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‘Mosquito Lady’ Shows the Horror of Losing Reproductive Freedom

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A still from 'Mosquito Lady' showing the main character with a look of terror on her face in a dimly lit room.
Hanna Lorica stars in ‘Mosquito Lady’ as Gemma, a pregnant teenager who turns to a mysterious neighbor for help. (Kristine Gerolaga)

Imagine being a teenager with a belly bump the size of a basketball, barely hidden underneath a baggy shirt. Google searches for an escape from motherhood feel like dead ends, and no one else your age knows any better.

Vallejo-bred actress and filmmaker Kristine Gerolaga’s latest horror film, Mosquito Lady, follows a pregnant girl named Gemma who, in lieu of parental support, turns to the creepy neighbor they warned her about — even if that means her life’s on the line.

This short film is nothing like Juno. Screening May 18 at CAAMFest, Mosquito Lady dives into topics like bodily autonomy and reproductive rights, and builds a sense of true dread with a twist from Filipino folklore.

The film’s mythological element takes the shape of the manananggal, a baby-eating, vampire-esque monster with wings. “Sightings” have been reported in provincial regions of the Philippines. Its kryptonite? Sunlight.

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Sure, there’s terror in a blood-sucking, flying woman with no legs, but the cryptic fear in Mosquito Lady lurks between what’s said and what isn’t. In Gemma’s case, that stems from being an overwhelmed kid without guidance or resources — plus the shackles of familial expectations to keep things under wraps and not end up like cousin so-and-so.

Filmmaker Kristine Gerolaga. (Courtesy of the artist)

Without access to reproductive care, Gemma visits the manananggal’s house and, to no surprise, finds some truth to the eerie stories.

Gerolaga’s idea for the short film sparked around 2016, when 18 states adopted new abortion restrictions. In 2022, Roe v. Wade was overturned, ending federal abortion rights altogether. (California, Hawaii and Illinois are among the states that still allow abortions until fetal viability, or until a fetus can live on its own outside of the uterus.)

Currently, only 39 states mandate some form of sexual education in the school curriculum. Personally, I couldn’t tell you what we learned in what was probably a one-day workshop when I was in school over a decade ago.

For Gerolaga, it was the same story. “The way we were taught about sexual health and our bodies, it was limited to, ‘Don’t have sex,’” Gerolaga says. “‘If you do — if you get pregnant — we’re gonna kick you out.’ You know, like, your life is over.”

She continues, “I tried to put into Mosquito Lady, you know, as loving as my family is and as supportive as they are, it made me realize what it must have been like for them to grow up as well with expectations placed on them by their own parents — and their parents and their parents. And how it’s just been an ongoing cycle.”

In the film, Gemma, played by Bay Area local Hanna Lorica, sits across her parents like a child on timeout. The scene cuts between close-up shots of Gemma’s anxious reactions and her point of view. The sound design is so on point that the viewer vividly experiences her fear — holding your breath in hopes that the chaos will die down if you wait long enough.

The manananggal, a blood-sucking creature from Filipino folklore, isn’t the only terrifying thing about ‘Mosquito Lady.’ (Kristine Gerolaga)

“As an adult now, [I’m] thinking back to those times of just how ashamed and scared I was,” reflects Gerolaga, “of being a girl, being someone who could get pregnant, being someone who could be blamed for getting pregnant… and just having to deal with that at a young age and the consequences of those things.”

Looking towards the future, she continues, “We’re now of the age that we’re having kids, right? Our generation. I hope it does make us think about how we’re going to talk to our own kids about their bodies, their sexual health, their sexuality, their rights. And maybe break that cycle of shame, right?”

In addition to Mosquito Lady — which premiered at Beyond Fest 2023 and won Best Effects at Brooklyn Horror Film Festival — Gerolaga has written and directed a variety of projects, including her short film Concealer and a micro-series titled @starringkristine on YouTube. She’s now developing her debut feature film, LAMOK, with support from Sundance Institute’s Screenwriters Lab and Horror Fellowship.

Her biggest takeaway from bringing her vision for Mosquito Lady to life? Gerolaga says, “We deserve to be healthy and happy — and understand our bodies.”


As part of this year’s CAAMFest, ‘Mosquito Lady’ will have its Bay Area premiere on May 18 at San Francisco’s Roxie Theater. Details and tickets here.

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