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.