By RICA AREVALO
After the successful box-office hit of Mikhail Red’s Eerie, here comes another horror flick helmed by Mark Meily entitled Maledicto, showing in cinemas on May 1.
Backed by makers of Hollywood blockbusters, FOX Networks Group (FNG) Philippines is testing the waters, producing its first local film.
How did he land the project? “Pure luck. It was one of those ‘I was not their first choice (not even second)’ projects,” Mark recalls. “It helped that I directed two horror projects and a couple of TV thrillers.”
One of his former students, Palanca-winning writer Jonathan Guillermo from the Marilou Diaz-Abaya Film Institute, wrote the screenplay. “Our first meeting turned into a fun reunion,” Mark says.
“It is crucial that whoever directs this film would collaborate well with the writing team (Javier Abola and Christian Vallez). I shared my builds on the story, and they welcomed my inputs. It is, of course, a great honor that a company as influential as Fox would invest in this project and choose me to be at the helm,” discloses the Catholic Mass Media awardee.
The film tries to answer the age-old question, does the demon exist? Simply put, the title Maledicto signifies the opposite of benedicto. “Benedicto or benediction means to speak godly. In short, it is to bless somebody or something,” explains the former Ecole Supérieure d’Etudes Cinématographiques scholar. “Maledicto is to speak evil or to curse somebody or something.”
Mark enjoyed working with actors Tom Rodriguez, who plays Fr. Xavi, and Jasmine Curtis-Smith as Sr. Barbie.
“Tom and I hit it off immediately. We are both visual artists so we were talking about great comic artists, graphic novels, etc. He is also quite down-to-earth,” muses the 2008 Metro Manila Film Festival Best Director winner. “We would laugh when it would be easier for him to say something in Waray than Tagalog.”
Jasmine and Mark worked in a drama series for TV5 in 2014. “This is another reunion for us. I consider Tom and Jasmine to be very intelligent actors. They study their roles, they are articulate. It is not often that you can have great conversations with your actors,” he confesses
Why do Filipinos love to watch the horror genre? “We are a superstitious culture. It is easier for us to explain a phenomenon like getting sick or having an accident as something from the supernatural,” says the dean of the School of Design at iAcademy. “People get sick because of namatanda or nakulam (bewitched), instead of explaining it scientifically.”
For Mark, making a horror film is like a theme park ride. “It’s experiential,” he says. Mike de Leon, Ishmael Bernal, and Bing Lao continue to influence his work.
What is his motto in life? “My daughter and I recently had the Latin phrase, Dico Fabulas tattooed on our arms. It means, ‘Tell stories.’ I also wrote my ikigai diagram and ended with the same passion-mission-purpose: “Tell Stories,’” exclaims the 51-year-old director.