VIOLATOR (Dodo Dayao, 2014)
Official Entry, 2014 Cinema One Originals
The devil is in the details.
VIOLATOR, Dodo Dayao’s debut full-length feature is an exercise in psychological horror, a seemingly harmless yet unrelenting force of nature that wreaks havoc in its tight final 20 minutes. But even the vignettes that establish the film’s tone during the first half of the film provide silent terror.
Five men are trapped inside a police station, cleverly designated “Precinct 13” during a storm that one character likened to the end of the world. Two cops (Victor Neri, Anthony Falcon), their chief (Joel Lamangan), the caretaker (Andy Bais), and a traffic accident complainant (RK Bagatsing) lament over the storm’s severity, all the while realizing their powerlessness over the situation. They constantly try to contact their loved ones to see if they are safe, given the rising waters outside. At one point, the “Rapture Cult”, which predicted that the world will end on October 28, 1992 is mentioned in the conversation.
The arrival of a juvenile delinquent (Timothy Mabalot) causes utter restlessness among the five men. Strange voices are heard. Lights flicker. Ghostly apparitions appear in the pitch black darkness outside. Or do they?
Dayao knowingly ignored conventional horror tactics and cheap thrills in favor of building a layered atmosphere of terror, and rightly so. The elements are scarier when we put them together long after the end credits.
In the end, it really is a battle of man versus the devil, to which belief really does not factor much in the equation, as Joel Lamangan’s character put it, that not just because you don’t believe something doesn’t mean it’s not real. After all, the greatest trick the devil ever pulled is convincing the world that he’s not real. Or so another movie says. Therefore, is man’s freewill the ultimate key then? Perhaps. One thing’s for sure: our faith and our fears determine our strength, our resolve. Weak men will easily succumb to the devil’s taunting. But how do we recognize the devil, then?
That’s right. We don’t.