×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Rotterdam Film Review: ‘Satan’s Slaves’

Indonesian filmmaker Joko Anwar delivers the goods with a lively remake of the 1982 occult thriller.

Director:
Joko Anwar
With:
Tara Basro, Endy Arfian, Nasar Annuz, Muhammad Adhiyat, Ayu Laksmi, Bront Palarae.

1 hour 46 minures

Official Site: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt7076834/?ref_=nv_sr_2

Indonesian filmmaker Joko Anwar (“Modus Anomali,” “A Copy of My Mind”) continues his excursions into fantasy with “Satan’s Slaves,” an impressive remake of the 1982 occult thriller about a troubled family being terrorized by demons and zombies. Set in 1981 and executed in a style recalling both European and U.S. indie supernatural chillers of the late ’70s and early ’80s, the new film is a creepy mood piece that falters only by telegraphing some of its jump scares. Produced by venerable exploitation company Rapi Films, with assistance from South Korean giant CJ Entertainment, “Slaves” went ballistic at the Indonesian box office in its September release, with 4.2 million admissions, and has secured theatrical distribution in numerous Asian territories. Exposure at Rotterdam should help this nifty little scarer gain traction beyond the region.

Anwar’s screenplay improves markedly on the original by adding an intriguing wrap-around tale and beefing up the backstories of the main characters. The result is a much more suspenseful and emotionally engaging exercise that also benefits from well-timed shots of deadpan humor along the way.

A punchy pre-credits sequence establishes Mawarni Suwono (Ayu Laksmi) as a famous singer who was struck down three years ago by a mysterious illness. Hit records and royalty checks have dried up, leaving Mawarni to languish in her family’s creaky old house on the outskirts of Jakarta. Completing the excellent introductory set-up is Allan Sebastian’s spot-on retro production design and Ical Tanjung’s atmospheric photography of the dwelling’s musty, sepia-toned interiors. And just for good measure, there’s a cemetery situated within a stone’s throw of Mawarni’s home.

In the wake of Mawarni’s death, her unnamed hubby (Bront Palarae) heads to the big city in an attempt to revive the family’s ailing finances. Left in charge is 22-year-old daughter Rini (Tara Basro: “A Copy of My Mind”), who sacrificed her college education to care for her mother and is now responsible for younger brothers Tony (Endy Arfian), a lively 16-year-old who wants to be a gigolo; Bondi (Nasar Annuz), an inquisitive 10-year-old; and Ian (Muhammad Adhiyat), a mute lad about to turn 7.

It’s not long before Rini and the boys are visited by all manner of otherworldly entities. Leading the charge is the ghost of Mawarni, whose malevolent eye appears to be trained on Ian. Close on her heels is a pack of zombies that shuffles over from the cemetery and sets up camp outside the house. Anwar’s pacy screenplay keeps the frights coming with Bondi’s visions of ancient curses; Ian possibly turning into a “Damien”-like devil boy; and retro objects such as vinyl record players, transistor radios and a View-Master sending out spooky signals.

Although some shocks are diluted by music cues and sound effects that give the game away, most hit the mark. The “haunted house and demons running amok” scenario might be quite familiar but “Satan’s Slaves” scores high marks when it comes to the fundamental horror movie task of sending shivers up the spine and quickening the pulse.

Arifin Cu’unk’s editing switches snappily between scary stuff and Rini’s attempts to find answers. According to a local Islamic scholar (Arswendi Bening Swara), Rini and her non-religious family can only ward off evil by praying and “surrendering to God wholeheartedly.” Offering a different viewpoint is Budiman (Egi Fedly), an eccentric author of articles about Satanic cults whose knowledge of Mawarni’s checkered past propels the tale to a rousing finale.

Energetically performed by a uniformly fine cast, “Satan’s Slaves” benefits from a top-notch technical presentation, including a splendid score by Aghi Narottama, Bemby Gusti and Tony Merle. Genre geeks will be especially impressed by the main titles theme, which sounds like it could have been lifted from one of Jean Rollin’s sex-vampire movies of the 1970s.

 

Popular on Variety

Rotterdam Film Review: ‘Satan’s Slaves’

Reviewed online, Adelaide, South Australia, Jan. 26, 2018. In Rotterdam Film Festival (Rotterdammerung). Also in Hawaii Film Festival. Running time: 106 MIN. (Original title: “Pengabdi setan”)

Production: (Indonesia) A Rapi Films production in association with CJ Entertainment. (International sales: CJ Entertainment, Seoul.) Producer: Gope T. Samtani. Executive producers: Sunil G. Samtani, Priya N.K., Jeong Tae-sung, Mike Im.

Crew: Director, writer: Joko Anwar, based on the screenplay “Pengabdi Setan” by Sisworo Gautama Putra, Naryono Prayitno, Subiago S., Imam Tantowi. Camera (color, widescreen): Ical Tanjung. Editor: Arifin Cu’unk. Music: Aghi Narottama, Bemby Gusti, Tony Merle.

With: Tara Basro, Endy Arfian, Nasar Annuz, Muhammad Adhiyat, Ayu Laksmi, Bront Palarae.Arswendi Bening Swara, Dimas Aditya, Egy Fedly, Fachri Albar, Elly D. Luthan, Joko Anwar, Asmara Abigail, Fransiskus Vunom Allan Sebastian. (Indonesian dialogue)

More Film

  • Swedes Call for Incentives to Keep

    Swedes Call for Incentives to Keep Potential Runaways at Home

    Horror film “Midsommar” did it last year. A new adaptation of the Swedish classic “The Emigrants” will do it next year. Prestigious productions that could have taken advantage of beautiful Swedish locations and craft expertise continue to run away to foreign locations for lower costs and tax incentives. Despite having a strong film industry creatively [...]

  • Ted FarnsworthDeadline's Cocktails on the Croisette,

    Former MoviePass Chairman Ted Farnsworth Trying to Buy Failing Subscription Company

    Ted Farnsworth, the financier who helped set in motion MoviePass’s meteoric rise and precipitous fall, has submitted an offer to purchase the beleaguered subscription service and its parent company, Helios and Matheson Analytics Inc. Financial terms of the offer were not disclosed, but Farnsworth, who served as Helios’ chairman and chief executive officer is also [...]

  • Billy Crystal Comedy 'Standing Up, Falling

    Billy Crystal and Ben Schwartz Comedy 'Standing Up, Falling Down' Picked Up By Shout! Studios (EXCLUSIVE)

    Shout! Studios has acquired all North American rights to comedy feature “Standing Up, Falling Down,” starring Billy Crystal, Ben Schwartz and Eloise Mumford. The theatrical release for the film, which debuted at Tribeca Film Festival, is slated for early next year. Schwartz, whose credits include “Parks & Recreation” and “Blue Iguana,” voices the title character [...]

  • Cocina Belleza

    San Sebastian: ‘Cocinar Belleza’s’ Sergio Piera, Toni Segarra Talk Culinary Art

    Cognoscenti of culinary documentaries relish how open the genre is, driving deep into technique, amazing spectators by revealing the profession’s depths. Rarely, however, does a documentary decide to sidestep the well-known beats of the genre, step back and capture a bigger picture that asks about the nature of beauty and art rather than culinary craftsmanship [...]

  • Constance Wu and Jennifer Lopez star

    ‘Hustlers’ Acquired for Germany by Fred Kogel’s New KKR-Backed Company

    Fred Kogel’s budding media powerhouse, backed by KKR but still without a name, has acquired “Hustlers” for Germany and Austria in an all-rights deal with STXfilms. The movie, starring Jennifer Lopez and Constance Wu, will be released in Germany via Universum Film on Dec. 5. The pic, about a group of enterprising strippers, premiered to [...]

  • Nina Wu Midi Z Un Certain

    Chinese Indie Films, Indian Fare Dominate Pingyao Festival Lineup

    Chinese indie films and Indian fare dominate the lineup of the Pingyao International Film Festival. The main selection for the festival’s third edition will include 28 world premieres, organizers revealed on Monday. The event will screen 52 films from 26 countries and territories, with all of them having their China debut. The opening film is [...]

  • 'Sound of Metal' Review: Riz Ahmed

    Toronto Film Review: 'Sound of Metal'

    “Sound of Metal” is a film with a potent, searing hook. It stars Riz Ahmed, who is such a sensational actor (just watch him in “Jason Bourne” or “Nightcrawler” or “The Sisters Brothers”), as Ruben, a punk-metal drummer, heavy on the tattoos and peroxide, who has been thrashing away as part of a caterwauling noise [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content