Well, no more slacking off for your Favorite Catgirl Movie Reviewer… I’m back at it once again, and this time out it’s off to Indonesia for the new DVD release of the first film by Brian Yuzna’s Komodo Films project, “Takut: Faces of Fear“.
Synopsis? It goes something like this: “7 directors, 6 stories, 1 emotion – FEAR!
“Show Unit“: A man investigates an intruder in his house only to become the victim of a deadly game of extortion and murder.
“Titisan Naya” aka “Incarnation of Naya“: During her family’s traditional sacred-kris cleansing-ritual a skeptical teenager discovers that her ancestors are not just an old memory.
“Peeper“: A Peeping Tom finds his comeuppance in the backstage of a Wayang Orang dance theater. An exploration of the other meaning of ‘love blinds’ by Ray Nayoan.
“The List“: Boy meets girl. Boy dumps girl. It’s magic, with a twist. A scorned woman engages a “dukun” to use black magic to satisfy her appetites for revenge.
“The Rescue”: The Rescue is a fast-paced chase through an apocalyptic Jakarta inhabited with cannibalistic “sub-humans”. A patrol of mobile brigadier Gegana Special Forces must lead civilian survivors to safety before they are all infected.
“Dara“: One woman, three men. Let the feast begin… Dara is a story about haute cuisine and the lengths to which a beautiful chef will go to in order to satisfy her customers.”
Seems anthology horror is all the rage in Asia these days with plenty of examples from Thailand, HK, Malaysia, and Indonesia to choose from. So why grab this particular film? Well, Brian Yuzna certainly holds a special place in Neko’s heart for his earlier Lovecraft inspired horror efforts “Reanimator” and it’s sequels as well as “From Beyond” so it’s a given that this one could be a slice above the usual Indonesian effort. Add to that the inclusion of the Mo Brothers short “Dara” which I’d been on the lookout for and there was no way I could pass this up.
So what the heck are you waitin’ for? It’s time to “Read On”, o’ Gentle Visitors!
Anthology films…. some can be really good, others fairly bad. They’re a mixed bag at best, generally made up of small little germs of ideas for stories that just weren’t deep enough to fill the run time of a whole movie. Does this mean they can be dismissed as a format for telling good involving stories that grip a viewer? Not at all… The best of them can leave you with just as full an experience as a feature length movie. Unfortunately, any anthology is only as strong as it’s weakest tale. So finding a number of them to string together can be the real challenge if you want to pull off a successful film.
“Takut” has a lot going for it…. but Neko would have to say that perhaps more is not always best. I’m thinking that in a movie that only runs for roughly 90 minutes, “Takut” takes a big risk by going for 6 separate stories…. on average only giving each tale an average of 15 minutes to make it’s story work. Furthermore… unlike some other horror anthologies, there really isn’t any encompassing framework to hold them together and make them seem like they belong together. This I think is the weakest part about “Takut”, and I’d have to say it definitely affects the overall impression I got while watching it.
That’s a real shame too…. as there are some very nice bits of work on display here, with good acting and imagery that deserve to be seen. Producer/ Director Brian Yuzna obviously has seen the raw potential of Indonesian filmaking that your Favorite Catgirl discovered for herself years ago. Not surprising then that he’d want to tap into that relatively untapped talent for his first release under his Komodo Films label. Luckily I can say, much of the offerings here are of the best caliber available from an industry that for the most part is derided for it’s ability to churn out what can seem to be an endless supply of for the most part very derivative and forgettable horror films for their own local market. But it dosen’t help that they look….. well…. sort of “thrown together”, not really parts of a cohesive whole.
First up, we have “Show Unit”, a look at the accidental killing of a little girl by her mom’s new boyfriend and the escalating problems he has trying to cover up the crime. Not only does the body count rack up as he’s forced to kill his girlfriend’s ex to prevent him discovering his daughter’s corpse, but a mysterious stranger across the street hiding in the Show Unit apartment wants in on the fun as well. It’s a fairly easy to get plot with no real surprises, but definitely has the most interesting look of all the shorts, with it’s desaturated Black & White cinematography punctuated by surprising splashes of vibrant color here and there throughout. Not a great little tale but certainly a pretty one.
Then comes “Incarnation of Naya”, a nod to the Asian ghost story about a modern young woman with no sense of Tradition or respect for the Spiritual who discovers that one’s ancestors are definitely not to be taken lightly. While well done, and with moments that are both creepy and suspenseful, the story kind of left me cold, with it’s thoroughly unlikeable main character. There’s the usual haunting stuff, and the appearance of the ghosts, before the end but none of it is all that surprising or original, despite the very slick look of the short. By the time she’s been possessed by the spirit of an old ancestor, I found myself wishing something a bit more nasty had happened to her. But…. then this is an Indonesian film, so that sort of thing isn’t really likely…..
Then we get “Peeper”, a look at the fate of one peeping tom who gets a bit more than he bargained for when given the chance to spy on the dressing room of a famous Traditional Dancer, and discovers the secret of her almost mystical youth and beauty. Trust me… it’s not the miracle of Botox either. Nope… seems ritual cannibalism isn’t just for living forever… it can make you pretty, sexy, and talented too. This one isn’t a bad little tale at all, and is probably my second favorite out of the whole anthology, and the one I’d want to see expanded into a full length treatment similar to that done for “Dara”.
Naturally, Brian Yuzna himself, has a go at telling a tale as well in “The List”, as we get to see a scorned woman hire a local black sorcerer to punish her ex lover and his new girlfriend with his evil magic. Our story here plays to me less like an Indonesian film though, and feels more like an old TV episode of “Tales of the Darkside” or “Tales From The Crypt”. Not a bad thing, but somewhat out of the overall theme despite the Indonesian trappings and the creepy dukun. There’s a nice twist ending, (which I won’t spoil for you, but if you do watch it, you’ll see it coming waaaay before the “surprise”) but the Shaw Brothers style gore is probably what makes this one stand out from most of the others. A nice tale, but one that even with it’s crawling spiders, face full of leeches and other nasty witchcraft isn’t all that new or surprising.
We even get a Zombie Apocalypse story in here. “The Rescue” take us along for a short peek at how Indonesia just might cope when the hordes of the “Living Impaired” start their brain munching rampage. Unfortunately… the tale is long on running around and doing the action bit, and short on… well… details, overall plot, character development, and even time. (Being by far the shortest of the six tales presented overall….) It’s well done, like all the rest, but suffers the most I think by it’s truncated length. It’s not bad, just not great…. and also bringing with it absolutely no new ideas on the zombie genre at all. Just sort of think of it as “Zombie Light”…..
Perhaps the best of the lot is the sequence held for last, the Mo Brothers original short “Dara” from which their recent full length film was inspired. I’d been wanting to find this one since I found that expanded film, “Rumah Darah”….. It’s here in it’s full 22 minute running time, and one can see even from this initial tale the sheer gruesome fun potential in it’s simple story. A different story, mind you…. but most of the cast from the full length film are on board for the fun as we get a look at Dara as a single woman and restaurateur with… how shall we say…. a unique and interesting view of speed dating and food service supply. Unlike the feature film version, there’s a definite ironic humor about the whole story… something I’m now wishing had been a part of that film too. The best bit has to be when suitor after suitor arrive to have dinner with the enigmatic and mysterious Dara and she pauses each time to stop by the kitchen to update her dating calendar.
Not to say the gut wrenching gore is missing… There’s plenty of the familiar mayhem to go around. Poor Adjie is quite without pretty wife in this version, and spends much of his time trapped in Dara’s basement abattoir awaiting a date with her chainsaw. Yep…. this one definitely deserved to get the full length treatment. As before, the standout performance is by Shareefa Daanish as Dara, both stylish and mysterious and with a surprising amount of wry evil humor this time out. I can definitely see myself wanting to see her reprise this character she’s made so much her own again. (Hint! Hint!!)
So…. how does “Takut” stack up? Overall it’s somewhat uneven for all it’s polish and budget, and seems to suffer by trying to do too much with too little available running time. I’m thinking that if a few more Indonesian directors… perhaps say Joko Anwar or Rizal Mantovani…. had been convinced to sign on, this could have been the Indonesian answer to Thailand’s hit “Phobia”, with more than enough footage to make it into 2 films rather than trying to cram all this into one. I can say it was worth a watch, but can’t really say it was a major hit with me. Neko gives it a solid 3 “Meows” out of 5, but that’s mostly due to the inclusion of “Dara” which I’ve been wanting to see for a while.
The DVD however is topnotch, with great English subtitles on board and a good widescreen format. The price, at around 10$ US is a winner too, making this one a worthy buy if you also want to see that particular short.
Yes, as always there’s a Trailer and I’d never dream of leaving you without it! Enjoy!!