After the success of Matti’s On The Job: The Missing Eight, which won John Arcilla the Best Actor Award at the Venice Film Festival, viewers can also catch 7 Days of Hell a Matti-directed episode for Folklore Season 2, available soon on HBO GO where The Missing Eight is now streaming.
Check out the trailer to the new season below:
Folklore is a horror anthology series that centers on the superstitious beliefs and local terrors of Asian countries. This season, Erik Matti shares a story of kulam or barang (witch’s curse) in an episode titled 7 Days of Hell.
It follows the policewoman and mother Lourdes whose teenage son Eugene is mysteriously afflicted with a severe illness. After seeing no hope from the doctors, she seeks the help of an albularyo (local faith healer), who tells her that a powerful sorcerer has caused the curse. Joined by her friend Jong, Lourdes goes on a race against time to save Eugene– but can she stop the threat on her son’s life if the culprit’s crime is not bound by the laws of man?
Fear of the real evil
Erik Matti’s films have always been more than their compelling stories and vehement visuals. Under the package, these movies also tackle the social issues that saturate life, especially of the poor, here in the country. 7 Days of Hell is no exception. During a recent press conference for the Folklore episode, the director shared that what’s exciting with this new title is that they’re trying to explore “more than just the supernatural, but also the fear of the unknown with humans in general.”
“Which is scarier, the supernatural or the one that’s real?” Matti said this is what their story is trying to discuss. This is presented through the different layered characters of the episode, including Lourdes who is a righteous policewoman, but whose actions are also driven by her being a mother.
7 Days of Hell, while a horror story at its surface is punctured with social commentary. As the credits roll, the viewer may also ask the question: if you bestow someone with power, is it inevitable to use it for one’s gain?
A terrifying tale of kulam
Our culture is rich with folklore, mythology, and urban legends, and when given the chance to tell such a story to represent the country in HBO’s anthology of Asian horror tales, Matti and his wife, screenwriter Michiko Yamamoto, chose kulam as their subject.
The director shared why they decided to go with this concept: “Over the years, I’ve been doing horror films and it’s getting more and more difficult doing outlandish horror stories. Outlandish meaning, may mga monsters, may mga multo. Even the multo, a lot of us believe it but a lot of the younger generation don’t really think that ghosts are real.”
“So as a filmmaker, it’s getting harder and harder to make films that could push for the suspension of disbelief, or the believability sa audience, and the closest to reality is really ‘yung mangkukulam, and it’s something that we don’t really understand. It’s so mysterious, sometimes we see the effects and that’s what makes us believe it. Nakita mo lang na lumaki yung tiyan ng tao, naniniwala ka na na kinulam s’ya without trying to go for a more scientific understanding,” explained Matti.
Thus, the director skipped the typical aswang and ghost stories, and opted for kulam which is truly Filipino, but has not yet been explored thoroughly in media. “The barang [and] the good and the bad mangkukulam are mostly not understood sa atin. So ‘yun yung naisip namin ikwento,” he added.
Direk Matti’s own experience with an albularyo
Aside from wanting to tell a story about the mambabarang, the director also shared an experience from his childhood that made him believe, at that time, that this kind of mysticism and faith healing could be true. “I don’t know if I still believe it. My sister, when we were young– I was maybe 11 years old– was always suffering from stomach aches, and the doctor couldn’t tell what it is, so my mom eventually called a surhano, ‘yan yung tawag sa amin sa Bacolod.
“So the surhano went to our house, and then started touching her tummy and said, ‘there is something wrong with the mango tree behind your house.’ So the surhano went to the mango tree, got a piece of bark, and put it on my sister’s stomach, which is actually what we did in the film. And then, right before my eyes, I saw small cockroaches coming out of her tummy. Of course, I was so young, I barely remember it now [and] how it looked like. Pero syempre naiisip mo na baka totoo ‘yan.”
Crafting Filipino stories for the world to see
Fresh from the international recognition of Missing Eight, Matti is back to showcasing a Filipino story to foreign audiences with this new Folklore episode. The director shared that their thought process for creating 7 Days of Hell was similar to how they crafted their episode for Food Lore, another HBO Asia anthology series that focuses on food.
“The first questions we asked ourselves was, what was innately Filipino that is about food, and in this case, about our folklore that we would like other countries to see about us? The second is, what is it that could be universal about us that they’d be interested to find out? And third, I think visually, the challenge with the filmmaker is to present as much of your country to a wider audience outside of your country.
“In Food Lore for example, we tried to explore the seaside, the culture of fishermen, and people who live on an island. Here, on 7 Days of Hell, we decided to just go with the mountains. I really love the Baguio setting, and by exploring the outskirts of it, seeing all the mountains as a backdrop creates a different kind of mood and atmosphere for the story we’re trying to tell,” explained Matti.
The director also added that the setting added a sense of helplessness to their horror story, which thrives in the buildup of dread to tap into people’s fears. “I think what sets this apart is the deliberate na pagkuwento namin na horror doesn’t come from singular moments, I think the horror is by just looking at the characters in the story, by just watching Dolly’s character, Lourdes. By watching her all throughout the episode, you will have a complex buildup ng fear of something you also don’t understand, because as Dolly’s character tries to understand what’s happening to her, dun din lang ikaw nakakasunod.”
“Wala syang mga jumpscare, wala syang mga pusa na tumalon galing sa bintana. ‘Yung feeling lang niya, and I think that’s really tough to pull off, that’s why we challenged ourselves to do something like that. I don’t know if it worked, we feel that it worked, pero I hope you guys would see it for yourself.”
Are you ready to join Lourdes on her quest to find answers to her son’s mysterious and mystical illness? Starring Dolly De Leon, Mon Confiado, Roshson Barman, Princess Amor Lucas, Donna Cariaga, Jay Glorioso, and Dido Dela Paz, 7 Days of Hell will premiere on HBO GO’s Folklore Season 2 this December 5. The first two episodes of the season are now available for streaming.
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