curses

Impetigore

After a deadly encounter with a stranger, Maya decides to learn more about the parents she never knew. With her best friend Dini in tow, they travel to a small village where Maya might be from. They soon regret ever trying to uncover the secrets of Maya’s past.

Beloved Indonesian writer and director, Joko Anwar (Satan’s Slaves, Folklore) brings audiences around the world new terror. Impetigore wastes no time in bringing suspense to the screen. The protagonist, Maya, has a frightening encounter at work that leaves her shaken and questions her past. She was raised by her aunt and knows almost nothing about her parents or where she comes from. From there, the tension continues to build as the two friends arrive at the remote village and get a chilly reception from the locals. Anwar takes his time with the plot, allowing the audience to connect with the two female leads. He also takes his time in revealing shocking revelation after shocking revelation leading to the explosive finale. There are so many secrets to unpack throughout the film and each one manages to be more surprising than the last. This focus on building suspense and minor scares over bigger jump scares and horror leads to an edge-of-your-seat viewing experience. It also results in a film that stands apart from others like it and an ending you won’t see coming.

One of the things I love about watching foreign horror films, and Impetigore specifically, is learning about different cultures. Every culture has its own legends, customs, and ghosts. Impetigore offers a fascinating glimpse into the customs of a rural Indonesian village and their unique view of curses. While the legends are incredibly interesting, the integration of traditional Indonesian puppetry is not only stunning, but it adds another captivating cultural aspect. As an anthropology major, I greatly appreciate when a horror film can be eerie as well as a learning experience.

Impetigore has a wonderful cast who all deliver haunting performances. Tara Basro (A Copy of My Mind, Gundala) stars as Maya. Basro gives off an air of innocence, which works well for her character. She is unaware of her past and deals with new information as best she can throughout her hellish journey. Marissa Anita (Gundala, Folklore) plays Maya’s best friend, Dini. Dini is a much more outspoken character and Anita perfectly shows how she is Maya’s protector and does what she can to be a supportive friend. Ario Bayu (Java Heat, Soekarno) plays the village elder, Ki Saptadi. Bayu’s portrayal of this character is memorable because he comes across as a very calm, stately man, but he also manages to convey a sinister nature in his eyes. Honorable mention goes to Christine Hakim (Eat Pray Love, The Golden Cane Warrior) and Asmara Abigail (Gundala, Satan’s Slaves). Together these two women offer two differing points of view of the superstitions of the small village.

Every scene in Impetigore is gorgeous and atmospheric. The film opens in the big city, but as soon as Maya and Dini travel to the village it’s as if they have been transported to another time. The set and production design are truly stunning to behold from the smaller huts to the grand house Maya’s parents once owned. The puppetry scenes are also quite beautiful. It is a traditional Indonesian form of puppetry that utilizes light to project the shadows of the puppets onto a screen. The use of light and dark, like with the puppets, is a common theme throughout Impetigore. In the village there is no electricity, so many of the night scenes are lit by candlelight. It creates an unsettling ambiance while also making each scene captivating. On top of that, there is even a surprising amount of disturbing and realistic practical effects that result in rather shocking scenes.

Impetigore is a bewitching Indonesian horror film that drips with atmosphere and spins an intricate web of magic and deception. Joko Anwar proves yet again that he is a talented storyteller. His handle on Indonesian folklore allows the rest of the world to be exposed to his frightening tales. The performances from the entire cast are delightful, especially Basro’s portrayal of Maya. Through the slow unravelling of the mystery of Maya’s family, audiences will not be able to look away at the truly fantastic visuals. And, because I unfortunately still have to do this for some people, I will warn audiences that the film is subtitled. Yet I hope that won’t deter anyone from feasting upon all Impetigore has to offer.

OVERALL RATING: 9/10

Sadako vs. Kayako

After discovering a mysterious blank tape, Natsumi decides to watch it to see if it is really the legendary cursed tape. She soon regrets her decision when she realizes it is the real tape. Now she is cursed and the ghost, Sadako, is going to kill her in two days. She enlists the help of a college professor, a priestess, a medium, and her best friend Yuri in order to try to get rid of the curse. The medium determines the only possible way to get rid of the curse is to have it battle with another curse: the curse of Kayako in her haunted house. It is the ultimate battle between The Ring and The Grudge.

Most people have seen either the US or Japanese versions of The Grudge and The Ring. Personally, I have only ever seen the US versions, so this was my first dive into the Japanese versions of the stories and characters. The plot in general was very interesting. The film definitely focused more on the Sadako part of the story, only briefly showing the curse of Kayako before the epic final battle. Because of this, it felt like the young girl who gets cursed by Kayako was a bit of an unnecessary character. They needed her to show what happens to those who enter Kayako’s home, but I believe it was shown sufficiently in scenes of other lesser characters entering the house. The unevenness was one of my biggest issues with the film. A lot of “vs” films tend to either focus too much on one character or not even have the two entities meet to battle. Freddy vs. Jason is an example of a flawed “vs” film, but it succeeded in having a relatively even split between the two villains.

The film had an excellent mix of thrills, shocks, and laughs. There were a few moments that were very creepy, and more than once I was surprised by the level of violence that some of the deaths had. The humor was probably the most surprising to me. Even with the final battle between Sadako and Kayako, there were a lot of unexpected things that happened and things that I couldn’t help but laugh at (in a good way). Most of the laughs happened when spiritual medium Kyozo and his young blind sidekick, Tamao, were on screen. Tamao especially had some hilarious one-liners. Her blunt and honest take on what was happening added much needed humor.

The entire cast did a great job. There isn’t any person I can single out as not giving a stellar performance. While everyone was great, there were two specific standouts for me. Masanobu Andô was great as spiritual medium Kyozo. Then, of course, there was his young partner in crime, Tamao, played by Maiko Kikuchi. These two were so hilarious together. You couldn’t help but laugh every time they were on screen. The pair of them were so enjoyable that I can see there could easily be a spin-off movie made just about the two of them and their work in the supernatural field. 

Surprisingly, there were very few effects used in this film. Beyond the makeup and hair on the two ghosts, what made truly them creepy was through their acting. With Kayako, most of what makes her scary is the way she contorts her body. There were some subtle, yet effective, practical effects used for some of the kills. These scenes really surprised me with how grotesque they were without really being gory or bloody. There was one huge CGI effect at the end of the film, but there is no way they could have done it with practical effects. It also wasn’t something that stood out in a negative way, so that means the CGI was well done.

Sadako vs. Kayako is Japan’s Freddy vs. Jason. While I enjoyed Freddy vs. Jason, Sadako vs. Kayako definitely surpassed it in almost every category. This film will chill you and make you laugh in equal measure. The only real drawback is that this definitely feels more like a Sadako film featuring Kayako. Beyond that, it is still an exciting thrill ride with an ending that you won’t soon forget. This is also a film that should be experienced on the big screen. Keep an eye out to see if it is playing near you. You won’t want to miss it. Also, be sure to stay after the credits; there is a little something extra awaiting you on the other side.

OVERALL RATING: 7/10