2020: THE YEAR THAT PUT INDONESIAN HORROR ON THE MAP!
Maya (Tara Basro) returns to her birthplace to find a decades old curse that’s marked her for death in the Indonesian horror Impetigore.
The horror genre is no stranger to Indonesian cinema, in fact they make spooky flicks quite prolifically. It’s just that, up till now, this was only known to die hard horror movie buffs and dedicated cinephiles. That may have changed this year, thanks to streaming networks like Shudder and Netflix, whose acquiring of some recent titles has brought Indonesia’s horror cinema to mainstream attention…and availability! Film’s like Netflix’s May The Devil Take You and Shudder’s Impetigore have gotten solid reviews for being really spooky and well made movies. It’s also brought much deserved attention to not only their respective writer/directors, Timo Tjahjanto and Joko Anwar, but their resilient final girls Chelsea Islan (May The Devil Take You, May The Devil Take You Too) and Tara Basro (Satan’s Slaves, Impetigore), as well. This has also brought attention to the fact that Netflix has numerous other Indonesian horror offerings such as The 3rd Eye franchise, The Doll and Kuntilanak, and the same goes with Sudder, Amazon Prime and Tubi. Now everyone is aware of what only a few movie fans have known for some time and thanks to these streaming networks, we have a whole new world of horror flicks to choose from!
Four recent releases that helped put Indonesian horror on the map!
(To get to our reviews of the flicks covered here, click on the highlighted titles!)
2018 Indonesian horror May The Devil Take You has teen Alfie (Chelsea Islan) and her step-siblings paying the price for their father’s occult practices.
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.