Mikhail Red’s ‘Eerie’ is a gorgeous, creepy period horror film that is gorgeously shot with arresting performances by its lead stars, Bea Alonzo, Charo Santos, and Gabby Padilla, but sacrifices story for imagery and mood.
Set in an all-girl’s Catholic school in 1995, ‘Eerie’ is the story of Pat (Bea Alonzo), a guidance counselor who is visited by the ghost that haunts the school she works in, as she tries to uncover why she committed suicide.
It’s refreshing, actually, that a horror film begins straight into the urban legend of this school and Pat is already in the midst of her investigation. We are already deep into this mystery as the ghost is terrorizing the students and the mother superior, Sor Alice (Charo Santos), is trying to keep the order within the school. But Pat isn’t getting much answers from the ghost nor from the students who are getting affected like Joyce (Gabby Padilla), who is already manifesting tendencies of self-harm.
‘Eerie’ is exactly as the title implies. Red is extremely capable of crafting gorgeously composed scenes of frightening beauty, set in the backdrop of this cold, gray, and almost-empty school. There is a monotone to the visual tapestry as the screen is filled with the sight of the uniforms of the students and the nun’s habits, with only Pat in an earth toned counselor’s uniform standing out from the crowd.
In a creepy manner, the school is almost deserted. It never feels full except for enough students to fill just a class and that emptiness creates a feeling of dread. Everything is quiet that footsteps echo through the empty corridors and the ringing of the school bell punctures the silence. Set in the mid-90s, the silence is apt as it is deafening. It’s a wonderful exercise in creating a sinister mood.
Unfortunately, without establishing much about Pat or sister Sor Alice or Joyce, or any of the other characters before thrusting us to the myriad of hauntings, we have yet to really invest in any of the characters -- we don’t understand the motivations behind Pat’s staying at the school until past sundown or why Sor Alice is the menacing force of nature that she is. There is barely any scenes that depict life inside or outside of the school other than Pat’s investigations so we don’t see how the hauntings actually violate or intrude into the lives of these people.
Starting right in the middle, we don’t get to see the lives that are ruined or affected by the sudden appearances of the ghost of this school’s past. They just happen and while the actors like Alonzo, Santos, and Padilla are doing wonders with the little that they have, there’s not enough story yet for them to really play with except for the little we have been given at the start.
Pat’s back story comes in right in the middle which might be a little too late because even though she has experienced several hauntings by this time, she has gone through them unscathed. This is the second challenge of ‘Eerie’ as a supernatural horror film. While the hauntings create genuine moments of tension and dread, they happen too frequently and with hardly any real harm that they start to become boring.
There is very little danger in ‘Eerie’ that despite Red’s wonderful camerawork and Mycko David’s gorgeous cinematography, it’s hard to feel scared as the film unfolds and the mystery is revealed.
It’s a gorgeous film and the acting is of the highest calibre, but it feels cold and distant. The dread that is accumulated in each scene never peaks into genuine fear and it’s unfortunate because the film has a twist that opens up a powerful topic and message that would hit much stronger if it came with actual horror. ‘Eerie’ serves as a warning but without the terror that comes with the genre, its message doesn’t quite land as hard as it could have.