Filipina star Alessandra de Rossi subdues her natural glamour in order to play innocent teenage Rosa, a peasant, in the Singapore film The Maid (2005). She travels from the Philippines to Singapore to work as a live-in maid to a family who have operated a Chinese Opera theater for generations, & live in the back of the theater, a colorful setting with a quite naturally haunted feel to it.
Rosa rarely speaks & barely understands the culture she has found herself within. Alone & scared, & working very hard, she tries to trust the family she works with, as she has no other connection in this new strange environment.
The husband, wife, & their mentally retarded adult son, seem to be kindhearted people, though it's hard to assess people whose language one cannot understand.
With her Catholic upbringing, she has small comprehension of the full import of "hungry ghost month," the seventh month of the year, when the gates of hell are believed to remain open for thirty days, the month she arrives for her live-in maid position. Many rituals are orchestrated throughout these weeks, in order to appease wandering spirts. Rosa keeps treading in directions that muck up the appeasement.
Ah Soon (Benny Soh) the retarded adult is a friendly, giving, appreciate young man who behaves like a happy little boy, though having also a small boy's short temper. He's a big guy with a man's sexuality, & that can become unexpectedly frightening.
Rosa begins to experience ghostly encounters, being the only one who does not perform placating exorcisms. At first this is no spookier than living in a country where so little is familiar, working for a family that cares so little about her opinions or feelings -- as though she were herself the ghost.
The accumulative effects of hungry ghost encounters begins to wear her down physically & increases her forboding. Ah Soon also sees the ghosts, but most adults do not. Ah Soon's encounter with the granny-ghost is just amazing, & the film can be very disturbing & surprising with small disorienting events.
One recurring ghost was herself a Filipina maid. Her name is Esther & she previously worked for the family Rosa now works for, until she disappeared two years earlier. Rosa's attempts to resolve this mystery, to find out what happened to Esther, is hampered by the language barrier & by the "nice" family's increasingly restrictive authority over her liberty.
As the climax approaches, the quiet horror of events turns savage & grotesque, an amazing insanity unfolding around the theatrical family's desire to obtain a bride for their retarded son, under conditions that exist only during Hungry Ghost Month. I fear saying too much, so take my word for it, this is damned creepy stuff, & The Maid is simply a good horror story.
copyright © by Paghat the Ratgirl