Insiang (1976)

insiang poster 1976 movie
8.0 Overall Score
Story: 8/10
Act: 8/10
Visual: 8/10

Different type of revenge movie

Wish the revenge portion was more developed

Movie Info

Movie Name:   Insiang

Studio:  CineManila Corporation

Genre(s):   Drama

Release Date(s):  December 25, 1976 (Metro Manila Film Festival)

MPAA Rating:   Not Rated

insiang dado mother mona lisa hilda koronel ruel vernal

It’s a house of fun!

Insaing (Hilda Koronel) lives a difficult life. Her father has left her mother (Mona Lisa) and Insaing and they are struggling for survival in the slums of Tondo, Manila. This leaves Insiang’s mother bitter and angry…having Insaing taking the brunt of her attacks. When her mother’s young lover Dado (Ruel Vernal) moves in with them, he objects to Insaing seeing her boyfriend Bebot (Rez Cortez) and has his own plans for Insaing. Insaing discovers she is trapped and seeks revenge the only way possible.

Directed by Lino Brocka, Insaing is a Filipino drama. The film initially premiered at the Metro Manila Film Festival in 1976 and became the first film from the Philippines to show at Cannes. The film was restored by Martin Scorsese’s group The Film Foundation and released by the Criterion Collection as part of the Martin Scorsese’s World Cinema Project #2 (Criterion #874).

Revenge films were a popular theme in the 1970s. You had American films like I Spit on Your Grave and Last House on the Left or movies like Lady Snowblood in Japan. This is like those film with a theme of revenge but the tone and pacing of the film is entirely different.

insiang dado rape hilda koronel ruel vernal

Yeah…dig my sweet Dado tattoo…I heart myself!

Insaing comes off as almost more Shakespearian in its storytelling. The character is abused by her mother and continues to suffer abuse from more and more people. Even Insaing’s boyfriend abuses her in that he sleeps with her and is unwilling to go against Dado to help her. The only person who tries to help (with a suggestion to run away) is the brother of her friend who even rejects her…Insaing’s approach is to use people to get revenge. She uses Dado to go after Bebot and her mother to go after Dado (and in turn damning herself). It is a clever storytelling technique that feels real.

For a smaller, low-budget film I kind of like the cast. Hilda Koronel is believable and likeable as the tortured Insaing while her mother played by Mona Lisa comes off as one of the worst mothers in the world in her jealously. Ruel Vernal is skuzzy as the loathsome Dado but the decision to not build Rez Cortez into the hero of the story is also a great storytelling technique.

insiang hilda koronel rez cortez bebot

Listen, Insiang…everyone wants a piece of Bebot and his sweet hair!

The movie is pretty ’70s based in its visuals and rather low-budget. This is where The Film Foundation comes in great. The movie’s transfer is clean and crisp and the colors pop. It is great to see a movie saved that probably generally looked the level of many grindhouse movies.

Insaing is a good addition to the revenge stories. It isn’t flashy or grisly as some of the other revenge tales, but Insaing feels more thought out and in many ways more desperate. I wish there had been more development of Insaing’s planning and her use of the character to flesh out the story, but it does feel like a nice alternative to the classic revenge story. It is the type of movie that I almost wish had merited a sequel to find out what happened to the character next.

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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