Indonesian Horror Films
Indonesian horror films can be a mixed bag when it comes to quality, and their cinema has been somewhat stifled over the years by political unrest and a lengthy dictatorship. But it’s not all bad news, as recent years have seen a slow emergence of the horror genre. A predominately Islamic country, Indonesia often features horror films that teach moral lessons, especially regarding religion and the dangers of turning your back on it. But despite these bouts of moralizing, Indonesian horror films are also chock-full of violence and gore, not to mention plenty of good-looking actors and actresses.
The next time you’re in the mood for something different, give one of the following titles a try. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised.
- Macabre (2009) - Julie Estelle gives a standout performance in this movie about a group of friends who make the mistake of giving a young woman a lift home. As it turns out, the woman’s family is comprised entirely of psychopaths, and soon a life-and-death struggle is underway. The killers are notable for their calm behavior, and the blood and gore is plentiful. One of the better Indonesian horror films to come out in recent years.
- Kuntilanak (2006) - Another film starring Julie Estelle, and this time she’s a young woman who ties herself to a powerful supernatural spirit. The film’s atmosphere is creepy throughout, and those who feel there aren’t enough evil trees in cinema will be in for a treat. If you prefer ghost stories and tales of otherworldly powers over slasher flicks, then I suggest you give this one a try.
- Mystics in Bali (1981) - A reporter wants to learn more about black magic, and she’s able to track down a witch who’s willing to instruct her. But the witch has a secret agenda of her own, and soon the reporter finds herself aging at an unusual rate. The effects are done with the barest of budgets, so expect to see paper-mache, hand puppets, and even flaming basketballs used in place of sorcerous fireballs. My favorite scene involves a head detaching from its body and flying off in search of babies to gobble up. While it’s not for everyone, lovers of schlock should get a kick out of Mystics in Bali.
- The Forbidden Door (2009) - A standout film in which a henpecked sculptor discovers a series of random messages that seem to be directed specifically at him. As his wife makes his life a living hell, he endeavors to get to the bottom of these messages and the identity of who wrote them. The performances, script, and direction are all first-rate, and the unrelenting tension pays off during a couple of superior sequences of terror.
- Nail Demon (2009) - A comedy/horror film about a group of corpse hunters trying to track down a supernatural creature who’s started roaming around after a precautionary spike was removed from its head. Taking the form of a beautiful woman, this being eventually catches the eye of a guy who’s looking to get married. As he falls for and plans his nuptials with the sexy and thoroughly evil being, the corpse hunters and the man’s secretary come to his aid.
- Angkerbatu (2007) - When a Korean company shows up looking to cut down part of the Angkerbatu forest and create Asia’s largest golf course, they incur a horrible curse that threatens everyone in the area. A clever horror flick about the dangers of corporate greed and environmental carelessness.
- Satan’s Slave (1982) - A bizarre film that rips off a number of films, with Phantasm being the most obvious. After the death of their mother, a boy and his sister try to cope by visiting a psychic. But it turns out that the psychic is pure evil, and it’s not long before he worms his way into their life. Meanwhile, servants are driven to madness, and their dear mother puts in an appearance from beyond the grave. The suspense all pays off during the final act, as the undead rise up and do what dead people do best: kill the living. An Islamic morality tale that cautions against turning away from religion.
- Takut: Faces of Fear (2009) - An Indonesian horror anthology, Takut: Faces of Fear features six tales of terror and a number of promising directorial talents. The first story deals with a cat-and-mouse game between a man and an intruder. Next up is “Titisan Naya,” the tale of a young girl who’s confronted by the spirits of her ancestors. The third story follows a peeping tom and is appropriately entitled “Peeper.” A combination of horror and comedy is up next in “The List,” and that’s followed by one of the first-evenr zombie stories from Indonesia. And finally there’s “Dara,” the tale of a female chef who’s willing to go to lethal extremes to protect her prized recipes.
- Horror in Facebook (2010) - Mira (Jehann Sienna) is visiting with friends on Facebook at an Internet café, but she forgets to log out of her account when she leaves. Ferah (Chindy Anggrina) comes along, gets into Mira’s account, and posts a number of messages as a prank. The joke goes horribly awry, however, leading to multiple deaths and yet another excuse for pissed-off spirits to hang around our plane of existence. I’m amazed that an American horror film based around Facebook hasn’t come out yet. Then again, they may just wait and rip this one off.
That wraps up our look at Indonesian horror films. While many of the country’s movies suffer from a severe lack of financing, you may still be surprised by how they manage to deliver the goods in spite of this. I suggest giving at least one of these a try, as they’re completely different from what you’ll find in Western cinema.