Indonesian writer-director Timo Tjahjonto’s latest foray into supernatural horror centres around a tense coming together of a dying man’s estranged daughter and his new family. However, this isn’t so much an intricate view of complex family dynamic as much as an opportunity to showcase every trope that's been introduced in horror since the 70s, impressive demonic performances and how much a good cinematographer can enhance an unoriginal story.
From the get go, patriarch Lesmana (Ray Sahetapy) has sold his wife’s soul to the devil in return for prosperity. Once he becomes rich, he abandons his wife and child, Alfie (Chelsea Islan), for upgraded trophy wife Laksmi (Karina Suwandhi, particularly impressive when demonic) whom he fathers children with: Maya (Pevita Pearce), Ruben (Samo Rafael) and Nara (Hadijah Shahab). However, the riches run dry and Lesmana comes down with a bit of leprosy. On his deathbed, Alfie expresses her hate for him, blaming him for her mother’s death, before returning to the villa he left for her. His new family head to the villa in order to raid it for anything valuable. What they don’t know is that the door to the cellar, covered by Shamanic tags, leads to the ritual room where Lesmana danced with the devil. When the demon is released, an already awkward family reunion becomes even more uncomfortable.
The story claws its way through the 110 minute runtime and Tjahjonto’s technique is clear: just ramp up the amount of times the demon is seen or make it even more shockingly gory. However, even that gets a bit boring after every scare can be seen from 5 minutes away. The characters, all of whom lack depth and often common sense, seem to welcome death.
However, it is not without its positives; cinematographer Batara Goempar Siagian’s active, swooping camerawork is reminiscent of Evil Dead, particularly where the point of view camera races towards the unsuspecting victims, and it’s the camerawork that often manages to lift dull scenes. The makeup and practical effects also stand out in a particularly gnarly scene featuring a face getting stretched far beyond its capability.
Perhaps there’s an underlying current of familial ties and how much one would sacrifice for kin, but it seems to be fleeting. Instead there’s a lot of screaming and standing around, waiting for the inevitable thunderstorm of misery to pour down. In the case of this film, perhaps less could have been more.
Watch the trailer here: