Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Pengabdi Setan (Satan's Slave)

Indonesia | 2017 | Director: Joko Anwar | 1 hour 47 minutes

From here

[There are spoilers.]

This was the first horror movie that I watched. I watched it with Dic, a colleague at former workplace, because he promised me that he would drive me home after the movie. Seriously, watching this movie is a milestone for a scaredy cat like me.

This is the first Joko Anwar's movie that I watched in a cinema. I usually watch Indonesian movies when they are aired on local television. I am not a fan of Indonesian movies, because most (if not all) Indonesian movies have no good story plots and/or no good acting.

The movie was a remake of a 1980 movie that Rolling Stone magazine called as the scariest Indonesian movie of all time. I didn't watch that movie though, but a friend gave me a short summary, in which the movie's main message was: "If you face hard times, always turn to God. Don't go looking for solace in other place, or scary things will happen to you."

Joko's movie is different from that, it's more of an adaptation, instead of a remake. Set in the 1980s, the movie starts with Rini (Tara Basro) asking for royalty to the recording company that recorded and produced her mother's solo album. Mother has been ill for three years, and the medical expenses have taken its toll on the family. The company's director, Joko Anwar doing cameo (aha!), apologizes for being unable to help. 

Rini, who is the eldest of four, returns home and tells his father (Bront Palarae) that they don't have enough. When the night falls, Tony (Endy Arfian), the second child in the family, comes home and gives the key of the motorcycles to his father. The motorcycles has to be sold to cover medical expenses. The other siblings, Bondi (Nasar Annuz) and Ian (M. Adhiyat), who can not speak, give excellent acting performance despite their young age.

The scariest parts are the first 45 minutes when the mother (Ayu Utami) is still around. The bell she uses to call her children and the music score that plays when she makes the scene are enough to build  up the horror atmosphere. 

Some horror scenes worth mentioning: (1) when Rini dreams seeing mother stand in front of the window, then she wakes up and reliving the dream, (2) when Bondi and Ian go to bathroom and throw a piece of fabric over the mother's picture, (3) when Rini does prayer and yet, mother can still crawl under her praying outfit. I was very grateful that I didn't watch this movie alone as I could hold onto Dic's shirt sleeve during the scary scenes, and he didn't even flinch.    

In the end, I'm not exactly sure what to think of this movie, but I think I'm a bit confused. I don't watch a lot of horror movies. However, I do know that all horror movies portray ghosts as the spirits that scare human, never kill. Usually the humans will get scared and do reckless things that cause their death, but they die because of their own mistake. In this movie, the ghosts kill humans. And for me, that throws the scare factor out of the window.

It seems that Joko Anwar tries to put in as much fear factors as he can into the movie, including zombies and a satan's worshiper group. Upon seeing the zombie, I was like, huh? As an Indonesian, I have heard about Indonesian ghosts: sundelbolong, kuntilanak, you name it. But zombies only exist in a Western movie.

Other factor that puts off the horror vibe is the responses of the audience. Hearing other people screaming in the cinema opened my eyes, hey, there is nothing to scream/scare about. It's just a movie. A movie that is the first of a trilogy.

"So, are we going to watch the sequels?" Dic asked when he saw my confused expression during the credit roll.
"Hell, no!" I said.

Here's another review on this movie. Joko Anwar does a good marketing work on this movie. So far it has been watched by at least 3 million viewers in Indonesia, which is a lot for a horror movie. The last news I heard about this movie is that it will be screened abroad.

Have you watched it? What do you think? And if you haven't watched it, would you go after reading this post?

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