Editor’s Note: These posts originally appeared starting here on the AV Club *stares off wistfully*. They are being reposted for completionist sake as this annual series continued onto the AVCAD and now here. Also, forgive the writing for I was younger and dumber and these were written to appear in comments so don’t include pictures and are far shorter and less thorough than the series is now. They have been preserved as they were.
Month of Horror: World Edition
10/26/2015 – Indonesia: The Forbidden Door (Pintu Terlarang) (2009)
Directed by Joko Anwar
Despite a fairly long existence, the Indonesian film industry has stayed mostly under the radar with film production itself being highly variable and nearly disappearing at times. It is only in recent years with Gareth Evans’ Merantau and The Raid films that have they achieved any sort of international recognition. Despite this, they do produce quite a bit of horror films, two of which I will look at today. On a brief sidebar, this movie was a pain to get to work since the Youtube video despite advertising English subtitles, had no actual subtitles leading me to the experience of first trying to get another site to work (it didn’t) and then of having to download the file, a subtitle file, and a video program to play them both all so I didn’t have to have another movie killed by my not investigating thoroughly ahead of time.
I wasn’t expecting much from this movie based on how little I knew about it and hadn’t even heard of it before researching, but I found myself loving the movie*. The acting, music, cinematography, and everything else was just really well done. It could get tough to understand what was happening at times but the film comes together well* with plenty of suspense and a nice build to a wonderfully executed climax*. There’s plenty of mysteries building up with questions of who’s sending these messages, who’s that boy and where is he, what exactly is this hotel, and what is behind that damn obvious door that the lead somehow never noticed before*? Is he losing his mind or is there something sinister at play? Certain seems are genuinely hard to watch but not overly brutal and while the climax of the movie may not reach the same wonderful craziness of yesterday’s Alucada, it is still a wonderfully done piece of tension as we watch everything* in the movie come to a close* as a natural* extension of what came before*.
Hanging over the movie like the sword of Damocles though is the titular door threatening to make or break the movie and here’s where those asterisks come into play. I really wish the movie had followed through on one characters threat of never knowing what is behind that door (which turns out to be a very stupid statement considering how easy it is to break in). SPOILERS While it is very easy to guess that the boy begging for help and seen in the video feeds is the lead, honestly I’d be shocked if it wasn’t, I was not ready for the whole fucking movie to be a fucking dream of a mental patient. I was ready for some of it to be imagined but the whole thing is just a bridge too far. Seriously stop with these twists. It is possible to make a good horror movie without a reality redefining twist. Sure good films and good horror movies have done this kind of twist successfully, but it’s rare and at that point just feels derivative of films which have nailed it. Is the whole point of these movies just the Ryan Murphy factor where we are supposed to just be impressed with the “craziness” of what just happened? Am I just watching movies wrong? The door portion feels almost stapled onto a better movie exploring a person’s paranoia with everyone they know and love conspiring against them and the reveal just makes that whole second part pointless. I’d really love someone to explain how that whole latter part with all the imagery is relevant when they don’t appear to represent anything in the lead’s head and they are just all random administrators. They had a perfect chance to end the movie with him clawing at the door unable to get in and they didn’t take it END OF SPOILERS. Before the twist I was ready to call this the biggest surprise of the month and probably in the top three films of the period, but now I just don’t know what to think.
Month of Horror: World Edition
Bonus Episode #17 – Indonesia: Mystics in Bali (1981)
Directed by Juan López Moctezuma
Much like yesterday’s two films, this one acts as the even lower budgeted bizarre entry to the more straightforward horror main attraction. And while the version I found of the film is dubbed which is obnoxious as always, it certainly isn’t going to affect my opinion of its quality. This film is bad and no proper language is going to fix it or make it more coherent. Then again if you are watching this movie expecting quality, you are watching it wrong. This is the kind of film that should and does make use of “What the hell?” moments. I almost feel a more apt review of the film is to just list some of the crazy shit that happens so feel free to check out now if you don’t want to be spoiled or don’t want to waste your time. Just before you go this is most definitely a so bad it’s good film.
The characters in the film seem to have a causal relationship with black magic as if it is the most natural thing in the world. There is a mad witch who at times sounds almost Yoda-like and while I can’t confirm if this fantastic vocal performance exists in the original, I can only hope so. The effects in this are magical. The film loves scenes of a damn floating head with attached and exposed digestive system which apparently goes around knocking people through walls and murdering newborns and/or fetuses. The head kills a baby still in a pregnant woman by; I don’t know how to describe it. Did the head suck out the baby through her vagina, bite it out, or just wait for it to come out and then eat it. I don’t think the movie made it clear though we just see the head pop up occasionally while it is snacking the one time but the latter makes the most sense based on later dialogue. At one point a man sticks some matches on the currently headless body which seems to be all it takes for the head to not be able to rejoin with the body at least at first. Why it can later is never explained but who cares.
There are some really terrible pig costumes which inexplicably show up for like five seconds only to return for the climax because that is clearly what we needed. Thankfully it has two legs and human shaped breasts for proper nightmare fuel purposes. They also made sure to add a scene of women who turn in to snakes by the magic of awful looking prosthetics and cuts. The film makes sure to include plenty of laser and particle effects which are the finest in early 80 music video animation technology. A scene of a man levitating contains perhaps the worst rear projection ever including once with some weird some of the aforementioned pixel effects coming off of him. When a woman vomits, she vomits up mice along with a white or yellow substance. Instead of commenting on just how strange this is, the excuse of “must be something you ate” is used unironically and completely seriously. Finally there is a scene featuring talking, floating, flaming balls (get your mind out of the gutter) which fight each other by ramming into each other. This scene seems to have no impact and these balls never come back. There’s surprisingly little gore and no human nudity *shudders* which is about the only thing this film lacks (oh and talent, forgot that).
Up Next: Vikram Kumar’s 13B representing India