October may have come and gone, but the spooky season isn’t over yet! No Halloween celebration is ever complete without a marathon of horror films that elicit screams and detailed discussions after watching. As movie-lovers of all genres, Filipinos have their own way of scaring themselves with stories that feature many local meanings found in our culture. Our avid love for psychological horror films dwells on religious themes, mythological scenes, and superstitious beliefs.
Now that most people are probably living alone in their homes during the pandemic, there is no other perfect time than to turn the lights off and get ready for a Filipino horror film marathon!
To supplement the two-months worth of celebration of Halloween from October to November, here are the top five Filipino psychological horror films that will leave your mind and stomach in knots.
Top 5 Filipino Psychological Horror Films to Watch Alone
Sunod, a 2019 psychological horror film that enraptures viewers around its red string concepts of possession and witchcraft rituals. Photo by IMDB
Sunod is a 2019 psychological horror film directed by Carlo Ledesma. It stars veteran names in the industry like Carmina Villaroel and Mylene Dizon, together with up-and-coming singer-artist Krystal Brimmer. Its story centers on Carmina Villaroel’s character, Olivia, a single mother trying to make ends meet for her very ill daughter, Annelle (Krystal Brimmer). Olivia applies for an opportunity to earn more money at a call center company identified as Liboro Global Outsourcing (LGO), owned by strict Karen Liboro (Mylene Dizon). The company was located in an old derelict building that used to be a hospital called Liboro House.
Upon working at the company, Olivia experiences sexual harassment from her team manager, Lance (played by JC Santos), and undergoes grueling supervision under the strict owner, Karen. To top it all off, Olivia begins to be haunted by the ghost of a child named Nerissa, whose spirit was seemingly trapped in the building.
The story progresses more in terms of horror imagery, but it gives a lot of mind-boggling twists that leave the viewers wanting more. It encapsulates the struggles of being a single mother combined with challenging working conditions and paranoia moments! It’s a truly remarkable film that is even reviewed to be a Hollywood-tier film!
As an entry to the 2019 Metro Manila Film Festival (MMFF), Sunod bagged many awards and nominations, such as best cinematography and best production design. Many Filipinos commonly take banters with Filipino horror films coming off as cliche or cheesy. Still, this film is commented as one of the pioneers towards the era of great Filipino horror plots with high-quality graphics. If you are looking for a tremendous Filipino psychological horror film to include in your to-watch list, then look no more! This masterpiece will indeed treat your sweet tooth for a scary movie!
Seklusyon is a truly controversial film that provides a scary representation of false messiahs and blind faith. Photo by IMDB
As a country with a majority population of Catholics, this film bordered on downright disturbing and highly controversial when it was submitted as an award-winning entry to the 2016 MMFF. Directed by Erik Matti, Seklusyon is a Filipino psychological horror film with elements of the supernatural. Its controversy lies in its plot, which calls out the systemic problems in religious faith. It dominated the event during the 2016 MMFF, catching at least eight awards from different categories, including Best Cinematography, Best Director, and Best Screenplay.
The film takes place around 1947, showing an old custom of the Church termed “seclusion,” in which budding priests were sent to a secluded location during their last seven days of training. The film features Ronnie Alonte, Dominic Roque, John Vic De Guzman, and JR Versales as the young deacons who are tempted by the 7 Sins brought forth by the Devil child, Anghela, who is played by child actress Rhed Bustamante. In this film, Anghela is introduced as a miracle healer who is eventually put on a high pedestal by people. However, as the film progresses, audiences are called to think twice about her name and virtue’s supposed “angelicness.”
Throughout the film, very creepy and disturbing scenes are featured, including a statue of the Virgin Mary suddenly coming to life. This movie, which includes a commentary on idolatry, hypocrisy, and blind faith, is definitely not for the faint-hearted. According to reviews, the scariest element in the film is not in its jumpscares or foreboding atmosphere but in the underlying message of how false messiahs can distort religious belief and promote idolatry. Furthermore, the ending will really stick in the mind of audiences, so anticipate a lengthy discussion about it after watching it with family, friends, or loved ones!
In watching these horror films, isn’t it better to have your wits scared out of you in a comfortable and homey environment?
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Capitalizing on the fearsome forces of nature, Banal offers viewers a terrifying tour into the shrouded mountainside. Photo by IMDB
Dubbed by many viewers as terrifying because of its story concepts based on true stories, Banal is a Filipino psychological horror film directed by J.A. Tadenna and Peter Abanna. The film stars the industry’s youngest and trendiest faces, such as Bianca Umali, Andrea Brillantes, Miguel Tanfelix, Taki Saito, and Kim Last.
The movie in itself is terrifying because it is based on famous Filipino urban legends and beliefs when it comes to mountaineering and hiking. In the Philippines, there are a lot of assumptions regarding sacred and unholy mountains. Mt. Banahaw is known for its miraculous healing powers, which starkly contrasts with Mt. Cristobal, known for making hikers disappear without a trace. However, do not let this film dissuade you from going on mountain hikes because it’s an enjoyable activity that will help you unwind through nature! In fact, if you are interested in making hiking a habit, why not invest in a luxury real estate in Laguna and check out its beautiful mountains?
While it is true that hikers can go missing even while on trails, it is unknown whether this is attributed to supernatural forces or unfortunate accidents. These themes are precisely what the film embarks upon, making it horrifyingly close to real life. Tread carefully upon watching this movie. You might not get any shut-eye, which might ruin your quarantine sleeping routine, an important habit to fix!
The plot revolves around a group of friends on their school break who decide to go on a mountain trip to Mount Awanggan, a mountain rumored to grant wishes to those hikers who reach its peak. Being the spirited youth that they are, they went in search of an adventure and a miracle. However, what they found instead is a horrifying secret about the mountain and the people who live on it.
Despite bordering on the cliche story of teenager-trip-gone-wrong, the film features many scenes that can be likened to Hollywood films, such as The Green Inferno, The Blair Witch Project, and Midsommar, in a localized version. Banal will definitely draw viewers into its landscape with its excellent use of unsettling gore, ambiance, and graphics.
Eerie offers an insight into the terrifying past of schools that tolerated corporal punishment. Photo by IMDB
Directed by award-winning Mikhail Red, Eerie is one of the best Filipino psychological horror films that features many deep layers. Not only is it a horror film, but it also encapsulates various social issues present in our country, such as bullying, depression, and child abuse. It’s a genuinely dark film with many twisting turns that will make audiences stand at the edge of their seats.
The film is set in an all-girls Catholic school run by nuns, starring big players like Bea Alonzo, Jake Cuenca, and Charo-Santos Concio. It’s the classic formula of creepy and scary nuns in the olden setting, a universal perspective shared by movie lovers. However, in the film, nuns are not the terrorizing ghosts but a student who hanged herself in one of the bathroom stalls of the school. Yes, the film brings the famous story of “cubicle possessed by a student who hung herself” shared among high school students in their own schools to life.
The movie showcases an excellent command of jumpscares inspired by Western horror films, so be warned! The imagery and colors in the movie are also hauntingly beautiful, so it’s really an excellent flick to watch with your choice of wine. The sound design is also on point, with perfected timing of jarring music that really sets the mood for fright!
Furthermore, the movie undertakes a discussion of prevalent issues regarding schools, family, and bullies. Advocating the call of mental health awareness, Eerie shows how children can face many situations that are detrimental to their health. In the film, the traditionalist-minded nuns are abusive teachers who are not afraid to physically punish their students. The students’ struggles with their personal lives are also shown, with scenes involving self-harm, suicide, vices, and bullying. Moreover, it also provides a social commentary on how religion can be used to justify harmful acts, such as ostracizing a young girl for being different from her peers.
Since audiences can relate to some of the issues presented in the movie, it might not be easy to sit through the horror film as some scenes might be triggering to some.
With regard to the concept of mental health, it is an issue that most of us struggle with, especially during this pandemic. If you or someone you know is struggling mentally or emotionally, never hesitate to get help. Never forget to indulge in self-help knowledge with caution during these times of unrest!
Cinco, a 2010 psychological horror film, features five stories interwoven with each other. Photo by IMDB
Despite being an old film, Cinco remains to be a relevant part of the psychological horror film industry of the Philippines. Included in the rise of horror films in the 2010 era, Cinco is a nostalgic movie that creatively utilizes pieces of themes to form a whole concept. Featuring the cast of familiar faces such as Sam Concepcion, AJ Perez, Robi Domingo, Jodi Sta. Maria, Maja Salvador, Rayver Cruz, Mariel Rodriguez, Pokwang and Zanjoe Marudo, Cinco features a rolling punch of terror mixed in with comedy and dread!
Translated from the Tagalog word, “singko” means five. In this film, five body parts are used as related spinoffs for the five stories that make up the film. Each level corresponding to a body part has its horror factor revolving around it, with a consistent Easter egg of a man’s hand bearing a RIP tattoo. For example, the “Braso” story, which is the first in the film, involves a bunch of fraternity guys doing their hazing initiation, stuck in a morgue where they are chased around by a disembodied human arm.
The other body parts or stories are Paa (Feet), which centers around a pair of stolen shoes that leads to stolen feet, and Mata (Eye), which revolves around a girl who witnessed a crime with her eyes and did nothing about it. Mukha (Face) showcases an abusive boss who physically and forcibly photocopies her employee’s face to make a point, and Puso (Heart), in which a circus girl hopes to get the affections of her heart’s one desire.
The film was directed by Frasco Mortiz, Enrico C. Santos, Ato Bautista, Nick Olanka, and Cathy Garcia-Molina and was released by Star Cinema in 2010.
While it features some comedic aspects, the film is still included in the list of psychological horror films, which makes it a delectable watch with the family! The stories’ apparent connection to each other truly makes for a mind-bending realization towards the ending!
Indeed, nothing beats the mundane days of being stuck at home more than watching Filipino horror films. Admittedly, our taste for horror films has evolved through the years, but nothing beats these classic films that contextualize psychological horror in a local setting. However, the horror movie industry has given audiences a lot of subgenres from various countries, which enriches the Spooky Movies List of many avid watchers. It is truly a great time to be a horror movie fan, so buckle up, get the popcorn, and start the marathon!
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