An absolutely whacking biiiiig ol’ package arrived this week from Indonesia….. my long awaited chunk of DVD’s from that part of the world, having spent some time kicking about somewhere in the Pacific and nearly presumed lost. It seems that the “Mystical Fairies of Cheesy Movies” love me this month and they made it here safe and sound. (Luckily I also happened to be equipped with a plate of yummy cookies that day to reward the Mailman for schlepping them all the way up to my apartment as the box was waaaay too big to fit my mailbox…. Yay!!)
The synopsis we have reads like follows: “Directed by Koya Pagayo (“Hantu Ambulance”, “Lewat Tengah Malam”), the movie revolves around a beautiful, sexy ghost known as Hantu Jamu Gendong who betrays her friends. Kafka never believed in ghost, but somehow he always gets the chance to see the ghost with her medicine basket wandering the streets thinking that she’s human. Later on, Kafka and his two friends, Meisya and Andien feel something amiss when she always appears to be around them.”
Hmmmm… not bad, given that I had to get my translations direct from the Indonesian…. but hey, look at the poster!! Freaky skull headed ghosts in flowered robes always get this lil’ Catgirl’s attention. Unfortunately, with Indonesian or Malay films that doesn’t actually give you any guarantee that the movie will be anything like that….
Still…. the movie was inexpensive and I’m such a crazy lil’ doofus for these, so let’s all “Read On” and find out if it’s a good one or a real stinker, shall we?
This one is a nifty surprise… and seems finally to have managed an Indonesian ghost story with it’s own feel for a change. This time out it’s not the Pocong, or Kuntilanak, or some forest spirit Hantu thingee…. instead we get the spirit of a young woman who is a Jamu peddler. It’s sooo nifty the way she haunts backalleys and all the dark street places with her echoing cry.. “Jamu ne…. Jamu ne….” calling her victims to their doom. But….. what the heck is Jamu anyways Neko-chan? Well…. I didn’t know for certain myself so I did a little “googling” and found out that it’s some sort of local herbalism practiced in Indonesia.The word “Jamu” seems to cover a vast range medicinal drinks made for various diseases and are available in ready-to-drink form as well as in powder satchets or capsules sold almost exclusively by street vendors.Such sellers are generally young women, and get into this line of work if nothing else is available as it requires very little in the way money or materials to get started. They are usually encountered carrying a basket slung over their arm as they sell their wares. On the island of Java most tend to sling that basket on their backs and carry it somewhat like a backpack. They are known as “Jamu Gendong”. The word “gendong” itself translates roughly to “carry on the back” in Indonesian.
Usually in the morning just before dawn, the jamu gendong will prepare several liters of several different varieties of jamu in her home, having purchased the ingredients from a local market or scavenged them from the wild. Once brewed, the jamu gendong pours the fluid into a number of empty bottles. These she places into a large bamboo basket and sets off on her regular jamu route. See…. the ol’ “Litterbox” can even be educational at times!! Hehehehe!!
Unfortunately… in Indonesia it seems, at least from what I gather from the movie, this can also be used as a cover for prostitution, and so most young women in this line of work are generally looked down on and sometimes exploited. That’s the basis of our story here….
Siri moves to Jakarta to find work after her husband dies leaving her and her child without any support and eventually she joins the ranks of the Jamu sellers only to run afoul of a gang of toughs who rape and kill her one night hiding her body to conceal their crime. (I know…. you’d think Indonesian creeps would know better than that given the large number of films that tell them what a mistake it is…) Her spirit haunts that area… angry, lost and desiring g someone to free her spirit from it’s eternal wanderings…. In the meantime, she spends her time haunting and killing those fools stupid enough to tempt her wrath by calling out for her at night in the place she died.
That’s what happens to the people in this film….. young and contemptuous of the supernatural they summon her one evening and she sets about killing them all, one by one. Sounds pretty standard so far… and it pretty much is, but the character of Siri and her backstory really touched this lil’ Catgirl…. and given the nifty way she is presented as a spirit with a story, I found myself liking this one more than many other Indonesian horror films I’ve watched lately.
As with most Indonesian efforts, there isn’t much overt gore, with the possible exception of one victim who gets killed by a throat severing fan blade. No nudity or other nastiness either, but that’s fine as it lets the atmosphere of those grimy and dirty alleys and backstreets take center stage and carry the story along. We get to the same sort of ending you expect from these sorts of films, but the trip is at least easy on the eyes and worth an evening on the couch.
I saw this one on the Malay DVD release, with a nice letterboxed image, decent subtitles and a nice, nice 6$US price tag. Given all of that, Neko can give “Hantu Jamu Gendong” a decent 3 “Meows” out of 5…. not a bad rating for a modest lil’ Indonesian effort likely to get lost in the avalanche of similar horror films out there from that part of the world. Hopefully there will be some more nice surprises in my big box of DVD’s for me to find…. till next time then, wish me luck, and “Meow, meow for now, gentle readers!”
Ahhhhh…. yes…. Trailers…. yep, Neko’s got a Trailer for this one and here it is!