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Mario Bautista, has been with the entertainment industry for more than 4 decades. He writes regular columns for People's Journal and Malaya.

Jan 3, 2017

Seklusyon Movie Review: Not The Usual Horror Movie With Jolts And Jump Scares That Most Viewers Love

 HORROR FILMS are always a big hit in the annual Metro Manila Filmfest, as evidenced by the hugely successful franchise that is “Shake Rattle & Roll” which has 15 movies to its credit. We never doubted “Seklusyon” will do well at the box office in the current festival since it’s the only horror entry, but it could have earned more if it were not rated R-13. Last year, “Haunted Mansion” had no name stars but new teen actors only in the cast, but raked in P150 million because they got a PG rating where kids are allowed to watch.

“Seklusyon” is not the usual horror flick that local viewers expect to watch. As we were going out of the theater, we heard some moviegoers saying: “Ano ba yun? Hindi man lang ako natakot.” And it’s true. It has no jump scares that jolt viewers and make them scream. But its material is actually darker and more malevolent than most horror flicks.

It is more akin to such horror classics as “Rosemary’s Baby” and “The Omen” (and its sequels) where it is shown that good is defeated and evil triumphs. In this sense, the film’s conclusion and final message is indeed more horrifying than the usual scary movie.

Set after the Second World War in 1947, “Seklusyon” refers to the way four young deacons are secluded and isolated from the world around them one week before they are ordained as priests when it’s believed that the devil is at his most powerful. They must overcome all the strong temptations to be posed to them by the devil and spend their days in prayer and silence. The deacons are played by total newcomers Ronnie Alonte, Johnvic de Guzman and JR Versales, and one who has done many movies and TV shows before, Dominic Roque.

What the deacons don’t know is that the devil, who comes in many forms and incarnations and appears in the most unexpected places, is right inside with them in the supposed sanctuary where they are confined in seclusion. This is 9-year old child star Rhed Bustamante (TV’s “Flor de Liza”) as Anghela, a child healer who is brought there by her guardian, Sister Cecilia (Phoebe Walker), who herself harbors a big dark secret.

The phenomenon of the child healer is being investigated by a well-intentioned priest, Fr. Ricardo (Neil Ryan Sese), upon the instructions of the bishop (Jerry O’Hara). Feeling concerned about the safety and welfare of the child, he instead discovers something diabolical about the true nature of Anghela and Sister Cecilia. But even he is not enough to stop the devil in its deadly tracks.

A passage from the Gospel of St. Matthew is quoted: “For false messiahs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect.” This surely applies today when so many evangelists and pretenders preaching a religion of financial abundance, and not true unadulterated spirituality, have attracted so many followers so willing to be manipulated in the name of material prosperity.

The four deacons are confronted by guilt feelings from past sins and personal demons from their own lives, like Ronnie as Miguel who has left his pregnant girlfriend (Elora Espano) and who now appears to him as the Blessed Virgin. Johnvic as Marco seems to be attracted to young children and is a pedophile priest in the making.

JR Versales is haunted by ghosts of his two brothers who died of starvation during the war. Dominique makes violent love to Sister Cecilia. In the end, when three of them are ordained to become full priest, we shudder at the thought of the dark deeds they’ll commit while ostensibly serving the flock. We all know of the so many abuses church people have done these days, from sexual perversion to corruption.

The film’s period production design is believable and it’s quite understandable that it is set in darkness most of the time as the material is really very dark and sinister. The film’s overall gloomy look, eerie texture is accented with moody atmospheric lighting in sepia tones by cinematographer Neil Bion. This is well and good since the acting of the four main actors leave much to be desired, especially the main protagonist, Hashtag dancer Ronnie Alonte, whose kind of emoting seems quite constipated most of the time.

Devout Catholics will surely be disturbed by the blasphemous vilifications of religious icons, like the Sto. Nino and the Blessed Virgin. Members of the clergy who’d watch this will understandably be offended for the artistic license they took in these off-putting scenes and the fact that it offers no redemption among the three young priests who will only sow mayhem and havoc as delinquent shepherds of their respective flock.

The best acting in the movie is delivered by child star Rhed Bustamante as the creepy healing angel who’s actually the devil in disguise, spewing black blood perfect for dinuguan. She really runs circles around her older co-stars, giving a very convincing performance in the scenes where she tries to persuade the deacons to join her cause. Her aim is to create a world where people can no longer tell the difference between good and bad. And don’t you feel that this is exactly what is happening to us right now?