Director: Joko Anwar
Cast: Asmara Abigail, Christine Hakim, Ario Bayu, Marissa Anita, Tara Basro
Runtime: 1 hr 46 mins
Rating: M18 (Violence and Sexual Scenes)
Released By: mm2 Entertainment
Opening Day: 13 July 2020
Synopsis: After surviving a murder attempt in the city, Maya, a down-on-her-luck young woman, learns that she may inherit a house in her ancestral village. With her friend Dini, Maya returns to the village of her birth, unaware that the community has been trying to locate and kill her to remove the curse that has plagued the village for years. As she begins to discover the complicated reality about her past, Maya finds herself in a fight for her life.
Indonesian filmmaker Joko Anwar has made his home country proud. His previous works like Janji Joni (2005), The Forbidden Door (2009) and A Copy of My Mind (2014) have been featured at several international film festivals, and caught the attention of foreign critics. Then came Satan’s Slaves (2016), a critical and commercial success that became the highest grossing horror movie of all time in Indonesia. How does his follow up of the horror genre fare? In short, it is a slow burning flick that works sears through your soul.
The 107 minute movie opens with a bloodily memorable scene. Maya (Tara Basro) spends her life working at a toll booth. Like any other bored employee, she kills time at night by chatting on the phone with her friend Dini (Marissa Anita). We see her complaining about a creepy fellow who has been showing up at the booth for days. And presto – the guy appears to ask her about her parentage, before taking out a machete to attack the poor unknowing girl. How’s that for a shocking opener?
We then see Maya making a trip to her rural hometown with Dini. It seems like a relaxing escape away from the city for the urbanites, but what happens next is a series of bizarre events that involve strange villagers, dead babies, black magic and shadow puppets. Talk about a getaway gone wrong.
The setting of the story is perfect for Anwar to create an atmospheric film that brings viewers through dense forests and dilapidated houses. There is an overbearing sense of jitteriness, but yet there is a strange cloak of awe as the two girls uncover a secret shroud of truth that has not been seen by people beyond the mysterious village.
Although the story becomes familiar with elements like karma and retribution as the film progresses, it continues to keep audiences engaged with its authentic local flavour. Such an unsettling sense of discomfort is not often felt in Hollywood productions. Let’s just say there’s something about Asian horror that always send chills down your spine.
Knowing what the mainstream market yearns for in entertainment, Anwar also made sure to include exciting action sequences with blood, gore and terror. This should please the hardcore horror fan who won’t be satisfied just with atmospheric creepiness. There is even a lengthy flashback sequence to explain the plot development.
While we are not familiar with the cast members, they do a terrific job. Kudos to the two female leads who seemed to have put in their all to portray the unfortunate protagonists who have made a wrong choice by venturing into the woods. You’d think the whole filming process was both physically and emotionally demanding, seeing how they plod through the thick forests, get hung upside down and run from their enemies frantically. Yes, they do a whole lot of screaming too – which is something any respectable horror flick would include.
(An atmospheric horror flick that also serves up a nice share of blood and gore)
Review by John Li