THE QUEEN OF BLACK MAGIC (1981)
1981 Indonesian horror is the basis for the recent quasi remake of the same name that has gotten some online attention. It has a very simple plot. The story finds pretty Murni (Suzzanna) betrayed by her lover (Alan Nuary) over another woman and accused of practicing black magic. She is thrown off a cliff by the terrified villagers, but survives. She is rescued by shaman Gendon (W.D. Muchtar) and given the powers of black magic to exact revenge on those who betrayed and tried to murder her.
Original version is directed by Lilik Sudjio from a script by Subagio Samtono, and aside from a revenge seeking woman named Murni and some gory black magic practicing, there is little carried over to the 2019 Joko Anwar written flick. This film is a fun and very gory supernatural revenge flick with plenty of maggots, flying heads and levitations. There is even a dash of martial arts. The FX utilized range from simple but effective to delightfully cheesy. After what Murni was put through, we don’t exactly root against her, when she gruesomely kills those who tossed her off a cliff. Actress Suzzanna is very pretty and charming one minute and fierce the next. Her Murni is reluctant at first, but soon finds the anger to exact her vengeance. There is even an interesting twist during the climactic confrontation that will pit student against teacher. While it lacks the remake’s depth of background story, this version knows to give us a break now and then and doesn’t overstay it’s welcome at only 89 minutes in length. Overall, this is an amusing and fun supernatural horror with both versions now available to stream on Shudder. Either version is worth a look.
THE DOLL (2016)
Daniel (Denny Sumargo) has a problem his first day supervising a construction site. There is a creepy looking doll up in a tree and his workers are afraid to cut it down. The doll is supposedly the property of a little girl that was murdered and the superstitious workers are afraid they will anger her spirit. So, Daniel comes to the only logical course of action…he takes the doll home to his pretty wife Anya (Shandy Aulia). I think you all know what happens next.
Indonesian horror is nothing new story-wise, but director Rocky Soraya, from his script with Riheam Junianti, has fun with it. If you’ve seen even one possessed doll movie than you’ve seen most everything presented here, save for a fun attack by a swarm of bats. Soraya obviously has a love for these type of movies and it translates to the film, even if it adds little new to the creepy doll sub-genre. His cast play it straight and pretty Shandy Aulia makes for a good heroine, as the terrified Anya, who always seems to find herself alone in the couple’s expansive new house with the possessed doll. Like his 3rd Eye movies, Soraya makes this one look good and knows his tropes well and effectively rolls them out. The make-up and FX crew do good work and the haunted toy looks effectively creepy. If you can get past a guy bringing this ugly doll home to his wife, even after hearing it’s back story, you might have a good time with this. Soraya and Riheam Junianti would team for two more of these flicks, which are all streaming on Netflix. Also stars Sara Wijayanto as the “Lorraine Warren” of the flick, Mrs. Laras, who has a past with the doll.
THE 3RD EYE 2 aka MATA BATIN 2 (2012)
Sequel has sisters Alia (Jessica Mila) and Abel (Bianca Hello) now trying to use their third eye sight to help spirits in need. A tragic occurrence has Alia wanting to start a new life and she goes to work at an orphanage. Fate, however, has other ideas and Alia once again finds herself immersed in a mystery and surrounded by spirits both in need and out for revenge. Worse still, this haunted house, and the ghosts within, may hold the truth to Alia’s own recent, painful loss.
Indonesian horror sequel is once again directed by Rocky Soraya from a script with Riheam Junianti. They once more borrow from many a supernatural thriller, though, at least some of it is intentional, such as a fun homage to Friday the 13th Part 3. You’ll know it when you see it. This flick does feel a bit more of it’s own thing, like some spooky sequences set inside the spirit portal, despite there still being a lot familiar. Jessica Mila once again makes a good heroine as Alia. She’s likable, caring and gutsy. Citra Prima also returns as intense spiritualist Mrs. Windu and the new cast members all perform well, too. Soraya does get good work from his actors in his flicks. The make-up and gore are again well rendered and the visual FX a bit stronger this time. As a supernatural mystery thriller, this sequel is entertaining and has some surprises, though it is also a bit overlong and can get somewhat repetitive at times. Rocky Soraya does have a good visual eye for how a horror flick should look. He also knows to present his material seriously, as something like this could get very silly…and almost does a few times. Sequel is also on Netflix like it’s predecessor.
THE 3RD EYE aka MATA BATIN (2017)
Flick has sisters Alia (Jessica Mila) and teen Abel (Bianca Hello) returning to their childhood home after an accident claims the lives of their parents. Abel is afraid, as she feels there is something unnatural in the house. Alia and Abel go to a spiritualist, Mrs. Windu (Citra Prima), who informs them Abel can see the dead because her spiritual third eye is open. To understand what is occurring, Alia asks to have hers opened as well, to see what Abel sees. Be careful what you wish for, as Alia not only finds that the house has a tragic past, but becomes plagued with visions and attacks from spirits both benign and malevolent.
Derivative but fun Indonesian horror is directed by Rocky Soraya from his cliché ridden script with Riheam Junianti. They borrow things from Poltergeist to The Sixth Sense and everything in between, but it is fun to watch as they do try hard to deliver something spooky, even if we have seen it all before. Heck, they even throw in an exorcism for good measure! It’s not very scary, a few effective moments aside, but it is entertaining and pretty Jessica Mila makes a solid, beleaguered heroine as Alia. The rest of the cast are good too, with Citra Prima giving spiritualist Mrs. Windu some nice gusto and Bianca Hello being endearing as Abel. There is some cheesy CGI, but most of the FX are done live with well rendered make-up and gore FX and Soraya has a nice visual eye. Amusing flick is currently streaming on Netflix along with it’s sequel. Also stars Denny Sumargo (The Doll) as Alia’s boyfriend Davin.
THE QUEEN OF BLACK MAGIC (2019)
Indonesian horror finds Hanif (Ario Bayu from Impetigore) returning with his wife Nadya (Hannah Al Rashid) and family to the orphanage he grew up in, to pay tribute to it’s ailing caretaker (Yayu A.W. Unru). Soon strange things start to occur and as the evening goes on, it becomes clear something malevolent has targeted the visiting families. With stories of missing children and a woman who practiced witchcraft, Hanif and the others may all be in terrible danger, as the past comes back to haunt them…literally.
Indonesian horror is directed by Kimo Stamboel from a script by Joko Anwar, who has helped put Indonesian horror cinema on the map this year with Impetigore. The film is a distant remake of a 1981 Indonesian chiller of the same name and has some spooky and disturbing moments. Stamboel does not quite have the style and storytelling savvy that Anwar has, but gives us some goose-bump inducing and gross-out sequences, even if by the end we start to get a little tired of the constant bombardment of blood and insects. Anwar’s script once again gives us a story of horror that involves family, past misdeeds and a background steeped in occult practices and dark magic, much like his Impetigore and Satan’s Slaves. The film can be quite gruesome and the scenes of insects crawling in and out of people’s mouths can chill, but the film lacks the outright scares and brooding intensity that Anwar gives the film’s he directs. A decent horror, with some effective moments, but not in the same ballpark as Anwar’s films, or the May the Devil Take You series, also from Indonesia recently.
MAY THE DEVIL TAKE YOU TOO (2020)
Indonesian horror sequel takes place two years after the events of the first film and finds Alfie (Chelsea Islan) still haunted by specters of the dead. She and her youngest step-sister Nara (Hadijah Shahab) are kidnaped by a group of orphans, who murdered their abusive foster father, Ayub (Tri Hariono). They believe the occult practicing Ayub is now haunting them from beyond the grave and is back to fulfill his original intent to sacrifice them all. They also feel that Alfie is their only hope to escape this cruel fate and thus she is once more thrust into a nightmare battle with the forces of darkness.
Film is again written and directed by Timo Tjahjanto. He again borrows heavily from Sam Raimi, and from Fede Álvarez’s remake. A perfect example being a very familiar looking “Black Bible” the orphans are now in possession of. This sequel, however, benefits from being a bit more it’s own thing than it’s predecessor and really cranking up the intensity and scares. As before, Tjahjanto does know how to use the familiar tropes and trappings well. Here he also shows not only more of his own ideas, but set pieces that are just as much his, as ones that are recycled Raimi. There is also none of the family drama that slowed down the first flick. This one moves. Chelsea Islan gets to play more of a hardened demon fighter, as these orphans turn to her experiences as their only way out of this supernatural mess, and she makes an impression doing so. The gore and make-up are again very effective, as is the visual style, and there are some chilling reveals along the way. Even if it is a bit overlong, like the first installment, it’s pretty relentless from almost the first scene and only occasionally gives us some quieter moments to take a breath. A sequel that improves upon the original. This second installment is streaming on Shudder.
MAY THE DEVIL TAKE YOU (2018)
Indonesian horror finds young Alfie (Chelsea Islan) traveling to her father’s old home, with her stepmother (Karina Suwandi) and step-siblings, after her dad, Lesmana (Ray Sahetapy) mysteriously takes ill. To her horror, she discovers that her dad made a deal with the Devil for his successes and now old scratch is coming to collect…and Alfie and the rest of her step-family are included in the price.
Film is written and directed by Timo Tjahjanto with a definite case of Sam Raimi envy at times. The film borrows elements not only from Raimi’s Evil Dead films, but also Drag Me to Hell. Sure, the story is different and Tjahjanto tries to do his own thing with them, but some of the set pieces, possessed family members and creepy cellar activity, echo Raimi’s works. Tjahjanto paid attention to his influences, though, as he uses what he borrows well and there are some very effective and impressive make-up and gore effects to portray his supernatural carnage. The film looks good with some effective cinematography by Batara Goempar and atmospheric art direction by Antonius Boedy. The location is quite spooky and actress Chelsea Islan makes a solid heroine as tough teen Alfie. On the downside, it is a bit too familiar, at times, to be consistently scary and at 111 minutes, it seems to drag on far too long with a climax that goes into extra innings before it ends. There is also some drama between Alfie and her step-family members that does slow the momentum down at points. It makes the pacing somewhat uneven. Overall, this Netflix streaming horror is still worth a look and is entertaining, but not quite the scare-fest we were hoping for. Timo Tjahjanto still shows strong potential with the mix of his own ideas and the well used elements he borrowed. Inspired a 2020 sequel, May The Devil Take You Too, that is oddly streaming over at Shudder.
SATAN’S SLAVES (2017)
Indonesian horror is from Impetigore writer/director Joko Anwar and tells of the ailing matriarch (Ayu Laksmi) of the Suwono family. When she passes, strange things start to occur around the house, causing eldest daughter Rini (Impetigore‘s Tara Basro) to look into her mother’s past. Rini finds to her horror that her mother was part of a Satanic sect and the price of what benefits she gained from it are to be paid to that sect in the form of the youngest child in the family, little Ian (Muhammad Adhiyat).
Anwar directs again from his own screenplay, this time based on a 1980 Indonesian horror of the same name. It’s a spooky film with some offsetting visuals, such as ghastly specters and the dead rising from their graves. It’s not quite as consistently intense as Impetigore and seems like about ten minutes, or so, longer than it needs to be, but it is more of a slow burn that comes to a very creepy last act and climax. The benefit of a slower pace is that we get to know the members of this family well enough to care, especially Rini, and we find out the details of the hidden part of their mother’s life gradually, as they do. Anwar also plays with the motivations of some of his spectral guests in the family’s modest home, providing some interesting twists. The writer/director gets really good work out of his cast, including the kids and especially leading lady Tara Barso, as a young woman forced to take over as head of a supernaturally embattled family. Anwar juggles a fairly large amount of characters and it helps that his strong storytelling skills are at work. Can this clan keep together and save little Ian?…and themselves?…the flick is worth a look to find out the answer. On the technical side, the visual and make-up FX are well done and provide some very chilling entities to populate this supernatural thriller and Anwar’s visual eye keeps things atmospheric and unsettling.
This is a spooky and atmospheric film from a filmmaker who is proving he is good at supplying both scares and story. Director Joko Anwar and leading lady Tara Basro are also proving to be a formidable team as they were in Impetigore. Film can be found streaming on Shudder and if you liked Impetigore, you’ll probably like this!
Rated 3 (out of 4) sisters of Satan’s spawn!
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