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.  

Skin Trade

Impetigore

by George Wolf

In a remote Indonesian village, a garden of small headstones marks the effectiveness of a Shaman’s curse. Newborn after newborn dies, the one survivor growing to endure a mysterious, painful existence.

Creepy, right?

Shudder’s Impetigore scores some definite points there, which help to offset a narrative often hampered by convenience and confusion.

Maya (Tara Basro) and Dini (Marissa Anita) are best friends trying to make a go of it in the city. With no family to speak of, they scrape by with menial jobs while dreaming of a better future.

Though raised by her aunt, Maya learns of a spacious home left behind by her wealthy parents. Maya could very well lay claim to this valuable property through inheritance, so she and Dini make their way to the remote village, unaware of the curse and their place in it.

Writer/director Joko Anwar (Satan’s Slaves), an Indonesian genre veteran, seems to know he’s got some solid benchmarks here while not worrying too much about the strength of what binds them together.

Dialogue can range from awkward to WTF-worthy, amid a few convenient plot turns and one humdinger of extended curse explanation that strains coherence.

But when Anwar hits his creepy marks, Impetigore can leave one. The atmospheric isolation in the village feels authentic, and once blood begins letting, the tension is well-paced, bolstered with some satisfying visual payoffs.

There will be eyerolls, but if you’re keeping score, also enough frightful eyebrow-raising to make Impetigore a winning dive into twisted family values.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2RfEwT2LI2M