Kaluskos: Yearning for a child’s affection


MOTHERHOOD IS never an easy feat. There are challenges a mother must face to perform her expected role which makes her detestable in the perspective of others. 

This is captured in the full-length film Kaluskos (2022), directed by Roman S. Perez Jr. It is a horror film entry for Cinemalaya 2022, a Philippine independent film festival. 

Kaluskos focuses on Rebekah (Coleen Garcia) as she struggles to mend her relationship with her daughter while being seen as a “bad mother.”

The film begins with a dreadful tone, which sets the mood for Rebekah’s mental state throughout the film. As the battle between Rebekah and her husband Jay (Karl Medina) to win over Amaya’s (Queenzy Calma) sole custody continues, Rebekah struggles to keep herself grounded amid the growing intensity of her problems. 

Amaya has always been distant from her mother since Rebekah is focused on work. Take for example, in a hospital scene, Jay is disappointed in his wife for not noticing that their daughter is sick. It ends up in a quarrel and Rebekah loses a little more of her remaining sanity.

photo grabbed from Cinemalaya official website

Foreshadowing is evident throughout the film. Subtle hints are used to present Rebekah’s deteriorating mental state, usually accompanied by an eerie tone. One instance is the recurring dream that shows her longing for her daughter. It is later fortified during a scene where Azel (Cara Gonzales) and Jay are discussing Rebekah’s whereabouts over dinner.

While setting the right atmosphere is good, too much has the opposite effect. The overuse of eerie tones is present, probably to remind the audience that it is still a horror film. Mundane scenes such as Rebekah discussing with Jay about Amaya’s custody are overshadowed by the creepy setting. 

As Rebekah delves deeper into her reality, the setting becomes more distorted. The camera feels shaky at some points as well. In a scene where Rebekah is running away from Amaya’s voice, it feels nauseating even though it lasts only for a few seconds. 

The film establishes a firm connection between reality and the supernatural. There were minimal jump scares that did not rely on the usual ghost sighting but on the everyday things that Rebekah encountered. Such as the bird that Rebekah bought as a gift for Amaya. Using visual transitions, a tiny bird successfully turns into a spooky jump scare. 

It also shows that Rebekah is losing touch with reality as she chooses to believe the sweet words of an impostor. With all the problems she is currently facing, all she wants is support from the one she loves the most. As the swings signify her fall from grace, she completely loses touch with reality. She is willing to do anything to set her “daughter” free. 

photo grabbed from Cinemalaya official website

However, the film feels rushed as the connection between Rebekah’s world and reality is unstable. Being a mother herself, Garcia performs well in portraying a heartbroken woman. She uses facial expressions and body language—especially her eyes—to demonstrate her sense of dread. Rebekah transitioned from a stressed working mother to a delusional woman. Although the plot twist is quite obvious, the production team could have done a much better job in Rebekah’s transition. 

The pacing of the film is inconsistent. There are times that the film is fast and vice versa. It is evident in scenes where Rebekah is in a state of bewilderment while the setting is distorted. 

In other scenes, the camera angle is in a position where the characters are being watched. Amplifying Rebekah’s worries about her crumbling relationship with Amaya. It is seen whenever Rebekah goes back to her house. 

Garcia carried the film on her shoulders. She performs her role perfectly as a career woman and a loving mother to Amaya. From her facial expressions and non-verbal cues, she embodies Rebekah’s predicaments with ease.

photo grabbed from Cinemalaya official website

Overall, Kaluskos is a film that shows how a woman deals with her everyday life. Like Rebekah, women are multitasking between caring for their families and performing well in their workplace. In doing so, some tend to overlap the two, which leads to miscommunication and arguments.

Kaluskos is a film that illustrates the trepidation of a mother. A narrative that reminds society of the horrors a mother must endure everyday in order to fulfill her expected duties—up to the point of losing herself. F

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