'Elemento' review: The horror of laziness
The premise behind Mark Meily’s Elemento isn’t all bad actually. It has all the makings of a standard-issue horror that is peppered with bits of local flavor.
The problem with the film is that the thumbprints of lazy filmmaking are just too obvious not to notice.
The film ends up becoming embarrassingly inept, with whatever promise of guiltless entertainment a foregone memory after the incessant assault of uninspired and ineffective scares.
Molded from formula
Kara (Cristine Reyes) is a single mom who juggles her stint as a real estate agent and her regular meetings with her shrink with her parenting duties. She is quite lucky that aside from the usual jeers aimed at their eccentric neighbor (Elizabeth Oroposa), her son Lucas (Albert Silos) is just a regular kid who doesn’t really make a lot of problems for her – that is until his school trip to a forest in a nearby province.
Essentially, Elemento is molded from formula. There is a familiar pattern in all its attempts to carve something terrifying out of the humdrum affairs of a mother and her son. Meily doesn’t even endeavor to mask his bid at convention.
The film opens with flashbacks of Kara’s distant past, which fairly ruins the film’s supposedly surprising conclusion. All of its characters are staples of the genre, with Meily doing very little to at least make them more interesting than the blatant stereotypes that they are.
The problem isn’t the fact that the film’s plot is derivative. There are thousands of films that hold dear their allegiance to formulas that work very well simply because their filmmakers are truly attuned to the grooves of the genre. Elemento, however, lacks that requisite affinity and regard for horror. The film seems to plod along a singular direction with hardly a desire to be anything more than a filler at the cinemas. It really is quite a pity.
Traces of promise
It would have been quite alright had Elemento been downright horrible right from the start, and whose concept, cast and crew offer nothing but extremely lowered expectations.
Sadly, that is not the case. The film seems to come from a place of actual insight. Its ingenious melding of the traditional horror formula with localized folklore is enough to arouse interest.
Moreover, Meily – for whatever reason and despite the rather awkward results – seems to prefer practical effects, peppering the film with creatures and other anomalies that do not rely on the soulless ease of digital wizardry.
However, there are just too few of those moments to salvage the entire film, and those few moments only expose the fact that there is talent here and that such talent is being squandered in the name of assembly line movie-making.
Wastage of talent
Meily was once promising filmmaker. He still is a promising filmmaker.
He once proved that even within the confines of commercial filmmaking in the country, there will always be room for excellence. His films like Crying Ladies (2003) and La Visa Loca (2005), although flawed, were shining examples of films that endeavored to prove a point. They weren’t lazy.
Elemento, however, reflects none of that promise. The film is just plain lazy. Its insistence on expending actual workable concepts without nary a hint of any ambition other than the half-hearted and half-baked release of a product – just any product, whether good or bad – is horrific and very disheartening. – Rappler.com
Francis Joseph Cruz litigates for a living and writes about cinema for fun. The first Filipino movie he saw in the theaters was Carlo J. Caparas’ 'Tirad Pass.' Since then, he’s been on a mission to find better memories with Philippine cinema.