Friday, September 29, 2017

Pengabdi Setan - A Scary Horror Movie from Joko Anwar

After weeks and weeks being "tortured" by the trailer to this movie, finally it played in the cinemas from yesterday. As I was having some work schedule out of the country, I could only see the film today. I chose to see this in a cinema not too far away from home and managed to get 1 seat at the last row in the middle of lots of audience (which was my intention since I would rather not see this alone and sitting by myself). Yes I mentioned in my other posts earlier that my wife would rather not see a horror movie, especially when it was a supernatural horror movie from Indonesia. Anyway, let us get on with the movie now.

Brief Story Line

It was the year 1981 when handphone and internet was not available yet. Suwono (Bront Palarae - Halfworld TV series, Anak Jantan etc) was a father of four who had to endure financial difficulty due to his wife's continuous illness for 2 years. His eldest child was Rini (Tara Basro - 3 Srikandi, A Copy of My Mind etc) who Suwono could rely on to take care of the mother (Ayu Laksmi - Soekarno: Indonesia Merdeka). The second child was a 16 yeard old high school student named Toni (Endy Arfian - Brandal Brandal Ciliwung) who loved his mother very much and was willing to put the family's welfare first. The third child was a 10 year old primary student named Bondi (Nasar Annuz) and very close with the youngest one, Ian (played nicely by newcomer Muhamad Adhiyat).

As the mother's condition deteriorated, she finally passed away. With the house being pawned, Suwono had to leave town and find out ways to resolve their financial problem. He was not worried with Rini around and there was his own mother who even though was using wheelchair, could still be relied on to look after his children. Now this would be where the movie started to be even scarier than the first 15-20 minutes since a lot of strange and supernatural things occurred in the house.

With the help from their neighbor Hendra (Dimas Aditya - Me Vs Mami, Dear Love etc) and his father who was a Moslem religion teacher, Rini and her brothers would have to survive the horrific things happening in the house. So why was this happening? What was the reason behind the supernatural happenings? And could Suwono and his family survive? Find them all in this scary movie.

End of Brief Story Line

Yeah finally an Indonesian horror movie worthy of competing with the various Hollywood, Japanese, Thailand horror movies. I was quite satisfied and entertained with this movie as it has got the elements of terrifying scenes, scary moments, surprising and intense sequence with creepiness throughout the movie. As a horror movie, it really did not disappoint since you could enjoy the shocking moments that were common in a horror movie. However, the formulas that were shown in the movie were not exactly brand new. Some of the horrific scenes could be seen in other horror movies as well. But no need to worry as the scenes were pretty well made.

The pace of the movie was steady in the first half but I do not know why the second half of the movie felt a bit slowed down and kind of lost its momentum. My excitement was getting lesser during those moments. So it's a good thing that there was a twist which made the movie picked up the pace again till the climax.

Despite being a horror movie, it was also having few funny moments especially when it involved the cute Ian and Bondi. The performances of the actors & actresses especially the younger children were fantastic. Their acting were very natural and I think credit has to be given to the director Joko Anwar who had directed some special & high quality movies such as Modus Anomali, Janji Joni, A Copy of My Mind and so on (be sure to look out for the cameo appearance he did in the film). He also managed to use an obviously limited budget to create a scary movie without using a lot of special effects. My only wish was for the makeup effects to be done a little better since I personally think it was not especially good.

The movie had a duration of less than 2 hours. The ending was probably not what people would have expected (me included), but it was still a good horror movie. My most scary moment was the scene involving Bondi and Ian when they had to go to the restroom. That was absolutely scary and shocking. The sound effect of the movie was very good, and even the song that the mother sang added the element of creepiness. The costume effects were wonderful (people's clothes seemed to be really from the early 1980s) and some of the background sets like the old big bus, motorcycles even the toys.

Just like in my previous experience watching Annabelle: Creation, the audience were very noisy. One particular moment was a bit funny when there was a scene that a person thought was scary and she screamed very loudly by herself. The guy sitting next to me was covering his eyes most of the time, while the lady on my other side was screaming and hugging her friend almost in all scary moments. So you get the picture.

Overall I think this movie was worthwhile to see in the cinema. Though not exactly an original movie, but I personally feel that this was a good Indonesian horror movie. If you do not really like (or probably understand the ending), just remember that you have been entertained for more than 1.5 hour. So if you want to enjoy high quality horror movie, then this one is definitely a good option. But if you prefer to see a horror movie focusing on vulgar or bloody gore scenes, then this would not be to your liking. The choice is yours.

Happy watching!

Mike's movie moments rating: 4 out of 5 stars


  1. Koh Mike, I watched the movie. We had almost similar review actually. Joko anwar, definetely has already set the bar higher for the horror movie. Somehow, i believed that this is the best indonesian horror movie for the last 20 years. But, there was one thing that made me feel like 'mmmhhh'. The center role of the original one is a the role of a maid named "Darminah", she is the key role of the original one. But for this reboot version, Darminah came in the last ten minutes of the movie (the girl who brought lunch box for the family in the apartment). Is there gonna be a sequence movie for this reboot version ? Well, we'll see.

    1. Thanks for reading my views Dedy. Ya, I agree that Joko Anwar has set the bar very high with this movie. About your remarks on Darminah character, I had to admit that I could not comment on that since I have not seen the original movie from 1980, but this actually made me intrigued. Perhaps I should try to look for it somewhere. Btw, if I understand from Joko Anwar's comments, there might be sequel to this movie if there are many enough audience. Fingers crossed...