SOME FAMILIES have gone to various places due to the availability of work opportunities under the guise of a trip. However, things do not always go according to plan and when the occult and supernatural decide to play tricks, the victims find out that a simple get together in a remote village could be masked as days and nights spent in turmoil.
Filipino directress and screenwriter Pam Miras’ Medusae is an entry to the fifth QCinema Festival. It tells the story of a mother named Alfa Oryol (Desiree del Valle) and her son Luneta “Luni” (Carl Palaganas). Alfa and Luni set off to a remote village named Villa Norte and two spend their days working as amateur filmmakers with Alfa handling the camera and Luni managing the sounds.
Alfa is a filmmaker who grabs an opportunity to shoot a film on the island about a collection of disappearances of the firstborns of some of the villagers due to abductions committed by either an alleged kidnapper or entity, and the stories worry Alfa to a degree with her firstborn son in mind. However, it should be noted that two have a hostile relationship stemming from Alfa’s harsh berates and constant unwillingness to listen to Luni’s requests and pleas since his early childhood. A big fight upsets Luni and the connection between the two is severed. Soon after this fight, a supernatural entity regarded as “sundo” named Beth that looks exactly alike Alfa, except without eyes, takes Luni away into another dimension identical to the real world as a sacrifice for the moon goddess Haliya in exchange for the prosperity of Villa Norte. The film’s setting gives off a vibe of costumbrism or the portrayal of everyday life and customs in rural scenes.
Underneath the story of a mother saving her son from an identical kidnapper and their reconciliation lies an appreciation of folklore and mythology due to the wariness of the villagers of the occult and bizzare, mythical creatures such as Haliya, Bakunawa, and beliefs about the moon. The film’s colors focuses on the darkness of night, of the hut that the pair stayed in, of the seashore, and of the depths of the sea. It contributes to the mysterious and suspenseful aura because of the camerawork and sound effects. Pam Miras’ attempt to make the film mysterious is commendable to lovers of the said genre; however some may turn out to be confused about the addition of scientific elements due to the presentations about the Medusae jellyfish that stung Luni multiple times at sea, and their behaviors and development. The film ends abruptly in media res, leaving the viewers to formulate an ending on their own.
The film underscores the pull of magical realism to the Filipino identity due to the tendency to believe that certain phenomena happen because of the doings of supernatural creatures. This, going hand-in-hand with a rural, far-flung setting, makes a convincing story of chaos brought by the occult. A great feature of Medusae is its portrayal of how the Filipino family fights forces that seem to be above them such as science and superstition in order to preserve and save their family members. The film leaves the viewers a lesson that listening to the people that they love goes a very long way, for the desire to be heard is an impetus that can define a place to stay and a place that can be called home. F