I am not a fan of horror movies. I don’t like being scared out of my wits with blood and gore and being made to jump by mindless surprises at every turn.
That being said, Brillante Mendoza’s first film of the genre is not your typical horror movie.
Helmed by Cannes award-winning director Brillante Mendoza, Sapi attempts to examine the very nature of evil in all of its forms.
Sapi is set at the height of the rainy season in the Philippines. In fact, it was shot during the destructive monsoon rains or habagat in 2012.
Several footage show people and vehicles braving the flooded streets of Manila. For good measure, lightning flashes across dark, cloudy skies.
As the movie reveals, this kind of weather is apparently conducive to supernatural activity.
Through documentary-style filmmaking that uses unusual camera angles as well as “slice-of-life” editing, Sapi captures Metro Manila when the monsoon attacks.
It starts slowly at first, making us comfortable with the captured reality. Then, slowly, little supernatural occurrences come at unexpected times in a few scenes. Finally, the tension in the film builds up and climaxes with a mind-blowing image.
There are at least three issues that are discussed in the movie Sapi.
Foremost, of course, is the common occurrence of spirit possession, called “sapi” in the vernacular, and from which the movie title derives.
You would be hard-pressed to find a Filipino who does not know someone who has allegedly been possessed by a spirit at one point or another. From the countryside to the city, there is a fascination with the strong presence of supernatural forces in this tropical country of ours.
The cut-throat competition in the media industry is also examined here.
Dennis Trillo plays a neophyte reporter for SBN (Sarimanok Broadcasting Network) working with Meryll Soriano, who is cast as a TV producer.
Meryll and Dennis are pressured by network management to bring up their show’s TV ratings. The two hope that documenting an actual spirit possession could help them slay the competition.
Baron Geisler is a cameraman from rival network PBC (Philippine Broadcasting Channel) who defies journalistic ethics by selling video footage to the competition. This sets off, to borrow a book title, a series of very unfortunate events.
Thirdly, the movie touches on the disjointed personal relationships in our modern world.