Posted: Thursday, May 3, 2012 | By: Esquire Philippines | 1 comment


By Philbert Dy


Let’s face it – the horror movie has become predictable. They’re burdened by formula, and adhere to familiar rhythms. A character walks into a dark room, the soundtrack goes quiet, and a shadow passes in the background. The character slowly reaches for the door, and the soundtrack starts back up, letting you know that something scary is about to happen. Then we get a glimpse of some ghastly thing accompanied by an audio stinger, the character screams, and we start all over again. Rinse and repeat.


Honestly, it’s all a little boring. The genre once known for delivering the strange and the outré has largely settled into the mundane, eternally feeding a built-in audience that’s stopped looking to be challenged.


Enter Wincy Ong’s San Lazaro, a local horror movie from last year that pretty much ignores every horror trend and treads its own path into the genre. It is a remarkably strange film that offers curious moviegoers a psychic voyage through the director’s unhinged imagination.


The plot is pretty simple: Slacker Sigfried (played by the director himself) takes a break from learning stuff off Youtube to help his old friend Limuel (Ramon Bautista) deliver his demon-possessed brother to his exorcist uncle in San Lazaro. As strange as that might sound, the summary comes nowhere close to describing the weirdness that follows.


The horror, such as it is, doesn’t come from creepy things hiding behind doors. It comes from a general feeling that something isn’t quite right about the world. The film has an odd pace, and revels in the smallest of details. There’s a shaky rhythm to everything, each scene seemingly designed to undermine the audience’s sense of timing. We’re familiar with all these elements, but the film just refuses to play by the rules.


It will hit a strange joke where a scare ought to be, and throw in a choreographed fight scene where one expects a serious character revelation. Much of the film is driven by the buddy road antics of its two main characters, and though one might expect comedy, Ong and Bautista play their characters with surprising intensity. The film then abandons its own linearity with a set of flashbacks that feel simultaneously out of sync and perfectly in place. To put it simply: the film is pretty odd.


It throws you off-balance. And in that way, the film feels risky and unpredictable. It isn’t quite scary in the traditional sense, but it can feel creepy in other ways. It offers up an insanity that lingers, unhinged moments that get under your skin.


There are so many ideas in San Lazaro that it occasionally sags under its own weight. Its runtime isn’t nearly enough to do justice to all the threads laid out in the flashbacks. And yet it all somehow fits together, the movie unified by its tone, its devotion to its strangeness. This is a film destined to find a cult, drawing people in with its unique brand of insanity, spreading the madness and the world just a little bit stranger.


San Lazaro is now available on DVD, and can be found in Astrovision branches and SM Department Stores.


One thought on “The Triumphant Strangeness of San Lazaro

  1. Pingback: San Lazaro « Pinoy Rebyu

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>