Adolfo Borinaga Alix Jr
Rody Vera, Maynard Manansala
Solenn Heussaff, Benjamin Alves, Gina Alajar, Elizabeth Oropesa, Allan Paule
“In the time of colonization and oppression, a dark tale will be born. Out of misery, rage and hypocrisy, darkness will feed on the beaming light. In a small village, an enchanted forest carries fear, as spirits live there. They protect the forest against evil lurkers. Many never came out.” Thus opens this tale, on an ominous chant, of the Spanish-ruled Philippines of the 1900s: a time of tyranny, in which the Spanish clergy and the aristocracy went to great lengths to cover up their numerous and unspeakable misdeeds and crimes. A woman, raped and banished to the woods on a full moon’s night, sees her newborn child swallowed by animalistic shadows lurking in the foliage. Raised by the forest’s mysterious ghouls and demons — boars, wild cats and a many-eyed sage — the child grows. It experiences love, then heartbreak, and then fulfils the tale, changing into something larger-than-life, a mythical creature… a woman scorned.
Adolfo Alix Jr. (DARK IS THE NIGHT, MANILA, PORNO) one of the most prolific and polyvalent independent filmmakers of the Philippines — whose multi-genre films have graced the screens of nearly every A-list festival, from Cannes to TIFF, Rotterdam and Locarno — gleefully turns to horror with MYSTERY OF THE NIGHT, a strange and impactful adaptation of Rody Vera’s play Ang Unang Aswang (which evocatively translates to “The First Aswang”). Here, Alix Jr. makes great use of the classic folkloric figure to address the multi-generational horrors of Spanish colonial rule. Unfolding like a classic fairy tale, full of mystery and lessons to be learned, retold for contemporary audience with a dash of eroticism and the weird, Alix Jr.’s film combines the artificiality of the stage play with the practical, gory thrills of old-school South East Asian horror cinema, achieving a unique and strange aesthetic that builds to great hypnotic effect, immediately sinking its claws into you, and bringing you into the story’s netherworld… Be warned! – Ariel Esteban Cayer
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