by Don Jaucian
The Animals (2012)
D: Gino M. Santos
C: Albie Casino, Patrick Sugui, Dawn Balagot
There’s this particular feeling of dread that sticks with you minutes after The Animals shuts off with its parting shot. Singled out, it’s tabloid fodder, an image that claws into the shinier parts of the mind. The camera slowly climbs up until it wipes out what was left of an 80-minute downward spiral: a clusterfuck of drugs, booze, vomit, thieving, hazing, and beer-bottle smashing, all wrapped up in the allure of underage revelry.
Freshly minted from film school, Gino M. Santos assimilates his experiences from organizing parties to The Animals’s adventures in high living. Kids lurch out of their chauffeured vehicles, given crisp 500- and 1000-peso bills as ‘party allowance’ (the sound of money being handed out is annoyingly real as if to draw out the distinction of money between the rich and the poor), and sent off into a jungle freak world that gets snarlier as new batches of students pour in.
This class distinction is refreshing for a Cinemalaya film. It has certainly been a long time since we’ve seen a film about rich snobs in their gated communities and self-governing homeowners association. And if such a film is to be made, why not filter it through the perspective of the kids? Holed up in their sandboxes, Jake (Albie Casino), Alex (Patrick Sugui), and Trina (Dawn Balagot) are prototypes of a generation shaped by an ADD-fied media whose ideas of a good time spin off from party rockin’ to Jersey Shore/Skins ideations. This ritual of adolescence is what fascinates Santos, and he builds up on this without grand spectacles or speechifying. What he gives us is a succession of scenes that make up a parent’s worst nightmare.
The Animals still needs a bit more polishing though. The cinematography shifts in various scenes and some shots feel a bit misplaced. Its fangs aren’t even as sharp as it thinks they are. The “wild side” it touts in its tagline is mild to certain standards and often deftly anchored upon the piercing gaze of parental control. Authority figures are present, reinforcing the difference of our upbringing in contrast to our Western counterparts’. But there’s enough fucked up images constantly reminding you that you’re watching the country’s first R-16 film.
The Animals is a harrowing cautionary tale of teenage dysfunction. There’s no suspension of disbelief needed; it’s as straightforward as a horror film can get. You know these kids, they surround you, and they’re the insistent force that will soon shape our future.