa ko ‘yung mga homework na pinagawa niya para I’d understand the character more, so that I can deliver what is asked of this role. Si Emilia, marami siyang gustong malaman. It’s such an interesting role, and I’m so grateful that I’ve had the opportunity to be her.”
“Nakakatakot talaga ‘yung set namin,” Alyssa shared. Romnick Sarmenta, who immediately said yes to the film even before reading the entire script, agreed. “Kahit alam namin technically everything that’s going on, nararamdaman namin ‘yung takot. Titignan namin ‘yung set, titignan namin ‘yung eksena… anak ng tipaklong, nakakatakot pala ‘to.” He sees it as one of the strengths of the film. “That’s very good, kasi kung kami na gumagawa ng ‘magic’ sa harap ng camera, hopefully ‘yung mga taong manonood, mas mararamdaman pa nila ‘yung takot kasi hindi sila parte ng paggawa.”
Direk Derick also believes that it being a historical account is the edge of the film. Since it was a period film, they had to do research on the cultural aspect of it. they also had to backtrack Clarita’s life. While they took creative license to fill in the gaps, they did so by consulting with actual exorcists. “More than anything else, this really happened,” he said. “Kahit sa mga dinagdag namin na parts, they still actually happened. Galing sila sa actual transcripts or records ng mga pari na nage-exorcise. ‘Yung buong materyal niya, lahat ‘yun nangyari. Kung hindi man kay Clarita mismo, sa ibang tao.”
One concern with doing a film about demonic possessions is the possibility of opening one’s self up to the evil that exists in the world. “Sabi nila, one of the greatest tricks of the devil is making people believe that he doesn’t exist. The devil is real,” said Romnick. “To think that everything is just normal, to brush off dark occurrences as just a regular thing, is actually dangerous. It makes people put down their guard. To make ourselves believe na walang ganoon puts you in a position na mas madali kang pasukin.”
“I’ve heard many stories of possession, though I’ve never personally encountered it. I think rage, unforgiveness can be some form. Stages naman ‘yan, it doesn’t really happen at once. First is affliction, then manifestation, then possession,” he explained. “So if you feel anything that doesn’t go right with your nature, or anything that separates you from other people, I think it’s a wake up call for you to go back to prayer. Pray. Hindi mo ‘yan matatalo on your own.”
As part of their preparation, the cast took it upon themselves to take time to pray before each shooting day. “Wrapping yourself up in prayer before work is essential,” said Romnick. He rides his motorcycle to work, and uses that time to pray. “Pagdating ko sa set, mahaba-haba na ‘yung dasal ko.”
Ricky reminded people to seek for help. “Yung napo-possess, hindi kalaban ‘yun. Biktima. Dapat tulungan,” explained Ricky. He also wraps himself in prayer before working to safeguard against evil. “You have to understand and believe na meron talagang kalaban, meron talagang demonyo. Kapag alam mo ang kalaban mo, alam mo na din ang panglaban mo.”
Jodi Sta. Maria constantly reminds herself of God’s presence. “We should focus on how God is able to protect us, that His grace is available to everyone, and that He is ever-present in times of struggle.”
Direk Derick explained that one goal that they all had was to have the audience leave the theatre with a life lesson. “At the end of the film, it has to be positive. Hindi ‘yung tinakot mo lang sila. Dapat paglabas nila ng sinehan, may bitbit sila.” And what would that be? “That after all the happened, there’s always God.”
Clarita will open in cinemas on June 12, in time for the holiday. Check out their trailers and witness just how scary real life can be.