Impetigore is an Indonesian horror that finds a young woman named Maya (Tara Basro) looking into her past after a mysterious individual tries to kill her. Also down on her luck, Maya returns, with her best friend Dini (Marissa Anita), to the rural village that is her birthplace, to seek her inheritance. Having been away from her family home since she was a child, she finds that there is a curse on this small village. Worse still, the locals believe her family is involved and the only way to end the curse is to kill the last remaining member of her family…Maya.
Very spooky and well-made flick is written and directed by Joko Anwar and is a nice mix of dark folktale and city girl in a backwoods nightmare. Anwar creates a very thick atmosphere of malevolence and dread as Maya enters her former hometown, that she hasn’t step foot in since she was five years old. As those around her plot against her, Maya finds a past filled with jealousy, infidelity, murder and black magic. The writer/director slowly lets us find out the real facts about Maya’s past, as she does, with a nice last act reveal that finally unveils the dark truth behind the curse and its origin, as well as Maya’s role in it and how it can be stopped. It’s classic storytelling and the elements of dark fairy tale, backwoods horror and Indonesian culture are all blended skillfully. The last act has some very suspenseful moments, as the outnumbered Maya is hunted through the village and surrounding woods, and it’s all delivered with a very impressive visual style from director Anwar and cinematographer Ical Tanjung. Up till that point, the film is consistently unsettling as Maya gradually finds out what’s going on and how much trouble she’s in. It helps that our heroine is also very likable, as is her spunky best friend Dini. There is some bloody violence and gore and the plot elements involving village newborns, missing children, and puppets made out of human skin are extremely effective, especially when woven into the story so well. Anwar is a skilled storyteller and one who knows how to tell one in a very chilling and unnerving way.
The cast are all very good with lead Tara Basro standing out as Maya. She is a young woman trying to make a living in the city and who remembers very little about her past. When that past comes for her with a vengeance, she bravely, though cautiously, goes to get some answers, though her dire financial situation also plays a factor in her decision. When she realizes there is a village out to kill her, her resilient side comes through. Marissa Anita is cute and feisty as her friend Dini. Dini is a true friend indeed, traveling with Maya to this spooky little village in the middle of nowhere and the actress makes her very endearing. Ario Bayu is very effective as the film’s villain, village elder Ki Saptadi. He is the one who believes Maya’s demise is the answer to the village’s curse problems and Anwar does throw us a nice curve concerning Saptadi in the last act and Bayu plays it all well. In support there is Christine Hakim who oozes malevolence as Nyi Misni, Saptadi’s mother and Zidni Hakim and Faradina Mufti play Maya’s parents in flashbacks with no dialogue.
This is a very spooky and atmospheric film from a filmmaker who knows how to tell a story. It’s part backwoods horror and part dark folktale, with a young woman whose past comes back to haunt her. There is a very effective mood of danger and malevolence, some very atmospheric Indonesian locations, really taunt suspense and some surprising reveals and unlocked secrets, that enrich an already engrossing tale. Highly recommended and both director Joko Anwar and leading lady Tara Basro are talents to keep an eye on. Now streaming on Shudder!