Monday, March 31, 2008

Sindak! (Mario O'Hara, 1999)

In watching this movie, one imagines O'Hara being approached by a bunch of executives, a few thousand pesos in hand, and ordered to make a movie that would best represent their company, MetalDog Productions. (Of course, risking no confusion, they named themselves MetalDog.) This is because no other explanation would suffice for the movie that Sindak! is: tits, guns, and blood, it is absolutely and completely an exploitation movie aimed at blood-hungry males and little else. It is a movie about four guys, security guards by night, sex maniacs by day, and in weekends, regular dudes who like to shoot the shit with gin and pulutan (gleaned from their weekend monkey-hunting trips). Unbeknownst to them, they live in a world of sin and extraordinary inexplicable weirdness (inexplicable because the movie doesn't put any effort in explaining a lot of things), made apparent when a man they killed—whom they suspect of being a serial murderer—comes back to haunt them one by one. Once they start dying, they start seeing the infidelity, the incest, and the debauchery around them, and soon they disintegrate under the pressure of the seedy world around them.

Compared to many of his other movies, Sindak! Really has very little to offer. What little of the story that one can understand is thin and the action flows merely from one sec scene to one boxing match to another. The acting is wooden, consisting mainly of guys acting angry and women being slutty or vulnerable. But of the few things it does well, it does very well. The way the film is shot is nothing short of extraordinary, giving us the fear and foreboding that the story fails to give (the script isn't really bad, only that with the ubiquitous sex scenes and fight scenes peppered in every direction possible, following no logic or even imaginative coherence, the story isn't really allowed to structure the entire mess). The film presents two opposing atmospheres: that of the almost edenic green of nature, and the chilly and distance ray of light that pierces utter darkness. Our four protagonists are introduced to us through a window that looks out into distant green mountains covered with fog. As they go through their hunt, we get the sense of guys in their nature, masculinity being played out in a game of hunt.

As the hunt goes into the night, we enter into the realm of masculinity in excess: of a bunch of guys sitting around drinking until one passes out. The same location is where they murder their victim, who offended one of the guys by committing his crime on the man's watch. The night introduces us to the darkness that permeates the rest of the movie. Simply, the film is almost unwatchable because it is so dark. Even in daylight, faces are usually cast in shadow. When light is introduced, it is blinding, cutting the shadow like knives. Along with the blue of the strong rays of light, red is strongly counterposed to emphasize if not the blood of the scenes, definitely the evil that exists or is about to manifest itself. In one scene, O'Hara makes full use of the darkness, having his antagonist appear and reapparear in random corners of a dark warehouse filled with drums and tires that predictable make loud noises when disturbed. It is very hokey, but the darkness so pervasive one cannot help but be affected. Even if the running around and the chasing about of the characters seem silly sometimes (such as when one tries to run around a car multiple times to try to find their antagonist who was peeping into two people in the act), the darkness and the brilliant flashes of red that breaks the icy blues of what little light there is makes the unknown that the film thrusts its characters upon more foreboding, more threatening, and more vast.

In a twist that one-ups the American slasher films of the late 90s in which Sindak! is based, O'Hara turns the antagonist's revenge political. Whereas the traditional American killer existed outside the bounds of humanity, dignity, and law, O'Hara makes existence within the bounds of law to be the ultimate revenge. The four friends are forced to exist within the control of the police, asking for their help in time of crime. But the inept police turns the table at them, blaming them for the crimes committed upon them. The ultimate twist comes at the end, when it is revealed that the killer is in fact part of the police force. Just how this ends up happening I have absolutely no clue. Or, it is still quite unclear as to why the mayor of the city himself would be concerned about this particular policeman. Every logic and detail has been eliminated to press the singular fact of betrayal, of an overarching power ultimately bent in destroying these four men. The unknown—the fear that the title suggests—is revealed, but based on the final image of the fixed and well-healed killer/policeman, we know that the unknown is in fact not revealed, that the truth of betrayal and fear of betrayal is a self-perpetuating fact, the end of which is not in sight and the number of victims countless and boundless. Sindak! Is an exploitation of the audience's basest fears and desires sure, but it reveals that our basest and darkest fears and desires reveals a system of control as dark and as boundless.