Kimo Stamboel’s new film follows three friends as they return to their orphanage after raising their own families. Hanif (Ario Bayu) with his wife and three children meet with Anton (Tanta Ginting) and Jefri (Miller Khan) along with their wives to celebrate their old caretaker Mr. Bandi (Yayu A.W. Unru). Something seems slightly off at first, but things take a more sinister turn as the night goes on.
Orphanages are interesting locations for horror films. Often, we conjure images of abuse and neglect, so a lot of the legwork is done in the set building aspect. Even before things begin going awry there is an off feeling that permeates the scenes.
We learn the Mr. Bandi was not so nice a person—at least to women, and a former child long thought dead and a former caretaker thought to be a witch may be behind what becomes ritualistic torture.
The villain in this film is one of pure wrath. The witch herself has little screentime (but boy does she make it count), instead we have symbolic and transformative horror. While the film is a slow burn it certainly does not pull any punches as the entire group descends into a symbolic hell of body horror and torture.
Clean directing and an unblinking attitude towards gore make the scenes particularly brutal. One thing I loved is that no one character seems safe. Everyone is targeted and the incidents become increasingly brutal.
There is a madness to the torture that give the film a sort of kaleidoscopic feel of various horrors—whether it is self-mutilation or being consumed by insects. In short, this is a mean horror film that is willing to be as ruthless as it can. Strong performances propel these scenes as we get more and more twisted.
There is a powerful human element of memory and responsibility as well. As our trio learn how they have misremembered the past it throws into question who is exactly responsible, and who is truly the villain. For most of the running time I found myself transfixed by this excellent film.
Though it fails on the landing.
I’m going to avoid spoilers, but the last five minutes of this movie simply do not line up with the rest of the tone. We abandon characters, points, and meaning to make a more traditional ending to the story. It simply doesn’t work. If they had stuck with the tone and followed through this may be my favorite film of the year. As it is now, it is a solid film that I do recommend but I wonder how much the ending will piss off horror diehards.
I imagine for some the ending will likely dispel the film entirely, which is unfortunate. It is painful to see something so good lose its focus in the final moments. I still recommend it, but be warned.
Worth a watch.