Let’s go to Malaysia.
We got ourselves an interesting one this time. Roh is a Malaysian horror film that follows a single mother and her two children as they survive in the jungle. A strange girl arrives, and things begin to take a sinister turn as some sort of ancient entity seems to be stalking around them.
I’m curious to when this film is meant to take place. We appear to be in the early twentieth century based on technology, but it could be earlier.
Things take an intense turn early as the little girl announces they will all die before killing herself the next day. In short, this movie doesn’t play around with getting to the horror. There is a folk level to the horror that gives it a feeling of oldness. I feel like we’re looking into something that has a much deeper cultural history than I am aware of, and it is cool to see. There are symbols and references that I do not understand but it is clearly done with care.
The film is just gorgeous. The setting, the outfits, everything feels so alive. I don’t have much to say other than it truly feels like a lived in environment, and the richness of texture adds to the setting. Even the sound design is great.
Our story continues to take an increasingly prophetic and sinister turn. We’re given clear signposts of things to come without spoiling the surprises. The film relies on genuine dread and long-shot scares rather than jumps to increase the horror.
Child actors are always a bit of a risk in any genre. Our kids do awesome work here. They seem curious, lost, and uncertain as to what is happening around them. It is as though they do not have the language (or maturity?) to communicate what they are feeling. Their mother seems more interested in holding the family together and keeping everyone healthy than truly confronting what might be supernatural.
The characters are both symbols and people. The folktale aspects translate well as each person has a defined role. I do wish I had more background on some of the cultural symbols present, but having gone to public school, I know very little about Malaysian history.
There are some oddities in the storytelling that have become common in indie horror. Sometimes less is more, but sometimes a little more information would help situate the viewer. What exactly is happening is not entirely clear—even in the end. However, the journey is an enjoyable and unsettling one.
If you’re looking for a quiet horror film that raises more questions than it answers, this should be on the top of your list. An interesting, albeit flawed, film about loss, fate, and family.
Worth a watch.