Directed by Brillante Mendoza
No stranger to the film festival circuit, Cannes winning and highly-renowned Filipino director Brilliante Mendoza steps out of his comfort zone and has made his first venture into the horror genre with his possession film, Sapi, which premieres at the Toronto International Film Festival this week.
Considering his prolific filmography, one would think that Mendoza would deliver a mordant horror experience that would introduce his many skills behind the camera to a genre crowd, but sadly Sapi miserably fails at everything it set out to achieve and then some.
Although the appeal of Sapi lies strictly with the fact that it deals with demonic possession, it is a film that uses the theme of possession as an analogy more so than as terrifying set pieces in attempts to convey how media has overcome reporters, spectators and society as a whole in an alarming manner; and the result of this is tremendously heavy-handed and disenchanting for viewers expecting the terrifying social satire the film promised to be.
Sapi (which in English translate to “Possession”) follows two rival news stations in the Philippines. The top-rated station is the number one station in the area because instead of focusing on hard hitting journalism, they capitalize on filming tacky “real-life” demonic possessions (which seem to be as frequent and as normal as a celebrity getting arrested for a DUI) that prove to be rating magnets.
In an attempt to catch up with their competitors, the producer, reporter and cameraman (who happens to work with the rival station) of the underdog news station triy to beat the number one station to the punch by covering stories about an unnatural storm that has hit and more importantly covering a possession of a middle-aged teacher that may or may not be responsible for unleashing a benevolent demonic spirit on the team. What follows is a dull, snail-paced and overstuffed film that provides a couple of disturbing moments purely for shock value alone and that’s about it.
Aside from one moment near the end of the film, Sapi is never frightening, unless you consider the overabundance of menstrual blood a terrifying sight. Sure it has the classic door creaking open moments and clichés that have been seen time and time again in other films of the demonic possession sub-genre, but regrettably Sapi disappoints in every one of these set-ups. Also the fact that the main characters never question why they have blood running down their thighs, are hearing things in their houses turning themselves on and seeing doppelgangers of themselves committing suicide once in this movie also made it that more frustrating to watch.
It is clear that Sapi wants to be remembered as a film that satirizes the disturbing moral ambiguity in the media industry, but sadly it will most likely only be remembered as the movie that explicitly shows a huge snake coming out of a woman’s untamed vagina.
1 1/2 out of 5