Well, well, Indonesian horror, here we are again.
Back on the other end of the alphabet we visited Dangerous Seductress, a 1995 effort to break into the lucrative Western horror market. We’re going back a decade and more for a more homegrown horror, starring Indonesia’s answer to Barbara Steele, the lovely Suzzanna, who was a genuine star in her country from the early 70s up through the 90s.
The movie starts with a wedding, the village head man’s daughter marrying a man named Mohar, with much ceremony. Judging by the muttering in the crowd, Mohar is not a very well-regarded fellow. Somebody else agrees with that opinion, because there are signs of black magic afoot: maggots in the wedding feast, and the bride starts hallucinating monsters.
A “witch doctor” (hey, blame the dub, not me) is called in, and whoever the villain is bounces the guy up and down like a superball. He lives long enough to reveal “The demon comes from the West!” and Mohar, being a scumbag, deduces that it must be Murni (Suzzanna), the girl he seduced and then left for his current sugar momma.
Mohar whips the village into a mob (even when the head man appeals to their reason) and they descend upon the innocent Murni, burn her house, and throw her into a ravine, which is apparently how you deal with witches in Indonesia. Fortunately for her, she is caught by an old man, who nurses her back to health, then tells her that she needs to learn black magic to get her revenge on the villagers.
Now reasonable people would be asking who this old man might be, who conveniently knows so much about black magic, but as we will see, we are dealing with A Village Full of Idiots (my suggested alternate title), so Suzzanna agrees, and begins her training, which involves nude trampoline jumping, for some reason (I shouldn’t complain, it’s a truly lovely shot)
Soon, Murni is appearing to her would-be assassins, and assassining them right back in a number of interesting ways, including flesh-eating bees and animated scarves that double as nooses. During these days, a city feller wanders through the town, and stops at the village mosque to pray, only to find it abandoned and falling apart. In fact, whenever he mentions prayer, a part of the building tries to fall on him, because our old pal, the Suspicious Old Man, is muttering over his paraphernalia. The holy man defiantly sets up his prayer mat in the mosque and prays despite the falling debris, resulting in the Old Man getting punched by a holy mule miles away.
The new Holy Guy observes what has become a normal night for the village: Mohar and his minions marching out into the night to find Murni (like I said, Village Full of Idiots), and opines that really, all the village needs to do is start praying again. Well, the mob of idiots does find Murni, and she disperses them easily with a big offscreen fan, and lays a curse on Mohar, who, in the best scene in the movie, literally pulls his own head off.
It turns out that I had been waiting all my life to see that in a movie.
After Mohar’s head goes all penanggalan on us, flying around and biting people, the Holy Man crops up to stop it. and everybody agrees it would be a good idea to rebuild the mosque and start praying again. Murni is reluctant to continue killing, now that she’s had her revenge on Mohar, much to the Old Man’s disgust. It gets worse when there’s a meet cute between the Holy Man and Murni, and she decides to move to the big city and marry him. Which the Old Man just can’t have.
Queen of Black Magic isn’t going to win any points for originality, but it has some impressively weird and gory death scenes, and I have to say, after years and years of Western horror movies where the villains sneer at ineffectual religion, it’s quite novel to see a movie where simple prayer actually packs a (literal) punch. Entertaining and worth the watch, If you can get past constantly groaning, “You idiots!”