There is nothing quite like settling down and catching a spine-tingling movie that is guaranteed to keep you wide awake and shivering under your covers at night. Perhaps it is the catharsis of enjoying an wild adrenalin rush within the safe confines of a movie theater or living room couch, but the thrill of vicariously experiencing the terror of a great horror film is unparalleled.
Hugely underrated, the Filipino horror genre is obviously lacking the sophistication of sound and visual effects of its foreign counterparts. Instead, it relies on the unique blending of the large swathe of Filipino folklore centered around things that go bump in the night with universal elements of fear to arrive at some of the most unsettling cinematic masterpieces of the genre, offering a deadly dose of thrills and chills that will continue to feed our primal need for fear.
Catholic traditions and supernatural beliefs are juxtaposed together in Mike De Leon's debut feature film which weaves a tale of vengeance beyond the grave. Set in a sleepy provincial town, the story' centers around the intertwined fates of Jun (Tommy Abuel) and Teresa (Charo Santos), where the past comes back to haunt the present as sordid family secrets refused to remain buried. Beautifully disturbing imagery shows how religion, spirituality, and the occult are indelibly linked in Filipino culture, painting an eerie portrait that is subtle and effective in evoking horror.
Celso Ad Castillo's psychological horror film explores the nature of good and evil as Angela, a female journalist, is impregnated by an evil force and a Satanist cult targets the unborn child that they have pegged as the coming of the AntiChrist. The narrative brings out existential doubts as the audience is left to question tenets of faith that they have long accepted. The director's masterful editing and manipulation of the film's visuals lends evokes a subtly sinister aura that lingers long after the film is finished.
Shake, Rattle, And Roll (1984)
The Shake, Rattle and Roll franchise has long been a staple of the Metro Manila Film Festival, with incarnations of the series regurgitated annually, much to the delight and ire of the movie going public. The first installment, however, sets the bar high with Emmanuel H. Borlaza, Ishmael Bernal, and Peque Gallaga each helming their own story in the anthology.
Hailed as one of the creepiest Filipino horror films of all time, this movie is actually a two fold narrative, with the Halimaw Sa Banga part standing out as the more popular one. By modern standards, its outdated special effects and overwrought cinematography may be quite laughable but Mario O'Hara exhibits a flair for the grotesque as all the campy elements blend well together in a horrific masterpiece that has the ability to strike fear one's heart when left alone in a dark room beside a seemingly unassuming earthen jar.
Based on one of the most terrifying creatures in Filipino folklore, Peque Gallaga spins a tale about a childless mother who adopts a foundling that turns out to be a vengeful, bloodthirsty monster in disguise. The film succeeds largely through the clever use of comic relief throughout the narrative in conjunction with hair raising scenes of blood and gore.
This introspective take on the popular vampire genre may not be full of heartstopping horror, but the compelling narrative and the acting chops of Maricel Soriano and Christopher De Leon as they play a pair of starcrossed lovers caught amidst a family curse is enough for this film to earn a spot in this list. Director Joey Romero harnesses a stellar cast and a subtly gritty cinematographic landscape to spin a tale that highlights how salvation and survival is found through love and forgiveness.
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Posters taken from IMDB