This shape-shifting witch has become a popular Cebuano urban legend, but it should not surprise anyone to there is a man to blame for all her horrors. He did her wrong, but she would not be ignored. Her story will be told in a fractured, narrative-scrambling manner in Keith Deligero’s Lily (trailer here), which screens during the annual New Filipino Cinema series at the Yerba Buena Arts Center.
While hunting with a dubious friend, Mario Ungo nearly bagged a mythical sigbin, but one false step nearly did him in instead. Fortunately (or so it seems at the time), the titular Lily finds him. Hiding him in her room in a remote convent, where she seems to be a prospective novice, she nurses him back to health. Given all the time they spend together, it is not so surprising when Lily becomes pregnant with his son. Soon, they become a common law family unit, but Ungo is clearly uncomfortable and restless. Eventually, he leaves to find work in Manila, where he repeats the pattern with Jane, a stripper. Resenting his deceit and abandonment, Lily will come looking for him—and she is far more dangerous than he ever realized.
Or something like that. Deligero puts the film through a stylistic blender of jump cuts, flashbacks and flashforwards, lurid subliminal imagery, and poverty porn. To get an idea of the vibe, imagine if Khavn had remade Cat People as a hardcore music video. It definitely shares a kinship with aesthetically severe, experimental horror films, such as Khavn’s work and Dodo Dayao’s Violator, particularly with respects to the graphic visuals found in the former.
TV idol and rom-com movie star Shaina Magdayao certainly deserves credit for taking a chance on such an out-of-left-field departure. She is undeniably intense as the vengeful supernatural being, but she also connects with her tragic core. Rocky Salumbides is thoroughly despicable as Ungo, but in a believable way that helps the film get to where it needs to go. Natlileigh Sitoy also covers a lot of ground as the sultry but vulnerable Jane. Frankly, it is pretty impressive the cast registers at all, given the film’s jittery style and mondo extreme elements.