Time for another creepy movie Review from your Favorite horror obsessed Catgirl… this time a look at the recently released Indonesian psychological suspense thriller by director Upi Avianto , “Belenggu” aka “Shackled”.
Our synopsis for it reads like so: “Seemingly tortured loner Elang is haunted by dreams and hallucinatory images of bizarre murders involving a psycho killer in a bunny costume. His seemingly futile efforts to solve the mystery and save the lives of the sweet neighbor woman and her little girl he thinks are in danger have trapped him in a downward spiral and soon he himself becomes a suspect. In trying to prove his innocence and still save them, he will be forced to unveil a horrible and long-buried secret from his own forgotten past.”
A psycho killer… in Bunny costume? A hero who may… or may not have… a couple of screws loose in the mental department. All living together in a story that has more weird avant-garde imagery than a David Lynch film. Yep. Sounds like a crazy sort of movie that will have this wee lady going “Huh?” more than a couple of times…. (and my long suffering sweetie going “WTF??” a whole lot of times, Hehehe!!)
So… OK… sign me up, I’ll give it a look see…. And that means you, o’ Gentle Visitor, need only “Read On” to see if an Indonesian Killer Bunny movie might just be something you just absolutely need to see too…. ;)
Remember the old classic 1950’s Jimmy Stewart movie “Harvey”? The one where Jimmy plays an eccentric guy with a magical 6 foot tall invisible rabbit for a best friend? Well…. apparently he’s not the only guy who sees big bunnies… and it seems not all of them are fluffy, friendly, and nice. ;)
In “Belenggu” we get introduced to Elang (played by Abimana Aryasatya) who also seems to be having hallucinations involving big rabbit people. Unfortunately for him… his is a vicious Serial Killer in a bunny costume that may or may not be real… but who is most definitely lethal and a very real dangerous threat to everybody around him. That’s where the “psychological” angle to this one comes in. For much of the story we the audience certainly wonder about good ol’ Elang…. and whether or not he’s truly experiencing the things he sees or maybe he’s just insane.
Is he or isn’t he? That’s certainly the center to this. His neighbors certainly think he’s… a bit odd… especially once lonely Elang hooks up with sexy streetwalker Jingga (played by Imelda Therinne) one evening at the bar where he works, uncharacteristically intervening to save her from an abusive john and becoming romantically entangled with her. She’s sexy and willing to become his lover, although you get the sense she’s only a pale substitute for the honest-to-goodness “girl next door”, Djenar (played by Laudya Chintya Bella) and her cute little daughter Senja (played by Imel) that he’s more than a little smitten with and who seems trapped in an abusive marriage and in need of rescue. Still… Jingga worms her way into Elang’s bed and then his heart with the story of her brutal rape at the hands of three local men that went unpunished. It’s her obsession to see them pay that eats away at her until she’s tearfully convinced him that the men who raped and tortured her must die if she’s to go on living another day. So… in the best femme fatale fashion, Elang gets set up to realize that revenge for her in true film noir style, confronting those three and brutally killing them in a remorseless bloody encounter that soon has him arrested by the police for multiple murder and under suspicion of the spree of violent murders of women that have been happening in the area…. murders that Elang has been having those weird feverish dreams of featuring that bloody rabbit suited killer. Ummmm… now that can’t be good can it?
Once the cops get involved, things start to unravel for poor Elang but fast…. illusion and hallucination running amok as the story starts throwing curve after curve at the viewer faster than you can say “gaslight”. Elang is guilty of murder… no doubt of that… he was indeed the guy who whacked the three rapists… but the police assure him that Jingga herself is long dead. The victim of a suicide that Elang impossibly remembers from a nightmare… so just who has he been canoodling with these last few weeks? A ghost? Or is he crazy? The police soon find out he most probably is….. having actually escaped from a mental institution before our film even got underway. Not that he remembers any of that….
So our hero is actually a psychopath? Ummmm… well… yeah. But you’d have to see that coming along before you reached this part of the film, and despite all that… there’s another darker layer to the onion. Just what that is I can’t really tell you without ruining it for you. Let’s just say that “Belenggu” wants to go to some pretty nasty places and show you the depths to which madness can carry a man who’s lost everything and literally has nothing left to live for.
So, what did I think of this one? Well… I’m certainly liking the vibe that films out of Indonesia are occasionally reaching these days. There’s some very good stuff here, reminding me a lot of the feel of Joko Anwar’s earlier film “Kala” with it’s dark, almost film noir look and story married to the nasty bloody look of the Mo brothers “Rumah Dara”. It’s a little predictable at times and rough around the edges, but certainly shows promise. If all you’ve ever seen of Indonesian films is the somewhat formulaic and forgettable horror comedies they seems to churn out by the dozens, then “Belenggu” will show you they’ve also got the potential to do really, really good stuff too. With that, I’m leaning towards giving this one 4 “Meows” out of 5 for being one of those truly good Indonesian films that deserve wider recognition and that the director, Upi, should be given encouragement to do more of.
The DVD I watched was the Terracotta Region 2 UK release, done widescreen format in original Indonesian language with good accurate English subtitling for right around 16-20 $ US. Easy to find and if crazy murderous Bunny suited psycho horror is your thing, well then by all means give “Belenggu” a try. :)
Oh yes, Gentle Visitor… don’t worry… there’s a Trailer… ;)