Folk horror evokes ‘Pan’s Labyrinth’ – The Hollywood Reporter

Bloody, sparkling and irresistibly gloomy, In My Mother’s Skin represents a stylistic contribution, ripe for folk horror. Unlike his acclaimed debut, mom (2018), Manila-based writer-director Kenneth Dagatan’s second work revolves around a young person who makes a deal with an evil insect forest spirit to help her family — with disastrous consequences.

This time, Dagatan and his team added time by setting the story on a rural estate in the Philippines during the final days of World War II, just before the Japanese occupation was defeated. Inevitably, that hint of fascism, along with the macabre antiquity, gave Guillermo del Toro strength. Pan .’s Labyrinth in mind, at least in the eyes of Western viewers. But if you’re going to steal, steal from the best. And there’s a lot of new, fun, and unique stuff here. Unsurprisingly, global rights were taken over by Amazon Prime before the film premiered in the Midnight section of Sundance.

In My Mother’s Skin

Key point

Good enough to eat.

Place: Sundance Film Festival (Midnight)
Cast: Felicity Kyle Napuli, Gonzalez Beauty, James Mavie Estrella, Jasmine Curtis-Smith, Angeli Bayani, Arnold Reyes, Ronnie Lazaro
Director-screenwriter: Kenneth Dagatan

1 hour 36 minutes

Shot with a small cast mostly in one location, like so many features in COVID times, the film begins with a sense of panic isolation surrounded by menacing darkness and never real. retirement. After an extremely bloody scene, if the light is low, before the title revolves around bloody corpses being eaten by a demon-possessed soldier, who then vomits up a live bird, the action shifts to a large mansion where a once rich family lived trying to survive the war. Most of the first line is a question from teenage Tala (Felicity Kyle Napuli, excellent): She asks her brother, Bayani (James Mavie Estrella, also great), if he’s heard of it. Japanese soldiers in Manila threw live children into the air and then skewered them with bayonets for fun, which is sure to set a tone.

The conversation continues while a man named Antonio (Ronnie Lazaro) drives up with some Japanese soldiers, providing enough food for a feast, a sizable temptation in times of famine. this. It turns out that the Japanese and Antonio want to know where the children’s father, Romualdo (Arnold Reyes), has hidden some gold that the Japanese believe is theirs. He claimed he knew nothing about the gold, but soon left, claiming he had business to take care of to protect his family. He leaves his ailing wife, Ligaya (Beauty Gonzalez), and two children in the care of the family’s last remaining servant, Amor (Angeli Bayani), in the care.

Ligaya seems to have one of those wasteful, unnamed, cinematic illnesses that cause severe coughs and general weakness, leaving her in bed most of the time. With nothing much left to eat but sweet potatoes, the children carried their father’s gun through the gate and into the woods they were always forbidden to enter, hoping to find something to eat. Before you can tell Hansel and Gretel, they become separate and Tala finds a hut in the woods with creepy stained-glass windows, hundreds of black, juniper-like insects, and a candy wrapped in bright red, lying on the table as an offering.

Of course she ate it, and of course that turned out to be her first mistake. A smiling fairy (Jasmine Curtis-Smith) appears, wearing a large gown and a pearl-encrusted lamé gold hat that makes her look like a cross between a Miss Universe contestant and a Miss Universe contestant. a statue of the Virgin Mary. (There are frequent cutscenes leading to the actual statue of the Virgin Mary in Tala’s house, in case you missed the visual allusion.) The fairy offers to reward Tala’s “innocent” with giving her one of his insect minions, explaining that when applied internally to Ligaya, it cures her illness.

The rest of the movie is a lengthy demonstration of there’s always a hit. Wise children should learn to never trust fairies in any description or anyone offering free sweets, food, or healing insects. That said, most kids would be severely traumatized watching this movie, in which Tala’s mother ends up going murderous, insane, and has a chameleon tongue while bodies pile up one after another. person one. Indeed, it is hoped steps have been taken to protect the child actors themselves from the disturbing image throughout.

Although the incessant chewing of meat and the clicking of insects become a bit repetitive as we get to the third act, Dagatan still has a few tricks up his sleeve to deliver surprises, including one silly reference to Amor, the loyal servant. DP Russell Morton’s inkjet cinematography is still clear enough for the film to play well on the small screen, a fate likely to be sold to Amazon, while production and costume designer Benjamin’s creations Padero and Carlo Tabije end the gloom with splashes of color.


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