Crafting Mystery

Neutral Look

Altar is one of the films in last year’s Cinema One 2007 Competition. This is the film I liked most simply because it has a very interesting story and superior cinematography. In most horror-suspense genres, we are perceptibly enthusiastic in speculating the twists the film has integrated within the story. Rico Maria Ilarde has effectively made it in Altar.

Anton (Zanjoe Marudo) returns to the Philippines and finds himself jobless. But then, a mysterious foreman named Erning (Dido dela Paz) hires him together with Lope (Nor Domingo) to a secluded house far from the city. Upon his arrival, Anton senses secrecy lingering in the house. Soon enough, a young girl appears to him asking for help. With much curiosity that has been built-up, Anton together with Lope tries to solve the mystery in the house by entering the basement which the foreman has illicitly prohibited them to go through.

I will not dwell on how ridiculous the maid costumes in the film are. Instead, I will try to be more proactive. Certainly, Altar is commercially viable with its usage of the horror genre. It has been very unique in infusing supernatural beliefs and diabolism. The malevolent envisioning of the evil entity is astonishing. So when it tries to contrive the development of the story it is totally understandable to the very aim of engaging its character and leads it to the plot.

Altar fairs substantially with its eeriness not only with its story’s progression but mostly with the use of symbols, secret codes and fictionalized history of sorcery. It has also included the elements of romance and humor for it does strive for accessibility. But the use of humor has altered a bit its frightening story, thus it could have been avoided. Ilarde’s Sa Ilalim ng Cogon has achieved much on its eccentricity feature. But with Altar, it has attained not only the latter, but also with other layers of what films must consist of not only in it’s strive for a wider audience but also with its remarkable skills in making the story more favorable. The film tries to depict irony in its horror persona. Is it the dreadful looking that we should be more cautious of or the innocent, soft-spoken type? The evil spirit idea has been created brilliantly with much forethought.

Obviously, Altar is my personal choice from the five films shown in last year’s Cinema One Originals. The leverage might have been different on the panel of judges’ personal biases and political clout. But it is noteworthy that the film is beautifully photographed than any other film in competition and it really looks mystifying. Like what I have said, it might be branded as an independent film, but it has made an output that could be viable for commercial release. The sound design, production design, musical scoring adheres to the very aim of the festival itself. Altar is global in outlook, looks very classy (not the hideous acting of the two maids), and it is well photographed. I admire Rico Maria Ilarde and Mammu Chua for there attempt to incorporate the element of surprise within the story and twists within a twist obsession. Altar is uniquely well-made horror-suspense film.

Charlie Koon's Rating:


mammu@furball-inc.com said...

thank you!

Charlie Koon said...

hi mammu! thanks for dropping by :)

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