ASIDE from predictable storylines, awful special effects and a brain-numbing script, B-movies can be chockfull of lessons too.

I say this after realizing that a plot in a B-movie I once saw mirrored what is currently happening to the Philippine film industry, as well as to its anti-thesis, the “Indie” films.

This B-movie from which I got my latest epiphany starred Clea Duvall (the angsty cop in “Heroes”) as the unlikely heroine/intern who must defeat a gaming monster that came to life after being struck by electricity.

What follows is a series of gory deaths (they’re considered “pillars” of good B-movies) that eventually forces the heroine to confront and kill the monster (but ironically not before all of her friends were killed first. Bad timing is also another backbone of good B-movies). In the end, Duvall slays the beast, but because of the brutality and hardships she had to go through in the process, she becomes a far-worst monster than the one she killed.

The ending, which I found oozing with literary appeal despite the nature of the film, encompasses almost all of the struggles we see every day. One such struggle is the unspoken war between Mainstream films and Independent films.

Mainstream films can be likened to the monster that needs to be defeated in the B-movie. Despite regurgitating the same old plot over and over again and simply changing the title, (Think “Bahay ni Lola,” “Singsing ni Lola,” “Pustiso ni Lola,” etc.), Filipino mainstream films STILL rake in millions of peso every film festival and people still troop to watch them. What is more insulting is that most of the time, some of the movies don’t even have plots to begin with! I recently watched a Filipino movie and after one and a half-hour of viewing, I still cannot see what the plot was or what relevance the title had to the film.

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But just when a total monopoly of shallow storylines seemed inevitable, in comes the hero hell-bent on giving mainstream movies a run for their money. Ladies and gentlemen, enter the world of Independent movies, or “Indie films.”

Considered as the “black-spiderman” of cinema for its in-your-face attitude, these new breed of movies painstakingly take time to develop a plot that is interesting, refreshing and unconventional, or any plot considered “taboo” in mainstream land. Finally, society gets a choice, and moviegoers love it.

For a while, the monster had been quelled, and film makers are inspired to follow suit. In fact, indie films are so engrossing that most of the youth dream of making their own indie film in the future.

Unfortunately, it would seem that the independent film industry is currently undergoing a scary transformation, and it’s not one for the better. Taking from the recent crop of indie films in Cinemalaya, long gone are the shaky movements and the surrealist look that independent films used to have. What is now evident is the stillness of the frame and that documentary look. As one U.P. professor puts it, that famous “Indie-movie look” is now forced. The film’s production itself is not independent anymore. There is an obvious “mainstreaming” of the look of Independent films, and the only indie thing left is the plot and the fact that it is not out in commercial cinemas, for the meantime.

But even this is questionable. Independent films nowadays seem to settle for trite plots and safe scenarios that would admittedly gather a bigger audience, but wholly defeats the purpose of indie films. Independent films are now market conscious, most of them already thinking of an imaginary audience before production. In comparison, it is the same as an audience-conscious blogger foregoing writing about what he really feels inside and settling for something that is less-scandalous and less-offensive to his imagined readers. In other words, “mainstream.”

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Independent films should be something that deviates from the common. They should be “for the interest of the public” and not a tool of the state to promote ideas. This transformative form of cinema can uplift the Philippine film industry, but it can also buckle under the pressure and be tempted to join the alluring mainstream movie bandwagon. And from the look of things, it seems that this promising industry is slowly turning into the monster that it fought hard to vanquish.

Won’t someone save us again from the big screen brain-sludge?


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