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Metro Manila Film Festival 2022: What lives in the dark

Movie ReviewDeleterDirected by Mikhail RedMTRCB rating: R-13

PAINFUL and disturbing reality and truths viewed on screen can be even more difficult to face in real life. Mikhail Red confronts this reality in the techno-horror film Deleter.

This was the first of three movies I had lined up for the day. I was glad to see more than 20 people in the audience compared to the audience count of five I saw at the opening day of last year’s Metro Manila Film Festival.

The film’s opening scene effectively sets the story. It begins with a buffering computer screen which leads to a shot of a dark bedroom. A figure of a standing woman slowly turns, and sits in front of the camera. She then recites some words and proceeds to cut her right cheek with a blade and bleed. The shot zooms out to a woman watching the scene on her computer in cubicle — she screams, falling on the floor, and causing a commotion at the office.

The story centers on Lyra (played by Nadine Lustre), who works as a content moderator tasked with filtering violent, sexual, exploitative content from reaching social media platforms. Unlike her colleagues who often grow uncomfortable with the demands of the job, Lyra has seemingly mastered a technique to reach her quota.

Content moderators, or “deleters,” are given a set of videos to review. After watching it, it is either ignored and remains accessible online, or deleted. In the film, Lyra’s boss Simon (Jeffrey Hidalgo) admits that their job can make them crazy and mentally exhausted. (Trigger warning: Some scenes may be difficult to watch.)

The environment in the workplace is disrupted with the suicide of their colleague Aileen (Louise Delos Reyes) — the woman who freaked out in the opening scene. When investigators interrogate the employees about the incident, Lyra replies by saying they were not really close, which is believable at first considering her minimal interaction with other colleagues. Her only good acquaintance is Jace (McCoy De Leon), an employee in a different company lin the same building.

As the story progresses, the audience learns that not only did Lyra have a traumatic childhood which led to her apathetic attitude, but that she secretly was close friends with Aileen. An unfortunate incident involving Aileen and their boss which Lyra was the sole witness to has led her to be fearful of confronting and speaking the truth. The inclusion of surveillance footage offers the audience a point of view not available to the characters in the story.

The film keeps a consistent dark mood through the character’s wardrobes, the use of blue color grading, and almost pitch-black shots in interior scenes in a power outage. The only bright scenes in daytime at the building rooftop and convenience store.

The eerie music scoring effectively builds the tension leading up to a jump scare, as well as the volume dynamics as the film reached the climax.

In my five years of reviewing horror films at the MMFF, this has been the most notable film.

Deleter is a supernatural horror movie that uses technology as a bridge to relate real horrors about life such as personal fears and truths that are difficult to face.

The final sequence feels like an interrogation — not only for Lyra but also for the audience. It confronts our behavior towards speculation, lies, and the unheard truths about ourselves, other people, and scenarios around us and our society — whether online or in real life. The attempt to ignore, deny, and erase it is a nightmare that will continue to haunt us. — Michelle Anne P. Soliman

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