Fans of the truly bizarre and infamous in film have found a fetishistic friend in Mondo macabre, who over the last few years have given us rare cinematic treats from places as diverse as Italy, Indonesia, Pakistan, Argentina and Turkey. Combining a vivid respect for content with rare technological expertise, these film fanatics have opened up various never before explored paths for the adventurous home video enthusiast. Now, Mondo is carving its bloody way through the Philippines. With Silip, Mondo brings to our plates a film that defies convention or any easy categorization. Transcending several genres, it belongs to no genre. Including elements from horror, erotica, and crime cinema, this hybrid of religious fixation and the 'third world' pseudo-documentary is a feast of exotic locales, women, and themes. An equally terrifying and tantalizing exercise in erotic awakenings, self-denial, and deadly neighborhood politics, this is a shamelessly visceral experience. There is, in fact, no other movie quite like it.

Silip reveals its brazen style and penchant for honest violence from the very beginning of its shatteringly complex and emotionally devastating plot. Simon, the local provider of village meat, graphically slaughters a buffalo in full view of a group of children. Meanwhile, with the local priest recovering from an illness, Tonya, the local daughter of a woman stoned as a witch, uses her new position as teacher to preach against men and the temptations of sex-- a rather difficult prospect, considering the poverty stricken people of the village have very little but sex to take their minds off their troubles. Tension soon mounts between Tonya and the other villagers as they hear of her fanaticism. To make matters worse, Tonya is sexually attracted to Simon despite her religious leanings and fears, hungering for the rugged after Simon. Tonya has rebuffed his physical advances more than once but is finding it more difficult to resist. This isn't helped by the return of Selda, her ex-best friend, who has been working retail in the city for the last few years, and who once slept with Simon. Tonya is extremely jealous and frustrated toward Selda, and when the tension between the two spills out amongst the others, harming even the children, a spectacle of mob violence and prejudice rears its head.

An orgy of fanaticisms, psychological illness, and crude even nihilistic violence set against the aesthetic backdrop of sexual tension, Silip is a dangerous, politically subversive cocktail of primitive desires and moralistic struggle -- a conflict between animal instinct/pleasure and organized religion taken to unhealthy extremes by a woman who understands neither her own desires or the needs of her community. Just as crucial is the film's insistence in examining the hypocrisy and dangers of the community itself, complete with mob mentality, sexual deviancy, and deceit. The warning on the cover of the DVD is appropriate if a bit misleading, for while there is certainly no shortage of greasy, sweaty sex, female writhing, lesbian overtones, butchery, bloodshed, and mass violence, this is definitely not your typical exploitation fare.

"This film contains scenes of sex and violence that may disturb some viewers." No Shit! But this isn't simply a seductive and shocking experience; it is also an attack against expectation, examining the senseless anger of crowds, effects of repression, and concerned as easily with human character and motivation as with evoking strong emotion. While only about ten of the 125 minutes are violent, the images of butchery, pain, and desperation are not easily forgotten. Sex itself is treated as a violent spectacle, a struggle between victim and victimizer, innocence shattered like a virgin's hymen. An artful juxtaposition is established between violence and love, sex and death, revelling in such images as a bull's bloody death simultaneous with the lovely Tonya running water down her breasts as a boy secretly watches. A remarkable 'pene' film that explores religious misdirection in a Catholic Philippine society, this can also be enjoyed as a simply sensationalistic story of sex and sadism, although even then the more philosophic elements can't help but be felt.

Silip gets the star treatment, released as a limited edition two-disc set. Disc One contains the feature in 1.85:1 anamorphic High Definition, transferred from the original negative. And while there are some minor examples of film damage throughout (as explained on the title card before the feature), these are negligible, resulting from poor storage conditions, not through any negligence on the part of MM. Audio is featured in the original Filipino language with removable English subs. The track is clean and efficient, and includes the original score. While an English dub track is also offered, it lacks the Labad score and is in no way comparable to the original.

Extras are fascinating and comprehensive, as behoves an MM release. The second disc explores both the cast and crew of the film as well as the context in which it was made. Included are Interviews with director Elwood Perez, actress Maria Isabel Lopez and art director Alfredo Santos, all of which serve to shape a fairly clear picture of Silip and the Filipino film industry in general. "From Bomba To Bold And Beyond" is an essay focusing on Filipino cinema. Written by Pete Tombs, it is clearly written and incisive, covering the genre and culture of the Philippine people. Next up are Cast and Crew Biographies and the ever dependable MM preview reel.

Review by William P. Simmons

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