Sunday, January 15, 2023

Death Knot, More Indonesian Horror

Instead of a "lottery," this rural Indonesian village has “The Harvest.” Each year, a shooting star appears in the sky and then several people commit suicide by hanging. Somehow, this was all Hari and Eka’s mother’s fault. When she hangs herself too, the locals do not offer much sympathy, but her estranged children are not very broken up over it anyway. Unfortunately, they soon start to believe the sinister forces plaguing the town are still claiming victims in Cornelio Sunny’s Death Knot, which releases Tuesday on DVD.

Neither Hari or his sister Eka had seen their mother in years. She changed after the birth of her daughter, picking up some rather pagan tendencies. According to the villagers, their mom made a deal with the devil, taking responsibility for the Harvest and basically terrorizing the locals. Weirdly, the night she hung herself, both Eka and Hari had vivid premonitory dreams, warning them to stay away.

Nevertheless, they come to do their duty, getting the cold shoulder from just about everyone, even their swindler uncle, who wants to cheat them out of their mother’s house. Pretty soon, creepy things start happening, especially to Eka’s boyfriend Adi. Of course, the locals won’t tell them anything, especially after another round of Harvest-style hangings.

Sunny and co-screenwriter Ike Klose conjure up some familiar-sounding folk horrors, but the execution is first rate. Indonesian horror films like this and Joko Anwar’s
Impetigore certainly make the countryside look like a creepy place. To that end, Sunny (who also stars as Hari) relies more on suggestion than visual effects, which tend to be practical and rather modest in scope.

The atmosphere is terrific, but the characterization is a little weak. Hari and Eka are resentful grown children and Adi is kind of a tool. That’s about the extent of their complexity, but Sunny certainly broods hard as the not-so grieving son and Morgan Oey is impressively freaky in his possession scenes. There is a limited cast of supporting players, but Landung Simatupang is creepy as heck as old Darno, one of the few villagers who attended the funeral—and Rukman Rosadi is equally sleazy as greedy Uncle Rahman.

Death Knot
is not the best written horror film of the year, but the eerie visuals still give it a distinctive identity. It works quite effectively, especially if you enjoy folk horror. Recommended for fans of Indonesian horror (which is becoming quite a national specialty), Death Knot releases Tuesday (1/17) on DVD and BluRay.