Part of the New York Asian Film Festival’s Manila Chronicles: The New Filipino Cinema sidebar, The Fridge is among the new crop of horror movies from the Philippines. The Philippines has had a long love affair with cinema, producing some of the most memorable exploitation and underground films of the 1970s after Marcos introduced martial law in 1972.
Not to be confused with the 1991 low budget horror gem The Refrigerator, Rico Maria Ilarde’s The Fridge (Pridyider) has its roots in the Filipino cult anthology film Shake, Rattle & Roll (1984). The movie stars Andi Eigenmann as Tina Benitez, a young woman who has returned home to the Philippines after growing up with an aunt in the United States. Tina has taken up residence in the house owned by her parents, whom she knows little about. With the help of her quirky neighbor Celine (Venus Raj) and old school friend and electrician James (J.M. De Guzman)–who has had a crush on Tina all of these years–Tina discovers the truth about her dysfunctional family. It seems Tina’s mom (Janice de Belen) went completely off the deep end after her husband and Tina’s father (Joel Torre) left her. Mom attempted to call a demon and cast a spell on her husband so that he would be with her forever. Mom murdered the women she believed were sleeping with her husband and fed their freshly-killed body parts to the refrigerator, where the demon had taken up residence and opened a portal to Hell. The spell was never completed, but went horribly wrong when Mom attempted to hide from the police in the fridge. Now, years later Tina realizes there is something seriously wrong with this hulking appliance and its Chthulu-like tentacles.
In the course of Tina, James and Celine trying to find a solution to the problem of the murderous icebox, an unwanted suitor is murdered, Tina is attacked by a crazy old man (was he trying to warn her?), and a shaman is called in to perform an exorcism. The original investigator on the case, Detective Albay (Ronnie Lazaro) is tracked down, living as a hermit in the woods. He fills in the rest of the story for Tina and James, but that’s about all he’ll do. In the end, it’s man against machine with a little help from a Catholic priest.
After watching The Fridge with some skepticism, I can say with certainty that Ilarde’s got some set of cojones. He manages to mix time tested horror tropes including the gothic atmosphere, demons and religion with a more modern aesthetic and some Lovecraftian imagery. With a title like The Fridge you would think the film was a parody of the genre. While it has its tongue-in-cheek moments, Ilarde plays it straight, for the most part–and surprisingly it works. The story is pretty solid and the actors carry it off well. The special effects are what you might expect from a low-budget horror film, but still very good. Ilarde even manages to give the title inanimate object some character all its own and it indeed makes quite an impact on the film’s atmosphere.
The Philippines has a long history of putting out good horror films and this is no exception. The Fridge is a fun and suitably gory horror film that I recommend you see, if given the chance.
The Fridge is screening at the Walter Reade Theater on Friday, July 5th at 11:59pm and Wednesday, July 10th at 3:30pm as part of the Manila Chronicles: The New Filipino Cinema sidebar at the New York Asian Film Festival. For more information and tickets, go here.