Set during the Spanish colonial rule of the Philippines, Mystery Of The Night is the latest film from director Adolfo Borinaga Alix Jr, (Whistleblower, Dark Is The Night). Based on Rody Vera’s play Ang Unang Aswang (The First Aswang) it’s an odd mix of history, drama and, eventually horror with a few points to make about the country’s past
The local priest has a bit of a problem. It seems he did something inappropriate with a female parishioner who is now very pregnant as well as mentally unstable. As a favour, the mayor Anselmo (Allan Paule, Aurora) agrees to take her with him on a hunting trip into the nearby, and allegedly cursed forest. And to make sure she doesn’t come back. She dies in childbirth but her daughter is raised by the spirits that inhabit the forest.
Years later Anselmo’s son Domingo (Benjamin Alves) ventures into the forest. He meets the beautiful but mute and animalistic Maria (Maria Solenn Heussaff). They spend several passionate days together before Domingo deserts her to return to his mansion and his wife. And in doing so sets bloody revenge into motion.
Do not go into Mystery Of The Night expecting a conventional horror film. It’s much more of a drama with some supernatural elements until the final act. At times very pointed drama about the treatment of the country by the Spanish, and colonialism in general. A lot of people may find this slow going or even preachy. Especially if you’re expecting something quite different.
At times it’s also The Jungle Book infused with dark sexuality. Maria Solenn Heussaff deserves immense praise for her performance as Maria. She has no dialogue and expresses everything with her face and movements. She also has to do it all while nude. Don’t however expect Lifeforce, or even Porno levels of exposure, her long black hair is used in Lady Godiva style to keep things hidden.
When Mystery Of The Night does turn to horror it does deliver the goods. The effects for Maria’s incarnation as an Aswang are better than I was led to believe and there is a fair bit of gore. I just wish the film had got to it a bit sooner.
Mystery Of The Night made its world premiere as part of Fantasia 2019’s Cheval Noir Competition. Other festival screenings are sure to follow. There isn’t even an IMDB page for the film yet, but you might be able to find future dates on distributor Reel Suspects website.