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God Save the Massacre Movie!

By Eric S. Caruncho
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 23:11:00 10/03/2009

Filed Under: Entertainment (general), Cinema

OF all the opprobrium heaped on Malacaang-nominated National Artist for Visual Arts and Film Carlo J. Caparas (might as well get used to the horrorific since Malacaang insists it?s a done deal), the most common was that he was a ?mere director of massacre movies? (to quote one critic) and presumably unworthy of serious (or even half-serious) consideration.

In defending himself from the flurry of brickbats that rained on him, Caparas himself seemed to minimize the importance of the ?massacre? films in his ouvre, choosing instead to play the numbers game by citing the more than 800 stories and novels he (and defender former Censors chief Manoling Morato) claim to have written to date, and doodling on a pad during a press interview to prove that he could have drawn his own comics (but presumably chose not to).

Even when he cited his own films, Caparas gave preference to adaptations of his komiks characters such as Ang Panday, Gagambino and Joaquin Bordado, rather than exhume the slew of ?massacre? films for which he became known in the ?90s.

Those critics who chose to go against the tide and defend Caparas also tended to minimize the importance of his ?massacre movies,? implying that they were a minor chapter in the Caparas canon, compared to the ?iconic? komiks heroes, many of whom have been give a new lease on life by the teleserye boom.

It was left to non-critics to rush to his defense.

?The massacre films of Direk Carlo are timely answers to an increasing number of heinous crimes in our society,? Dante Jimenez, chairman of the Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption (VACC), was quoted by the media as saying. ?It creates awareness among our people, and as a result, some witnesses came out in the open or were conscienticized because of the massacre films.?

Jimenez even went as far as to lash out at Caparas? critics.

?The controversy created by some artists in the selection of Direk Carlo is pure and simple jealousy and is politically motivated. Those people blocking Direk Carlo?s selection as National Artist are self-centered and do not appreciate the arts created out of [his] ideas.?

The director also chose to defend his massacre films in non-aesthetic terms.

?My massacre movies have become justice stories. They helped the victims and their families get justice, especially when the law had neglected them. That?s why the PNP gave me an award.?

For all their supposed practical effects, however, Caparas? ?massacre? movies stand on their own as landmarks in Philippine exploitation cinema despite their aesthetic shortcomings (or maybe even because of them, since many viewers enjoy these works for the unintentional laughs they bring). To paraphrase ?Ghost World,? these movies are so bad they?ve gone past good and back to bad again.

It was Caparas ? in a startling comeback after years of lying low ? who jump-started the entire genre in 1993 with ?The Myrna Diones Story (Lord, Have Mercy!),? a retelling of the grisly rape, torture and murder of four women (one of them pregnant) by five police officers in Benguet.

In a stroke of sheer genius, Caparas cast Kris Aquino as the title character, who against all odds survived her ordeal (which included being thrown off a cliff after being stabbed).

In one fell swoop, Caparas managed to create not one but two new genres: the ?massacre? film and Krisploitation.

Before ?Myrna Diones,? Aquino had been consigned to tired retreads of unfunny comedies (?Pido Dida 3: May Kambal Na?), but Caparas managed to tap into the movie audiences? subliminal desire to see the former President?s daughter brutalized, raped, tortured and killed (albeit in the fictional realm of cinema).

Kris Aquino proved utterly believable as someone who could survive being stabbed and thrown off a cliff, and still come up talking.

Caparas upped the ante in their next collaboration by actually killing her off in ?Humanda Ka, Mayor! (Bahala Na Ang Diyos),? based on another sensational crime: the rape and murder of UP Los Baos student Eileen Sarmenta and her companion Allan Gomez by Calauan, Laguna mayor Antonio Sanchez and his henchmen.

The Caparas-Kris team-up then turned its attention to the most horrific crime of the decade with ?The Vizconde Massacre (God Help Us!),? in which Aquino played the ill-fated Carmela Vizconde.

Despite these films? grisly subject matter, Kris Aquino?s acting in them probably got her more laughs than all three ?Pido Dida? movies put together.

But the die was cast: Caparas became known as the ?Massacre King? and Kris Aquino the ?Massacre Queen.?

They would make more ?massacre? movies: Kris Aquino did ?The Elsa Castillo Story? with Laurice Guillen at the helm, where she was not only brutalized and murdered, but dismembered in one of two films made about the infamous ?chop-chop lady.? The violence was clearly escalating, and with it the box office receipts.

Meanwhile, Caparas took the ?massacre? ball and ran with it in a prolific streak. Undeterred by the fact that all the principals had already been killed off in ?Vizconde Massacre,? Caparas made ?The Untold Story: Vizconde Massacre 2 (God Have Mercy On Us!)? which cast Vina Morales in the Kris Aquino victim role; ?Lipa Arandia Massacre (Lord Deliver Us From Evil/God Save The Babies!)? and ?Victim No. 1: Delia Maga (Jesus Pray for Us!).? Never before, or since, was the Lord?s name taken in vain as often as during the ?massacre? years.

But despite the fact that Caparas cast real actors (Vilma Santos, Gina Alajar) as the victims ? or maybe because of it ? these films failed to plumb the depths that the Caparas-Aquino collaborations fell to. Perhaps good acting neutralized bad film-making, and good direction neutralized bad acting. By definition, a massacre should be an atrocity, and these films suffered from not being atrocious enough. No one, it seemed, was massacred as good as Kris in the hands of Carlo J.

Despite diminishing returns, Caparas continued to plow the furrow. Running out of current heinous crimes to exploit, he exhumed sensational crimes of yesteryear in ?The Maggie de la Riva Story: (God, Why Me?),? ?The Annabelle Huggins Story-Ruben Ablaza Tragedy (Mea Culpa)? and ?The Lilian Velez Story (Till Death Do Us Part).?

The Kuratong Baleleng rubout briefly promised a return to form with ?Wilson Forronda: Leader, Kuratong Baleleng Solid Group,? but instead delivered a half-baked Jinggoy Estrada action film.

The genre?s last gasp was ?The Cory Quirino Kidnap? (2003)?a good 10 years since Myrna Diones ? which was an unmitigated disappointment. Not only was there no massacre, but the atrocities were largely left to the imagination ? not a good idea in an exploitation movie.

In the same year, Kris Aquino revealed to a rapt public that live-in partner Joey Marquez had put a gun to her head and given her a sexually-transmitted disease (though thankfully not at the same time). In a case of life trumping art, all of her multiple on-screen massacres shrank to insignificance in comparison with these real-life degradations.

Caparas turned his attention to exploiting himself ? bringing characters he had first created for the komiks to the big screen, and later to the small screen.

Meanwhile, Kris Aquino had realized that she didn?t really need to go through the tiresome process of ?acting? to be successful.

Strangely enough, Aquino has been uncharacteristically silent on the whole Caparas controversy. ?

Copyright 2015 Philippine Daily Inquirer. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.




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