Director Gino Santos shows that he can take elements from across history in the horror/suspense movie genre and make them work for the present Philippine audience. Direk Gino certainly has the pulse of what makes Filipino audiences cringe and scream, as evidenced by his 2016 Sinag Maynila entry, Lila.
In it, the house is the main character. A palatial home, showing it once was beautiful but has now fallen to neglect and disarray.
Jess (Janine Gutierrez) is a young woman with a past from which she is trying to escape. She moves into the house of Lola Violeta (Sherry Lara) for a fresh start. But soon, events make her remember and face her mistakes; she is also meant to deal with an outside threat.
The script by Patrick Vinalay is well-structured. It starts out very quiet then the whispers and murmurs start??until the film gets to an almost deafening cacophony of sights and sounds. Vinalay knows his characters?? back stories and there are hints in dialogue that show this. Of course, there is the cliché of the house that hides a secret and the sinister-looking, mysterious male character who watches??just watches.
As far as acting goes, the best actress in this movie is definitely Lara. The actress varies her portrayal from sublime with something just bubbling under the surface in the first half of the film to explosive, like a dam of emotions finally broke within.
Janine certainly has the lungpower to be heralded as this generation??s Scream Queen. More than beautiful, she exudes a vulnerability and a pain that creases her otherwise flawless face.
Enchong Dee, in a supporting role, is convincing enough as the cousin and only link to the outside world, as it were. He has improved as an actor and in the indie film Lila, he does not drop character.
The old and new are juxtaposed: Lola and Jess, deep Filipino and Taglish, antiques and gadgets (like a laptop and iPod). Even the musical score reflects the generation gap as well as characterization of the older and the younger woman.
The cinematography by Sol Garcia is impeccable in what it reveals and what it hides. It works in the angles and the differences in focus vis- -vis items out of focus in a shot. There are hints of inspiration from old classics, even a shower scene reminiscent of that classic Psycho by Alfred Hitchcock.
In the montage of shots and suggestive sound effects, Direk Gino leaves breadcrumbs for audiences to pick up and munch on. It doesn??t take much to spook yourself if you are ready for it. But this psychological thriller plays on the Pinoy penchant for screaming at the littlest hints of something sinister hiding behind this or just beyond the line of sight.
It also becomes a slasher movie towards the end, with blood squirting and gushing from all sources. The extended climax plays like an orchestral piece, with moments of quiet that allows you to catch your breath and normalize our heart rate before starting up again.
The film avoids being just an adaptation or a combination of horror movie clichés from Hollywood or other parts of Asia or even Europe because of nuances that are, undoubtedly Filipino.
The elements of mysticism, blind religiosity, familial relations??these brand the film as Filipino. Another interesting quality also is the revelation toward the end that logic and psychology can explain events that we would be prone to explain through folk beliefs or mystery.
Lila is part of the 2016 Sinag Maynila Film Festival, which is ongoing until Tuesday, April 26. Films are screened at SM Megamall, SM Aura Premier, SM North EDSA, SM Mall of Asia, and SM Manila.
Ed's Note: The 'PEP Review' section carries the views of individual reviewers, and does not necessarily reflect the views of the PEP editorial team.