Beyond the Shadows: How Mikhail Red Redefines the Filipino Horror Scene
October 31, 2023
Fueled with passion, independent film director Mikhail Red entered the industry with a child-like wonder: curious, with a mind filled with stories to tell. Coming from a family of filmmakers, the “Deleter” director has been exposed to the film industry at a very young age.
“No one tells you to become a filmmaker, you basically do it yourself through that initiative, curiosity, or passion.” Mikhail faced the big waves on his own. From YouTube to the big screen, his eagerness for storytelling continues, and The Beat Asia had the opportunity to get to know him beyond the dark alleys and mind-boggling scenes of his films.
Horror Through the Lens of Mikhail Red
Mikhail is an introvert by nature, perfectly embodying his films that heavily rely on quiet scenes and visuals. This characteristic is a reflection of his belief that horror unfolds through the language of film. His works are visually captivating, employing storytelling techniques that reveal themselves with precise timing to create an immersive and chilling cinematic experience.
Like a flawlessly timed horror sequence, this development has opened doors for Mikhail to make his entry into the mainstream market with his film "Eerie." The director recounted an anecdote of how his collaboration with Star Cinema unfolded unexpectedly yet seamlessly. During a separate festival held in South Korea, the film studio took an interest in his presentation, resulting in a swift transformation of his film into a project featuring media executive Charo Santos and seasoned actress Bea Alonzo.
Finding a Middle Ground Between Art and Public Impact
In between finding a common ground for showing his craft and engaging the public, Mikhail works well with adding social commentaries to his film to open a new world to the general audience. “I always want to make sure na ‘yung film ko (that my film) reach as much as people as possible and [the] local audience.”
Mikhail Red, despite his origins in independent filmmaking, embraces every opportunity at hand to create stories that cater to a wide audience while subtly infusing unconventional elements into the medium.
As we delve deeper into his artistic vision, we discover that Mikhail is driven by a profound passion and admiration for the medium. Despite sharing the challenges and obstacles encountered behind the camera, he maintains a positive perspective. A smile graces his face as he fondly recalls those moments, leaving no doubt as to why his works are regarded as meticulously crafted masterpieces.
On His Own Devils and Monsters
One wouldn’t expect somebody who crafts spine-chilling scenarios to fear something the eye does not meet. But despite being one of the most acclaimed horror filmmakers in the industry, Mikhail attested to having battles with his own inner devil: the subconscious fear of being painted as a villain and subjected to a witch hunt.
To put it more vividly, he explained, “‘Yun ‘yung (That’s the) scariest nightmare e, [when] you’re accidentally, mistakenly, unintentionally end up as the bad guy... Parang (Like), ordinary day, and then suddenly, may nahanap kang (you found a) dead body, and then suddenly ikaw na ‘yung (you’re) accused. ‘Yung ganoong (That particular) type ng fear.”
And as it turns out, this realistic trepidation manifested in most of his works: in “Rekorder,” where a man unexpectedly records a crime, and in “Birdshot,” where the heroine mistakenly shot an endangered Philippine Eagle, among others. Both films involved the unwanted nightmare of being persecuted by the police authority, perfectly mirroring what the director has been talking about.
“It’s a scary thought, and it’s very realistic. It can happen to you. It can happen to anyone. It’s scarier than ghosts, siguro (I think),” he added.
From Crime Thriller ‘Birdshot’ to Classic Horror ‘Nokturno’
Throughout his career, Mikhail has shocked the film industry with his unconventional work. But if he has to choose a personal favorite, his sophomore film, “Birdshot,” takes the crown. According to him, this film was the turning point of his career.
“I think ‘yung (the) reason ‘Birdshot’ was personally special [to me] kasi (because) it’s my second film, and it was a lot bigger than ‘Rekorder.’ Usually kasi, you make all your mistakes sa (in the) first feature film mo, and syempre mababa budget (of course the budget is low), and then you learn from that,” he commented.
Years after the crime-thriller film, Mikhail now touches on the supernatural realm, which, ironically, is a common theme in the Filipino horror scene but is a new genre among all his works. This is through his upcoming movie “Nokturno,” where he steps into a tale of curses and urban legends.
The film tells the story of Jamie, played by “Deleter” star Nadine Lustre, an overseas Filipino worker (OFW) who returns to her hometown after mysterious killings, brought by the curse of mythical creatures known as the kumakatok, haunt her estranged family.
As expected, Mikhail is giving this folkloric tale a whole new perspective by exploring the urban legend of the kumakatok through the modern lens.
“Pinapakita rin ‘yung (It shows the) toxicity of the Filipino family, ‘yung (the) clash ng mas (of the more) traditional, spiritual, and conservative mother versus [the] more progressive daughter na naka-experience ng life sa labas (who have experienced life outside), but now she has to experience something more primal. Ang interesting ng dynamic and mas classic horror siya. (The dynamics are interesting, and it’s much more of a classic horror.),” he explains.
Through a daring combination of unique storytelling and a willingness to push the boundaries of conventional horror, Mikhail has captivated audiences and critics alike with his genre-bending creations. As it stands, the director still has a lot more stories locked away in his treasure of ambitions, and we can’t wait to see how he will continue to leave a lasting and transformative mark on the world of cinema.
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