Wednesday, January 27, 2021

Queen of Black Magic, on Shudder

Orphans are always in for a rough time in horror movies. By definition, they are vulnerable and without a family support network. Even if they survive the orphanage, something always comes for them eventually, especially if they return to their spooky old institutional home later in life. Three friends make that very mistake and their families will pay the price in Kimo (one half of the Mo Bothers) Stamboel’s Queen of Black Magic, a somewhat free remake of a 1981 Indonesian horror movie written by Joko Anwar, which premieres tomorrow on Shudder.

On his way to visit sick, old Bandi, the orphanage headmaster on his death bed, Hanif accidentally runs over a deer—except maybe it wasn’t a deer. Bad start, regardless. Everyone briefly feels reassured when they meet his two orphanage-mates Anton and Jeferi and their families, but nobody is exactly sure who called them there. Of course, strange things soon start happening and a strange, uncanny power will not let them leave.

Soon, they realize their tormentor must be the sinister witch they thought they had dealt in their teen years, under Bandi’s direction. Clearly, they had not completely finished her off. The circumstances surrounding the incident may not have been what they were led to believe either. However, she might be even angrier and more dangerous than advertised.

Anwar’s narrative really isn’t anything spectacularly new, but when he hits the classic horror tropes, he connects with haymaker roundhouses. Stamboel and cinematographer Patrick Tashadian drench everything in atmosphere and foreboding. They serve up some scary stuff, upholding the honor of Indonesian horror cinema.

Ario Bayu broods and agonizes with his usual strong, silent intensity, but Hannah Al Rashid and Sheila Dara Aisha get most of sympathy as his wife Nadya and Siti, a disfigured teen resident. However, everyone is overshadowed by the spectacular gross-out effects. If scenes of skin-burrowing insect swarms and frenzied self-mutilation under demonic influence disturb you than brother you better steel yourself. However, if you enjoy shameless over-the-top piling on, you’re in for a crazy, gory roller coaster ride.

might not be the most original film ever, but it is wildly creepy and relentlessly effective. It definitely holds up with Anwar’s Satan’s Slaves and the other Mo Brother Timo Tjahjanto’s May the Devil Take You Too, which is considerable praise. It is dark and bloody, but still a lot of fun. Highly recommended for horror fans, Queen of Black Magic starts streaming tomorrow (1/28) on Shudder.