Sunday, June 25, 2017

Film Talks with Nick de Ocampo. Part 2: Horror

Professor Nick de Ocampo is featured in Ayala Museum's trilogy lecture series on film. I'm not a film buff nor a film-maker but I wanted to spend my Saturday afternoons educating myself culturally. So I ended up taking a seat in his film lecture series.


I had so much fun listening in Nick's film lecture on comedy that I decided to watch his talk on horror. I have to admit that I am not, absolutely not, a fan of horror movies. I couldn't sleep after watching this type of movies. So imagine the torture I had to go through when my elder cousins kept showing Child's Play and Friday the Thirteenth on the telly. I also can't stand Saw, Psycho, The Shining... I could barely watch Interview of the Vampire, for goodness sakes!

Anyway, as the saying goes: face your fears. I thought that if a horror film is dissected into its basic components, I wouldn't be as frightened anymore.

And indeed, that was how Nick tackled his lecture series... very academic and scholarly. He started again with the different sub-genres of horror flicks, citing examples. As he talked about the films in the Philippine context, I started noticing that the Filipinos have a penchant for movies about the dark characters in local folklore. The tyanak, the manananggal, the tik-tik, the aswang, and the white lady were common figures in horror films locally produced. Back in the 1950s, as Filipinos were still reeling from the effects of Spanish, American, and Japanese occupations and with recently acquired independence, many of the horror films featured foreign creatures like vampires and studies into the dark alleys of the Roman Catholic faith. There also was a string of gory movies about murders  (Vizconde and the Lipa massacres, for instance). And then there's "Shake, Rattle, and Roll", a series of films from the 1980s that is still making major money for Regal Films.

I couldn't help but think that Filipinos haven't made horror movies about natural disasters. 

If horror films bank on our fear of the unknown, it explains why Filipinos line up to watch films featuring our folklore characters and foreign films that feature their own monsters... because we don't know anything about them. It may also explain the lack of disaster movies. Why would I spend money to watch a movie about the horrors of a particularly powerful typhoon when I personally experience typhoons more than 10 times a year? Natural disaster is a common thing in the Philippines. Living in a country listed as second or third most vulnerable to natural calamities, we learn to eat peanuts (or other emergency relief food) as we watch our world get washed in flotsam and jetsam, like in the movies (except it's happening to us). We know disaster intimately. We don't need a horror movie to tell us about it.

Make a movie about the kids who are about to graduate from grade school, high school, and college who drown in Taal Lake... Now that's a potentially chilling horror movie in the making.