Pretty fairies and wholesome endings—these two would always go hand-in-hand whenever “fairy tale” is brought into a conversation. It’s a fantasy subgenre that is often seen as children-friendly, harmless, and charming. But what if we tell you that there’s a Filipino film premiering at the 2023 Sundance Film Festival that has turned what was supposed to be a fairy tale into a gorefest?
“In My Mother’s Skin” is a fantasy-horror film following a dark narrative that is grounded in Catholicism and Filipino folklore. Set in 1945, towards the end of World War II, a 14-year-old girl (Felicity Kyle Napuli) is forced to take the heavy responsibility of being in charge of their household. Her father gets embroiled in a gold heist (which leaves him with no choice but to leave home and seek help from the Americans) while her mother (Beauty Gonzalez) falls sick. Out of desperation, the daughter (mis)places her trust in a friendly-looking fairy (Jasmine Curtis-Smith) whom she met while looking for food in the forest.
But unlike the animated fairies we grew up with—a.k.a the kind and loving ones who help their human friends in need—the fairy in this film turns out to be the exact opposite. She’s downright evil, terrifying, and perpetually hungry for human flesh.
According to a review by Variety, “In My Mother’s Skin” is more than blood and guts. It is reminiscent of childhood fairy tales—except the film exposes its “dark origins which most of us didn’t realize until adulthood.” Meanwhile, Sundance describes it as a “ghastly fairy tale” that delivers on “impeccable craft, fantastical special effects, and enough fly-covered oozing flesh to be seared permanently into your memory.”
“In My Mother’s Skin” is written and directed by Kenneth Dagatan, marking it his second feature after drama-horror film “Ma” (2018). It’s the only non-English language film under the festival’s Midnight category, which centers on genre-defying films that “keep you on the edge of your seat.” While festival attendees can watch the film until Jan. 29 only, it’s expected to be available for online streaming via Prime Video by the end of 2023.
Photo by Epicmedia courtesy of Sundance Institute