CINEMALAYA 2012: DIABLO (Mes De Guzman, 2012)
A miner, believed to be possessed with the devil is brought to a faith healer. Cut to an elderly woman living alone in an old creepy house, doing her usual daily routine- praying, cooking, eating, listening to the radio.
With that, filmmaker Mes De Guzman opens his film DIABLO, which breaks our concepts of good and evil, and serves a helping of the horror genre with a twist. In the classic sense of the word, DIABLO may not be categorized as "horror" per se, yet what really is horror? The admirable thing with Mes De Guzman is that he discards cheap thrills in favor of a more fluid storytelling, slowly building up tension, while we are unaware that we have become one with the characters' plight.
At its center is Nanang Lusing (an award-worthy performance by Ama Quiambao), whom we follow on her routine day after day. She has five sons, all of whom doesn't live with her. One doesn't want to see her or speak to her, the details of which are unknown at first. The other, a soldier who comes and then goes. The third is a miner who is too busy to visit her mother. The fourth is the family black sheep, who is out to scam his mother of his inheritance. The last one, the most enjoyable and probably the heart of the whole story, is the prophet-like long-haired youngest son who follows what he believes in, and is not a fan of using doors.
Every night, an ominous figure stands in front of Nanang Lusing's bed, watching silently, getting closer in distance to her every night. Who is this figure?
As the story progresses, the strained relationship of the siblings with their mother is revealed, and how the "DIABLO" in the title does not really pertain to actual demons in the biblical sense.
For me, Carlo Aquino's character Oscar, the atheist is the most powerful, the glue that holds the film altogether. He carries a lamp everywhere he goes, and in the end he served as the light of the family that patched up old wounds.
Ama Quiambao is terrifyingly effective as a matriarch whose intentions are of the noblest, yet in De Guzman's careful direction and presentation of Nanang Lusing as a mysterious character, one can help but shiver in even her smallest gestures, a pout of the lips even.
De Guzman also injects humor when he can, carefully and effectively toying with our ideas of religion and culture, and exercising his satire with sublime quality. Now you'll know what you are if there's palm leaves on the front door and you can't seem to enter.
DIABLO as a first Mes De Guzman film for me is a revelation, an observational drama that requires full attention. His shots are beautifully painted, like a canvas. His lighting is dramatic. His storytelling uncluttered and follows a clear direction.