Sunday, December 09, 2007

3 Days of Darkness (2007)



3 Days of Darkness (Khavn dela Cruz, 2007)
Tagalog Title: Tatlong Araw ng Kadiliman

A solitary house is enveloped by an ominously dark morning sky. Inside, captured in a state of disturbing motionlessness hinting of the house's state of emptiness for years, are the typical Filipino accessories: framed ornaments, Catholic paraphernalia and other personal effects. The stillness is particularly heavy and discomforting. When a silent breeze causes a minute movement from the curtains, it evokes an uncanny displeasure. Horror is all about the little details, the deprivation of the usual comforts that the senses provide. Filmmaker Khavn dela Cruz is definitely conscious of the mechanics of horror, but is more interested in deconstructing the genre to offend the unintelligent and facile horrors with distinct commercial sensibilities and to showcase what heights in subtle social commentary the genre is capable of.

We meet the characters a day before the three days of darkness. A blonde-haired lady Kimberly (Katya Santos), hurrying up a flight of stairs to confess a well-guarded secret to a priest. The blonde-haired Asian is as apt a metaphor here as it is in Wong Kar-wai's Chungking Express, where the blonde hair represents an Eastern-Western psycho-cultural conundrum. She confesses of a sexual affair with a married man ultimately resulting in her pregnancy, half-thinking that a solution will be afforded by the priest hiding on the other side of the confessional booth. When the priest gives a suggestion (to have the pregnancy terminated), she is surprised by the absurdity of two things: first, a Catholic priest suggesting an abortion and second, the answer that is much different from the traditional prayers that beg for forgiveness. The safety of Catholic penance has been skewed, something strange is afoot.

Two friends, Michiko (Gwen Garci) and Isabel (Precious Adona) make their way to a bar where a band is playing a bastardized "Our Father" set into discordant music as pagan rituals (of men butchering a chicken in a seemingly ceremonial fashion) are being committed in the background. It overtly spells out a rampage of hedonistic, sacrilegious, and blasphemous activities, supposedly enough to characterize a populace deserving of the biblical apocalpyse. However, the sequence is more telling of a chronic agitation that characterizes the nation --- an ungodly mixture of several confounding elements: of bleak social alienation, sexual experimentation and the constant prodding of a mere inherited faith.

The unholy marriage of dela Cruz, staunch supporter of the underground independent film movement, and Viva Entertainment, commercial film studio and manager of Santos, Garci and Adona, members of the so-called Viva Hot Babes, can only result in a film this bizarre. 3 Days of Darkness is really an experimental film sold as a marketable endeavor. It harkens to the decades-old practice of mixing horror with sex, only executed with a near-frustrating personal style that viewers may or may not appreciate. This time, dela Cruz stages a three-day apocalyptic nightmare set in a house where three friends live. The doomsday scenario seems to release the three-way homosexual tension among the survivors, allowing for the film's much-extended money scene --- a darkly lit yet oddly arousing love scene between ex-lovers: swollen breast upon swollen breast, sweat and saliva glistening in the scarce light, as the rest of the world is wallowing in hellish pandemonium.

Dela Cruz injects the picture with enough enigmas to keep the brain working while he indulges in prolonged moments of unapologetic darkness entangled with aural indications of pain and punishment. The three main characters, Isabel, Kimberly and Michiko, seem to allude to the Philippines' three colonizing influences, Spain, the United States and Japan, respectively. However, much more than allusions, the three characters seem to be less than representations the colonizers and more of symbols of reactions to colonial influences. The trio's individual fractured personal lives reflect an internal confusion: of sex and sexuality, pleasure and faith, hedonism and religion. Together, they point out to the dilemmas of a conflicted nation, simmering in a mixture of Catholic guilt, a lack of objective identity, and a misdirected youth; possibly on the brink of its own internal doomsday.

*****
This review is also published in The Oblation.

18 comments:

Shinji said...

Nag-zoom zoom ako to post this comment, I'm not reading your review! pag napanuod ko na lang. Baka may spoilers eh. Hahaha!

Oggs Cruz said...

I love posting spoilers, hehe. Seriously though, it's difficult to make an analysis of a film without discussing major plot points.

Shinji said...

i know. plus, it's fun to spoil people. I'm gonna watch it Thursday! it was supposed to be a date, but then I got into this fight because of the starbucks planner, so I guess I'm going solo! huurah!

Oggs Cruz said...

Definitely not a date movie... consider yourself saved.

Shinji said...

Every movie is a date movie! Hahaha!

Anonymous said...

Is this movie a remake of the director's previous work? If my memory is correct, I think I've seen a trailer of this movie a year ago starring different actresses.

Oggs Cruz said...

Depends on what your goal is for that date, Shinji...

Hi anonymous,

I'm not aware of the previous "3 Days of Darkness," but most of Khavn's feature films are long versions of his short films, usually.

shinji said...

The goal is to break up with her. hahaha!

Oggs Cruz said...

There are cheaper and surer ways to do that, Shinji.

Alexis said...

hi oggs and anonymous.
just to note, khavn has indeed made a previous feature-length work of the same title, with a largely unknown cast. this is more of a re-working (same premise, new script- by aloy adlawan from khavn's story) of the original than a remake. the first was done two or three years ago

Oggs Cruz said...

Thanks Alexis for the information. I honestly haven't seen much of Khavn's films, they're not exactly very easy to come by. Somebody should have made video footages of the press conference after the premiere. Greatest proof why our mainstream cinema is going nowhere, because we have idiots for film press.

Anonymous said...

just saw this film today. It was my first Khavn experience. I liked how he used the darkness and the sound design to make you play with your imagination as to what really is happening.

some things i just couldn't get over with...

1. how come katya was taking a shower with the shower curtains open like that? there has to be a better way of shooting that part.

2. most of the scenes were dark and you could hardly see anything, yet how come the sex scene seemed to have a stronger light source compared to the other scenes. for some reason this scene wasn't as dark as the others.

3. Gwen Garci's acting. How i wish they got someone else. Shes hot and all but some of the lines she delivers are just not for her.

just a few things. but overall i think its still one of the better filipino films this year. wasn't as scary as i expected but certainly made me think of the end of the world and demons.

Oggs Cruz said...

Thanks anonymous,

I'm hoping that next time you can provide me with a name but thanks for your thoughts. We have to understand that Khavn made a deal with the devil , err Viva I mean, and got three beautiful women in exchange. What do you do with three babes (with hardly any acting talent, except for Katya Santos who I opine is a very discerning actress) but to flaunt them, hence those artistic liberalities you have mentioned.

dodo dayao said...

Wasn't much of a deal apparaently, oggs. Nor much of a compromise. You could've made the exact same movie with a different demographic of characters but I actually thought using these three Viva Hot babes was a perverse move on Khavn's part. And I mean that in a good way.

I do agree that Gwen's acting was bordering on atrocious, though it was sort of in character, but implausibilities aside (and in a film about a horde of demons invading the world, plausibility goes out the window from the get-go), I personally didn't mind that the shower curtain was open while Katya was in it and that we got to see as much of that other scene as we did. :)

Oggs Cruz said...

Oh, I didn't mind Gwen's acting either. Her porno-licious Zhang Ziyi posturing made up for all the dialogue she murdered, and the shower scene plus the dark fuck-fest is put to good use. Too bad there's no unheavenly deal made between Khavn and Viva, I was fostering the grand idea of "3 Days of Darkness" as Khavn's mode of saying "fuck you" to the big studios, who seem to be feeding off the thriving indie scene to fund their banalities.

dodo dayao said...

True. But from the priceless Q&A we witnessed, the film was enough of a fuck you to a significant chunk of the showbiz mainstream.

Gwen as porno Zhang Ziyi - - - that's an erotic suggestion that hasn't left me since. :)

anonymous guy said...

I guess Khavn really intended its viewers to notice those "faults" in the film. I cant imagine someone with as much experience as Khavn to fall for those obvious faults.
Looking at it from hindsight; the bad acting, the gore fest, the continuity errors these all seem to belong to traditional B-movie filmmaking.
Rather than thinking of them as compromises he had to make, maybe these were pre-planned elements that Khavn wanted the film to have. The film anyway does require some creative viewership.

Oggs Cruz said...

The "faults" are obviously meant to be there. He really seems bent on instilling creative viewership among Filipino audiences. Unfortunately, the middlemen, those idiots working for the tabloids and their televised counterparts, are instilling a cinema of utter stupidity. Now, let's the topple 'em, shall we?