Saturday, January 7, 2023

Deleter

♣♣♣♣/♣♣♣♣♣

Online content moderator Lyra (Nadine Lustre) works for a company whose main task is to delete disturbing videos online. Considered as her team’s top agent, she serves as a mentor for newbies like Aileen (Louise delos Reyes) who are new to the trade. Their boss Simon (Jeffrey Hidalgo) does help in alleviating the mental torture the job entails by supplying them with strong prescription drugs and promising to give them a salary increase. When Aileen jumps off the rooftop and plunges to her death below on a boring evening, Lyra is forced to confront not just the hazards of their occupation but also her troubled past that might or might not have anything to do with the ghosts that just won’t leave her in peace. She befriends neighboring company’s IT technician Jace (McCoy de Leon) and asks for his help, but will his assistance be enough for them to outwit a vengeful ghost?

Having professional experience in online content moderation, seeing Deleter’s trailer last year did pique my curiosity as to how they are going to present this kind of job to a moviegoing audience. In the end, I can say that there is some accuracy in the depiction but there is also a tendency for oversimplification, which is fine because this is not a documentary after all. It is a good way to introduce this kind of work to the public at large even though they quickly lose grasp of it as they delve deeper into the paranormal subplot.

In real life, the actual horror in online content moderation are not vengeful ghosts seeking justice but rather the very genuine societal ills threatening what is supposed to be your and your children’s safe space online. Racist pricks. Pedophiles. Scammers. I can give you an entire laundry list of the usual suspects but I bet you my neighbor’s life that at one point in time, an online content moderator has probably saved you from a scammer or your kid from a potential child groomer. Online content moderation is not a horror movie. It’s public service. Deleters are modern day heroes. You’re welcome.

Perhaps another noticeable antagonist here is neither a person nor a ghost but rather the deplorable working conditions and occupational hazards involved in the BPO industry in the country in general. You have employees who lack sleep, can’t sleep or are simply employed by companies with questionable work ethics. The film explores this aspect without any attempt on subtlety which scores the writers some brownie points from the very workers in the industry who are decrying such treatment.

For online content moderators, a good company should at least shoulder regular counseling sessions as a form of shield from the nasty content their employees have to grapple with on a daily basis. Desensitization settles in quickly in this type of job, but that does not give the employer a license to disregard their workers’ mental wellbeing. As such, mental health is also inadvertently placed in the spotlight by the film because of this, which scores the writers even more brownie points.

As for the genre, “technological horror flick” is probably the best tag for this kind of movie. As a horror film, Deleter’s jump scares are few and far between, choosing instead to linger on quiet moments focusing on its lead character’s inner struggle. If the boredom prevalent in the film’s overall somber tone is meant to be a visual representation of Lyra’s disturbed psyche, then I must say that Mikhail Red succeeded in showing us the dysphoria of her everyday life.

As for the acting, Lustre carries this film all on her own while delos Reyes provides some solid support and leaves an impact with the little screen time she is given, which is amusing to be fair. The two men are just mere plot devices to move the story forward. Lustre’s eventual best actress win is well-deserved, even more so in a year where competition doesn’t seem to be that fierce. Congratulations to everyone involved for coming up with a decent thriller.

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