Deleter is a horror film written and directed by Mikhail Red. It is about a woman who is haunted by her past and troubled by a vengeful entity. Overworked and mentally exhausted, Lyra (portrayed by Nadine Lustre) is warped in a world where her soul is broken with unknown hopes of escape.
My first impressions
The horror works of Mikhail Red seems to be quite inspired by Japanese horror films. But his work is creatively polished to make the audience feel an eerie connection to the protagonists and narrative. He not just gives us a scary story, but relatable characters are also portrayed where viewers can almost say that they’ve been through the same experiences.
The movie Deleter opens with a question if life after death exists, which is often the foundation of Filipino horror stories and literature. With existential issues on the rise among the working class, the aswangs, kapres, and malignos have become more of a folklore to scare children rather than a point of horror interests. Filipinos have become more empathetic to stories of injustices and victimizations where the true horror lies in the lack of hope and peace. Deleter brilliantly maneuvers around that existential world rather than going for the old jump scares.
“Ang dark mo”
“Ang dark mo” is how Lyra, the protagonist, is described by her friends. The story has the same dark theme where Lyra is trapped in her own gloom. She seems calm and collected on the outside but she’s extremely troubled with a brewing breaking point.
What makes the character of Lyra truly dark is her silence. Ever since she was a little girl, she has been asked to keep silent and not say anything about the bad things she witnessed. It’s a kind of grooming where her innocence is lost when her power to speak up has been taken away.
This later on becomes her way of life in the corporate world where her job as a content moderator is to turn a blind eye on online contents that are often gruesome and illegal in nature. She just deletes them for the sake of the social media platform she works for. Many of these deleted contents never even make it into the hands of police investigators. With these contents, it is as if she has witnessed crimes right before her eyes, but can’t do anything about them but to delete.
“The Cleaners” Documentary
“Delete… ignore… delete…. ignore…. delete… ignore…” Deleter seems to have been adopted from “The Cleaners”, a 2018 documentary about shadow industries that cleans and rids online platforms of disturbing contents. It also shows stories of content moderators’ experiences and raises ethical issues in the social digital age.
Other references of Deleter
One of the shocking parts of the movie is Aileen’s death. Aileen (portrayed by Louise de los Reyes) is Lyra’s close friend and coworker who ended up taking her own life by jumping off from the building they were working at. She was heavily depressed due to the nature of her work and the abuse she has experienced from her boss.
During her death jump, she was live streaming her act on the social media platform they were working for. The scene is almost similar to the real incident of Brian Velasco, the drummer of Razorback who took his own life in a similar manner while live streaming. His video has long been deleted by Facebook.
Another real life reference to Deleter is the bizarre death of Elisa Lam. Like Elisa, Aileen was seen in CCTV footages acting mysterious in the elevator and hallways before her death.
What I honestly didn’t like about the movie is that it furthers the stereotype that BPO’s are very stressful environments to work at. Which are really not. I know this isn’t what the movie creators intended, but I can’t help it but notice that the movie shows the BPO workers in such depressed mode. It’s like BPO workers today are poster boys for the image of corporate slavery.
As someone who has juggled several kinds of jobs all through out my life, including working for several BPO companies, I would say working in a BPO is one of the easiest. You clock in and then you clock out. You get to leave your work in the office and not worry about it until your next shift. It’s unlike the other jobs I had before where I have to do plenty of unpaid overtimes, continue work and respond to emails even at home, find solutions for problems even way beyond my working hours, etc.
You think BPO’s are depressing? Try being a graphics designer for demanding clients, or a software programmer for startup type bosses, a police investigator in Metro Manila, or just running your own carinderia. Now I’m not belittling stress related issues in the BPO industry, and of course I understand that content moderation is different from the typical customer support BPO jobs. Being exposed to horrendous kinds of contents on a daily basis can take a toll on your mental health. But personally, it just gets on my nerves every now and then on how BPO’s are depicted as the pinnacle of what a stressful work environment is. Just a pet peeve. Now since it’s just a movie, I’ll give it a pass. 🙂
The film Deleter almost had a good cinematic story climb, but I feel like it didn’t end well. I left the cinema thinking if Lyra died or is stuck in some kind of mental delusion. I wish Mikhail Red explored the ending a bit more. For me, it felt like the ending was a bit rushed without giving it a good closure. “Ganun na lang ba yon?” was exactly my final though before I left my seat.
I think the movie creators got too much caught up on the objective of shedding light on mental illness, work related stresses, and the dark side of web industries and ended up compromising the ending of the movie.
You might also be interested to read our scene breakdowns about the movie Deleter.