Tag Archives: Ario Bayu

Queen of Mean

The Queen of Black Magic

by Hope Madden

Filmmaker Kimo Stamboel resurrects 70s exploitation horror with The Queen of Black Magic. Not a remake or really a sequel or reboot of the Indonesian cult classic, Stamboel’s film is more inspired by its namesake.

Fun throwbacks to Liliek Sudjio’s original over the end credits do more to remind you how comparably tame this one is.

Not that it is without merit. Or gore.

Hanif (Ario Bayu) returns to the orphanage where he grew up. The man who raised him is dying, and now Hanif and his two childhood friends reunite, families in tow, having come home to pay their respects.

But bad things haunt the old orphanage.

Of course they do! What are you, new?!

Stamboel and writer Joko Anwar can’t come up with anything particularly new when deciding what, exactly, is the problem with this orphanage. But they populate their scenes of carnage with actors who generate some empathy, and put those actors into scenes that are pretty compelling. Especially if you have a thing about crawly creatures. Or a sensitive gag reflex.

Anwar is a master of conjuring nightmarish environments, complete with nightmare logic. His 2017 remake Satan’s Slave and his 2019 original Impetigore throw narrative logic aside in favor of a denseness of dread punctuated with unseemly carnage.

The Queen of Black Magic makes more narrative sense, but somehow that seems to flatten it out a little. It feels less magically horrific and unsettling as the films Anwar directs. But strong, dimensional performances elevate every scene.

And both filmmakers know gore. They know what sounds make you wince, what sights make you look away. Between that, the performances, and a tight enough screenplay to keep your interest, they’ve pieced together a tough little horror flick worth a genre fan’s time.  

Funnier than Twilight

Java Heat

By Hope Madden

The low-rent exotic thriller Java Heat is best if viewed as a comedy. It does, indeed, get off two intentionally funny lines, flanked on all sides by hundreds of unintentionally yet no less hilarious bits.

Kellan Lutz (the weirdly muscular vampire from Twilight) is Jake, an American beefcake suspiciously on hand when a suicide bomber kills the Sultana of Indonesia. Hashim (Ario Bayu) – the last good cop in Java – reluctantly teams up with the pec-tasatic American because this crime scene doesn’t pass the smell test.

Can the reserved and spiritual Hashim teach the hotheaded American to listen first, act later? Might it have been possible for the moderately skillful Bayu to teach the utterly talentless Lutz to act, period?

Nope and nope.

Lutz ably undresses, shouts Semper Fi, smirks, undresses again, frowns. The real problems arise when he tries to deliver lines.

Lutz is bad in a way that exposes a profound lack of talent. As the flamboyant villain Malik, Mickey Rourke is bad in the manner of a genuine talent whoring himself out after a career of bad decisions. Think Brando in The Island of Dr. Moreau, only with a sketchy interest in little boys and a wildly ludicrous French accent. I believe it was supposed to be French. He  has that Pepe Le Pew thing going on.

Given his unnatural appearance, Rourke has been relegated to the role of a freak in basically every gig since the mid Nineties. I doubt he even delivers scripted lines anymore – just puts on a leopard print poet’s blouse and some Zubaz, affects a project-inappropriate accent, and fondles an exotic pet. The films just kind of happen around him.

What happens here is a poorly written exercise in culture clashing and learning to appreciate our differences. Because it’s not religion that’s tearing us apart, it’s greed. Except when it is actually also religion.

Writer/director Conor Allyn’s high concept about human dignity and cultural respect is admirable. I’m sure it must have seemed downright adorable to Rahayu Saraswati, who plays the hooker that’s riddled with bullets while handcuffed in her underpants.

Jave Heat is not the kind of film you expect to find on a big screen. It’s the kind of film fans of Jean-Claude Van Damme and Michael Pare might expect to see in their Netflix recommendations. Between the big release and loads of laughs, it’s already an unexpected success.