Director Carlo Ledesma takes viewers on a wild ride of the supernatural in Sunod (AKA Followed; Philippines, 2019), which captured the awards for Best International Feature Film, Best Performance in an International Feature Film (Carmina Villarroel), and Best International Feature Film Director (Ledesma) at the recent A Night of Horror International Film Festival in Australia. Although the film sometimes deals in familiar fear-fare trappings, the overall result is a gripping chiller well worth a watch.
Villarroel portrays Olivia, a single mother to teen daughter Anelle (Krystal Brimner) who is hospitalized with a heart condition. Olivia asserts herself, out of financial desperation, into a new night job at a call center. Her place of employment happens to be the same building that served as a hospital in the 1970s, and savvy horror movie viewers know that nothing good ever comes of being in a former hospital.
Below the call center are abandoned floors. When Olivia finds herself on one of those floors one night, she encounters a little girl named Nerisa (Rhed Bustamante) and helps her leave the building to find her mother. Nerisa suddenly disappears on the street. Soon, Anelle recuperates — seemingly miraculously — and can return home. All is not well, however, as she begins exhibiting troubling behavior.
What follows is mystery and intrigue involving otherworldly occurrences, with plenty of thrills and chills on tap. Stunning set decor and creepy set pieces help to elevate the feeling of dread. Ledesma takes several twists on tropes to fine effect, building to an effective third act.
Villarroel is terrific as a strong-willed mother who will do anything to save her daughter, and she certainly deserves the festival’s Best Performance in an International Feature Film award. Brimner is also terrific and gets to stretch her acting chops as her character goes on some wild tangents.
Sunod is strongly recommended for viewers who enjoy mystery with their supernatural scare fare. Well directed and wonderfully acted, it is well worth putting on your cinematic radar.
Sunod screened as part of Australia’s A Night of Horror International Film Festival, which ran online from October 18–31, 2021.