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Director: Elwood Perez
Mondo Macabro

Since their initial stateside release of Juan López Moctezuma's ALUCARDA, in early 2003, Mondo Macabro has made a name for itself by bringing strange films from around the globe into the homes of America. Having already successfully released cinematic oddities from Indonesia, Pakistan, Argentina and Turkey, Mondo Macabro's most recent entry opens up the filmic landscape of the Philippines. SILIP (which translates to "peeping" in English) is a hard picture to categorize. It features scenes of harsh savagery backed against ones of erotic tension. Primitive lust, religious confusion and the blossoming of womanhood, all book-ended by scenes of decapitation and rape. The back of the DVD case warns that “this film contains scenes of sex and violence that may disturb some viewers” and they aren’t kidding. Before the opening credits end, it will become very apparent that SILIP is a truly unique cinema experience.

With the village priest away, recovering from a recent illness, Tonya (former Miss Philippines, Maria Isabel Lopez) takes her appointed role as teacher very seriously. Schooling the local children to be pious and to avoid the sins of the flesh is a challenging task, as the adults of the coastal village are of a very sexual nature. Even Tonya, despite her teachings, finds herself frequently longing after Simon (Mark Joseph), the local butcher. Simon yearns to reciprocate Tonya’s lustful intentions, but instead finds comfort in the arms of the widow Maria (Myra Manibog), as Tonya has rebuffed his previous physical advances. Tonya’s situation is complicated with the arrival of Selda (Sarsi Emmanuelle), her best friend, who has been working retail in the city for the last few years and has brought her boyfriend to the village for a week’s vacation. Although still friendly to each other, Tonya represses great jealously and frustration toward Selda for sleeping with Simon before she left for the city years ago. Her arrival brings extra tension to an already frustrated community, which has become tiresome of Tonya’s puritanical teachings and increasingly odd behavior. Selda’s unwanted outsider influence and aggressive sexual demeanor will eventually lead to several tense encounters, both erotic and deadly.

SILIP opens quite viciously with the brutally bludgeoning and slaughter of a buffalo, by village butcher Simon, in full view of the neighborhood children. The children scream and cry for the animal to be spared, but Simon insists that not only is it necessary to kill the beast, so that the village may eat, but that the buffalo in question is in no way any different that any other animal and therefore deserves no special treatment. A real buffalo was used for the scene, making it as visceral and unsettling as any of the animal slaughtering seen in Ruggero Deodato’s CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST. With almost all of the film's blood being spilt at the beginning and at the end, the erotic elements that dominate the middle make the 125 minute runtime feel long. These scenes do however feel somewhat heightened by their placement. Shortly after the savage slaughtering that takes place during the film's opening credits, we see one of the young male classmates peeping on Tonya, as she bathes. Wearing only a sheer off-white gown, she takes a bowl of water and pours it over her head repeatedly, letting the water roll down her, soaking the gown which clings to her body. The scene is so effective that you forget that you’re still slack jawed from the previous cattle mutilation.

Tonya's repressed sexual desires helps illustrate the film's theme of religious misdirection, a some what taboo yet relatable theme in the predominantly Catholic Philippines. She diligently teaches the young village girls her strict view that every man is a devil, who hides his horns between his legs. However the guilty for her intimate desires, her mind is distorted to the point that she rubs salt on her vagina as a way to curb her throbbing lust. Another scene has Tonya pleading for her school class to throw sand on her, as she writhes on the ground in a fit of uncontrollable desire. Her actions are in stark contrast to those of Selda, whose open, free love attitude allow her to flaunt her sexuality publicly. It was during the 1980s that the Philippines saw a rise in films dealing with conflicting takes and views on sexuality. Ever evolving, they were dubbed “pene” films, in that they (allegedly) depicted scenes of penetration. During this period, Sarsi Emmanuelle would rise to fame as one of the “soft drink beauties”, a trio of attractive girls (along with Pepsi Paloma and Coca Nicolas) who were all named after soft drinks.

Releasing SILIP as a limited edition two-disc set, Mondo Macabro has gone to great length to provide the best presentation possible. Disc One contains the feature in a brand new 1.85:1 anamorphic High Definition transfer taken from the films original negative. A title card before the film's start is presented to inform the viewer that due to storage problems and the aging of available materials, there are several instances of visible film damage throughout the picture. While consistent, these flaws are minor and rarely become distracting. Colors come through clear, with the brown earth tones of the small village seemingly washing over every aspect of the film. The original Tagalog (Filipino) language track is presented with removable English subtitles that are easy to follow and without error. This audio track comes across clear and maintains the film's original score. The English dub track is also available, and is provided for completeness only. Heed the advice of the disc's Audio Setup page and watch the original Tagalog version, as the English dub replaces the effective and compelling score of Lutgardo Labad, with a dull montage of library music cues. The original language track also features two scenes in which bastardizations of two American pop hits of the time (from The Police and Madonna respectively) can be heard in the background. These unintentionally hilarious songs help to place the film in an appropriate time frame, and to any one who grew up during the 1980s, will be instantly recognizable.

Fans of strange and erotic cinema from far off lands will be pleasantly surprised at the amount of extras available, as the set's second disc provides an in-depth look at the actors and filmmakers of SILIP. Video interviews with director Elwood Perez, actress Maria Isabel Lopez and art director Alfredo Santos allow several of the key players to reflect on their beginnings in the Filipino film industry and of the production of SILIP. From Bomba To Bold And Beyond is an essay on SILIP and Filipino bold cinema by Pete Tombs, and is a highly enjoyable read and insightful look into the film history and culture of the Philippines. Cast and crew biographies and disc credits round out the second disc’s special features.

Considering the rarity of the workable film sources, Mondo Macabro has gone above and beyond with their most recent release, and has only begun to give U.S. audiences a taste of what the Philippines have to offer. They have also secured Celso Ad Castillo's SNAKE SISTERS for U.S. release, scenes of which can be found at the beginning of their popular coming attraction reel on disc two of the SILIP release, and are again transferring from the original negative. So there will be much to look forward to in the New Year. (Jason McElreath)