The Philippines, 2021, 110’, Filipino
Directed by: Erik Matti
Screenplay: Michiko Yamamoto (story, screenplay Iba Pa Rin Ang Karne and HM?), Michiko
Yamamoto and Mary Rose Colindres (screenplay, Kami lang ba Pwedeng Malasin) Michiko
Yamamoto and Leovic Arceta (screenplay, Shit Happens)
Photography (color, b/w): Neil Derrick Bion
Editing: Mica Roca
Production Design: Shiel Calde
Music: Mikey Amistoso
Sound Design: Lamberto Casas Jr. and Pietro Marco Javier
Executive Producers: Ronald “Dondon” Monteverde, Roselle Monteverde, Erik Matti
Cast: Ameera Johara (Lizzie), Ayeesha Cervantes (Becky), Brace Arquiza (Walter), Chesca Diaz (Mayette), Chrome Cosio (Sam), Donna Cariaga (Princess), Jake Macapagal (Carlo), Jay Glorioso (Lola), Kent Gonzales (Dexter), Pam Gonzales (Jane), Lola Ube (Luzviminda), Ricci Rivero (Reggie), Ynigo Delen (Nico), Vance Larena (Melvin)
Date of First Release in Territory: November 12th, 2021
Rabid turns the pandemic narratives of kawanggawa (roughly translated as unconditional acts of charity, especially towards neighbors or those in need) on its head. Matti is especially adept in the realm of horror films but shines in bottling terror in short form. There’s the unholy Vesuvius (2012), the visceral I is for Invincible in The ABCs of Death 2 (2014), and a bewitching episode in the Asian horror series Folklore (2021). In Rabid, Matti unleashes the anxieties and frenzy pent up during the several months that we were all locked inside our homes, away from each other, viewing the world only through our phones and TVs. In an interview, Matti said that Rabid was made “to capture that feeling of helplessness that bordered on insanity.” So why would you watch a horror film about horrors that you’ve already lived through – and still living through it, in the case of the Philippines (where the response to the pandemic seems to be made up as the government goes along)? Rabid offers a response to these terrifying times through the prism of horror.
The four films that make up Rabid examine our collective disquiet all during the early days of the lockdown. In Kami lang ba ang Pwedeng Malasin? (“Are we the only ones with bad luck?”), the virus takes the form of an evil witch that infests a home. In Iba Pa Rin Ang Karne (“There’s nothing like meat”), the reality of death is transposed and prolonged. In Shit Happens, a hapless nurse is thrown into an deathly alternate world, much like all the frontliners in the Philippines, where benefits have to be demanded of the government and not just given. In HM? (the abbreviation of “how much?” commonly used in buy-and-sell pages on social media) – perhaps the most overtly political of the shorts as it directly stems from an actual event that aroused so much controversy during the pandemic: the Philippine congress’ denial of a franchise to operate to media giant ABS-CBN – a desperate mother bargains with a dark power just so she can earn a living and feed her child. The shorts feature many staples present in Matti’s horror style, such as dark humor, old women suffering, and nihilism. His worldview is crystallized in these stories, particularly as a public figure who has been critical of government ineptitude. It’s hard not to divorce these stories from the context of the pandemic in the Philippines. The inhumanity and malice that run through Rabid have a direct counterpart in the everyday lives of Filipinos. Rabid is our past, present, and future.
see p. per On the Job The Missing 8