Shudder UK film review: Satan’s Slaves
Scares, Indonesian style8
Ian Winterton | On 12, Oct 2018Reading time: 2 mins
Director: Joko Anwar
Cast: Tara Basro, Bront Palarae, Endy Arfian, Dimas Aditya, Nasar Annuz, M. Adhiyat, Ayu Laksmi
Watch Satan’s Slaves online in the UK: Shudder UK
One of the great joys of horror genre is that, because an attraction to scary stories is common to all humans, movies from a wide variety of cultures can work effectively on a wide variety of audiences. The international success of J-Horror – Japanese chillers such as Ringu, Ju-on et al – is well known, but with Satan’s Slaves, we get to experience a ghost story told Indonesian-style.
In many ways, it shares a lot of tropes with J-horror – its pacing is glacial, but the goosebump-inducing eeriness is there from the start, and the jump-scares – when they come – are heart-stopping. What sets this apart is an insight into Indonesian society and customs. It’s a Muslim country, but, despite what some news sources might have us believe, it’s very secular; the family at the centre of Satan’s Slaves have no more trouble telling the local imam they don’t go to mosque than someone in England would explaining to their vicar that they’re a stranger to church. And yet the underpinning superstitions – just as they are in Christian England – are ever-present, manifesting as a primal fear of evil that works no matter where the viewer is from.
The simple story is of a mother who, dying after a protracted illness, frees her husband and three children – led by plucky teen heroine Rini (Tara Basro, first rate) – to get on with their lives. Only death isn’t quite the end of the mother’s story. As soon becomes apparent, she dabbled with the occult, doing demonic some deals in order to have children; there is a chilling reason the three siblings are born seven years apart.
The premise is a highly effective engine that propels Rini and her family to uncover the horrific truth about the past, the story unfolding to an unsettling soundtrack provided by the disc cut by their singing star mother – there is even, fans of conspiracy theories will be pleased to hear, a sequence in which the record is played backwards.
A strong cast, a solid plot and a sustained air of genuine creepiness will ensure this chiller works on all audiences, but for those not au fait with Indonesia, the chance to see the country through the eyes of director making a film aimed at his domestic market adds a fascinating extra layer.
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