SILIP opens with a scene guaranteed to test the mettle of the average viewer: An adult member of a small Filipino village, clubs a buffalo to death in front of a group of wailing children. He then slashes its throat, guts it and beheads it. All of which is shown graphically, and is not simulated.

The kids continue to cry, one boy Taigo being particularly distraught at the prospect of their buffalo being slain. But the man tells them to stop their sobbing, reminding them that they've watched him kill animals countless times - they shouldn't be upset just because they were familiar with this particular one.

One girl, the demure Pia, begins to smile at the point. But her mood soon changes when she starts bleeding from between her legs.

And so begins SILIP, a frankly astonishing examination of sexual awareness and oppression within an isolated community.

The film unfolds briskly in dialogue-heavy manner, introducing us to a small village of mudhuts, where we meet: Tonya (Maria Isabel Lopez) - a pious school teacher who has retained her virginity in adulthood; Pia - a student of Tonya's, who hangs on her every word and strives to live a life as pure as her teacher's; and Simon (Mark Joseph), the man who slew the buffalo - the alpha male figure who will bone anything that moves, enticing ladies with the raw meat of animals he slaughters. He, in particular, is hankering for a piece of Tonya.

Tonya manages to stave Simon off, much to his frustration - which he takes out on his on-off girlfriend who seems quite happy to verbally abuse him for chasing other women before changing tuner and pleasuring him orally moments later.

Pia continues to look up to Tonya - whether it be watching in awe as she freaks out while holding a sermon on the sins of the flesh at the local church, or listening intently as Tonya warns her than men are devils who keep their horn between their legs.

It's an odd, almost bestial world that this tight-knit community live in. But, without the influence of the outside world to guide them, these villagers are comfortable in their manner of upbringing. Children in particular learn the ways of the world - adultery, violence, periods - through voyeurism. They know no different.

But all this changes when a bus of tourists passes by the village, dropping two people off. These are Selda (Sarsi Emmanuelle), a former member of the tribe who went to find a new life in the US, and Ronnie, her dumb American beau.

Selda is an old friend of Tonya's, and is instantly taken under the wing of Tonya and her gran. As the couple are not married, Ronnie - or the "white monkey" as he's referred to - must sleep in a separate hut. But Selda has been corrupted by the western world and returned as a sex-mad slut who is quick to criticise Tonya's strict morals and staid attire. She also reminds Tonya how she fancied Simon in her youth. Pia takes notes ...

Things really step up a gear when Selda seduces Simon one night, the pair making love in front of his bound and gagged girlfriend. Ronnie and Tonya stumble across this act, and a fight ensues between the men. Ronnie is sent packing to his hut, where Tonya checks in on him only to have him try to force her to fellate him. Luckily, her gran steps in and saves the day.

This is the turning point of the film for our characters. Tonya becomes an outcast in the village when people start to believe she set out to seduce Ronnie, and had been saving her cherry for a white man. Pia, at a vulnerable age sexually, begins to doubt everything Tonya has instilled in her and questions her morals as a result. Selda is viewed upon as a witch but, unsurprisingly, remains regrettably unrepentant. Simon, meanwhile, continues to use his dick as a weapon and move in ever closer on the object of his desire, Tonya.

All the while, these sordid events continue to be witnessed and digested by the community's impressionable children ...

What we have in SILIP is a fascinating and bold exploration of three women and how their attitudes towards their changing bodies differ. On a wider scale it's also a meditation on how sexuality forms itself in brutal, primitive conditions. The corrupting influence of the outside world is a significant factor thematically too, as is the inference that we must strive to protect our children, as exposure to adult concerns at an early age can lead to gross misinterpretations - there's a wry mirror image of the opening scene towards the end of the film, that illustrates this well.

So, SILIP deals with some pretty heavy social issues and delivers them in a very dialogue-heavy script that runs for over two hours. It's subtitled and aside from the bus that arrives midway through (which at that point seemed like an anachronism: I had no idea what era this film was set in), the action is confined to these characters in their desert-like surroundings.

If the opening lines of this review didn't put you off, then the last two paragraphs may have. For everyone else who's still interested, SILIP is a fantastic experience.

The acting is broad. I mean, very broad - bordering on hysterical at times. Furthermore, the dialogue this zealous lot are delivering adds fuel to the fervour by being at times insanely overwrought. But these elements come together to lend proceedings a sense of delirium, much as the deliberate over-acting in the films of Andrej Zulawski (POSSESSION; DIABEL; THE THIRD PART OF THE NIGHT) does. It's absurd, yet brilliant.

The cinematography is amazing. Well, not so much what the cinematographer achieves, but the beautiful Filipino landscapes and natural locations he's privileged enough to capture. The film is gorgeous throughout - even when it's being ugly.

The storyline may sound banal and it wasn't easy thinking of how to sell the synopsis, but run with it if you can - it does all come together, and it makes perfect sense while you're watching it.

All of which suggests SILIP is a film the arthouse crowd will adore. And they most certainly will ... if they can get past scenes of unsimulated animal violence, prolonged softcore sex set-pieces, a decapitation, a gang-rape, blood gushing from Tonya's vagina, Simon's erect penis covered in blood ...

I'm tempted to say SILIP is like one of Joe D'Amato's 70's sex films reimagined through the lens of Alexandro Jodorowsky. But with added violence and social commentary. Hopefully, that sounds appealing!

Mondo Macabro have come up trumps again with another astounding discovery. Their 2-disc Special Edition is equally alarming.

Disc 1 presents the film uncut and uncensored in it's original 1.85:1 aspect ratio. It is enhanced for 16x9 TV sets. While there's a disclaimer before the film apologising for some of the image quality, I had no problem with it whatsoever. Yes, there's occasional grain and mild softness here and there but overall the picture is excellent - some scenes, later in the film, looked pretty flawless in terms of definition. A cracking job.

Audio is available in the original Filipino (Tagalog) language, or English dubbed. Both are presented in 2.0. I took Mondo Macabro's on-disc advice and opted for the original language which also preserves the original score. It's a solid, consistent job throughout with no hiss, distortion or drop-out. Optional English subtitles are at hand.

The film can be accessed via 14 chapters.

Over on disc 2, we get some very interesting extra features.

First is a 9-page essay on SILIP and furthermore the trend of "Filipino Bold Cinema" from MM head honcho Pete Tombs. This is interesting stuff that left hoping he'll get the opportunity to release more of this stuff onto DVD.

Next is an 18-minute interview with director Elwood Perez, filmed in what appears to be a shopping mall. He's a likeable, modest chap who speaks fluent English and gives an interesting account of his career leading up to SILIP, plus memories of it's actual shoot.

A 14-minute interview with Lopez - a former Miss Philippines (!) - follows, and is another good watch. Again, her English is excellent and she too is humble. She has a great memory for events and still looks hot.

An 8-minute interview with art director Alfredo Santos is more mechanic than the previous too but still worth a listen, especially seeing as though it's a lot of his work that will linger in your mind after having your mind fucked by SILIP. Again, the interview is conducted in English.

Biographies for Perez, Emmanuelle, Lopez and Joseph follow, along with a fimography for Perez.

Finally, we get the traditional Mondo Macabro promo reel, which is now a whopping 8 minutes long. It includes all sorts these days, from SNAKE SISTERS to THE GIRL SLAVES OF MORGANA LE FAY.

A wonderful discovery, given an excellent 2-disc release from Mondo Macabro. What we do without them?!

Review by Stuart Willis

Released by Mondo Macabro
Region 1 - NTSC
Not Rated
Extras :
see main review