Mondo Macabro, 1986) D: Elwood Perez, w/ Maria Isabel Lopez, Sarsi Emmanuelle. Rating: NNNN; DVD package: NNN
from the opening scene, in which a near-naked man slaughters an ox on a hilltop as little children weep and scream, we know we are in the hands of filmmakers hell-bent on myth-making. We may also fear that they are not entirely sane: the ox-killing is real, onscreen and prolonged.
Fear not. These are Filipino exploitation filmmakers at the height of their freedom, and they know what they’re doing. Namely, they’re delivering good, cheap thrills while creating tragedy from the clash of the god-struck and the lustful. In some ways, it resembles Ken Russell’s 1971 The Devils.The incredibly beautiful Maria Isabel Lopez is the god-struck, a teacher in a tiny, isolated village of salt miners. She rails against lust and packs herself with salt when her own heat for the impossibly studly Simon (Mark Joseph, king of Philippine porn) gets unbearable.
The ever-horny villagers think she’s nuts. She’s certainly headed that way. Things get worse when old rival Selda (Sarsi Emmanuelle) returns from Manila. Much fucking and melodrama ensue until murder topples everyone’s sanity.This all works beautifully thanks to simple, elegant visuals, a great Morricone-like score, good Filipino-style acting (profoundly unsubtle) and a terrific story that expands to include the whole village and all its generations to create a genuine tragedy.
If you don’t already know Filipino cinema, you’ll think you’re watching a movie from Mars. Director Elwood Perez, star Lopez (who went on to a mainstream career) and a print essay do an excellent job of locating the film in its time, its industry, its culture and its politics.
Extras Disc one: Widescreen. Tagalog, English audio with English subtitles. Disc two: Silip And Filipino Bold Cinema essay; Perez, Lopez, art director Alfredo Santos interviews.