Directed by: #PrincessRymnaEblacas
Written by: #ErikaCagadas
When you picture a horror movie, most people imagine the terror coming from undead monsters or axe-wielding maniacs. And yet for most of us, the scariest time in our lives does not come in an abandoned asylum, but in our teenage years as we try and navigate the labyrinth of humiliation that is high school. Student-led project Erika cleverly combines the pressures and anxieties we all experience in our formative years with psychological horror to form an intriguing yet raw film.
Erika (Erika Mae Cagadas) and Lovemae (Lovemae Pamplona) are friends attending the same high school. As Erika begins to experience a crisis, she begins to have visions and delusions relating to her best friend. A combination of societal pressures and dark beliefs drive a division between the pair, and Erika’s dark side begins to fixate on how to take revenge on her former friend.
Erika is rough and raw in its production – as would be expected for what is essentially a Filipino student film made with little budget. Yet it is ambitious, and works within its limitations to create something of an atmosphere which is as unnerving and disturbing as the film’s subject matter. The director Princess Rymna Eblacas does a decent job of pacing the scenes of real horror and building up tension slowly. The high school setting is used to good effect – reminiscent of Carrie.
The film’s plot is quite bare and is somewhat unsatisfactory. Whilst no horror film should be afraid to leave elements unexplained or open to interpretation, there is little to explain here to the viewer why certain characters make certain choices – and being crazy is not a sufficient motivation. Assuming the audience’s understanding can be a risky move, and here the result is that many viewers will struggle to follow the plot upon first viewing.
The acting of the two leads is understandably unrefined and raw due to the circumstances of the film’s production. However, Erika Cagadas and Lovemae Pamplona both show an ability to convey conflicted and troubled characters that continuously manipulate and misdirect the audience. Even in moments of pure darkness, Erika’s childlike and innocent manner means audiences will be unable to prevent themselves feeling at least some sympathy for her. Her battle with her inner demons becomes the film’s unseen struggle.
For a low-budget homemade horror short, Erika demonstrates the promising array of talent of its filmmakers and should be applauded for its ambitious and stylish efforts. There are some glaring issues with the core plot, acting and production (particularly sound and camera quality), these are understandable given the nature of its creation. Its strengths show a understanding and passion for the psychological horror genre and for these it does deserve credit.