Time for this wee movie lovin’ Catgirl to put all my crazy personal drama behind me and get back to what I do best. Watch goofy horror movies from all those odd foreign places practically nobody has ever heard about here in the good ol’ US of A. Ohhh… and of course, tell all of you Gentle Visitors to my personal lil’ Litterbox all about them… 😉 This time out we take a look see at the recent Malay horror effort “Sembunyi: Amukan Azazil”.
Here’s the quick synopsis: “Aishah (Diana Danielle) is a young woman living during the Japanese Occupation of Malaya, who, after being knocked unconscious while escaping from the clutches of the Japanese Army, wakes up in a quiet, sleepy village, seemingly untouched by the war. The villagers give her shelter and she begins a new life there. But soon it becomes clear that the village hides other secrets as well. Aishah is haunted by the presence of a young deformed girl whom no one else can see and she discovers that an unknown evil lurks in the surrounding woods nearby the village, an ancient creature that makes the villagers its prey, a demon known only as Azazil. The villagers keep an uneasy peace with the demon through offerings but the moment Aishah enters the village, the attacks inexplicably begin again.”
Hmmmm… period setting… naughty Japanese invaders… a “Brigadoon” kind of secret village… and a man eating Demon!! Looks like the sort of goofy fun this Catgirl Princess can get behind. Sound like another odd lil’ film you wanna hear about? Why that happens to be just what this wee Catgirl’s all about… lucky for you!! So all you gotta do is just “Read On” to find out if it’s just gotta be a “must see” on your list as well… 😉
Yep…. This wee lady can’t get enough of those wacky Malay and Indonesian horror movies. It’s got Carolyn wondering if there might just be a wee little bit of that ancestry mashed in along with my Japanese side, Hehehe. (I certainly love spicy sambal oelek enough for me to wonder a bit too… Carolyn says I’d probably eat it on Rice Crispies for breakfast if I got the chance. 😉 ) Now my sweetheart… not so much a fan of these quirky cinema goodies… so when this particular one made it to the top of our “to watch” pile I could sense her restlessness on “movie nite”. Luckily for me… “Beautiful Creatures” was the next DVD in line so she bravely stifled any reservations she may have had knowing she’d get her own movie fix next time out. Like as not… if it’s any good, a certain goofy Catgirl will tell you all about that one too one day soon… promise. 😉
So lets see… this one gets going with a bang. Literally. It’s WW2… and the evil Japanese Imperial Army is running amok all over Malaysia doing all those things you’d expect evil invaders to be doing… burning villages, pillaging and plundering… oh, and trying to molest pretty young women. Our heroine Aishah (played by Diana Danielle) finds that out the hard way as those nasty soldiers raid her village and separate her from her younger sister planning just that sort of vile assault when she’s saved…. well… and almost killed too… by an allied air raid. She manages to escape her captors only to be knocked unconscious and nearly killed.
Things get weird as she wakes up in a quiet little village, her wounds healed and a bandage on her head…. and no memory of just who she is and how exactly she got there. Does it sort of freak her out? Well… yes. But luckily for her local hunky guy Kamal (played by Remy Ishak) and his aunt Ibu Yani’s (played by Umie Aida) are right there to tell her all about how Kamal found her in the jungle and brought her to this “secret” village beyond the reach of those nasty Japanese soldiers that attacked her own home. They seem nice enough… and it isn’t hard to see that Kamal has the hots for pretty Aishah, so despite the oddly unrealistic story they tell her, she accepts the offer to stay around while she tries to sort things out.
Now it does seem a bit strange that the locals here seem totally unconcerned about the possibility of those same evil invaders dropping by for a visit. They give some silly story about being on an island in the middle of a lake… like the Japanese never heard of boats or something… and Aishah keeps catching them surrounding the village with a strange “barrier” of rice. Worse… somewhere… lurking just out of sight of the villagers is a strange deformed little girl trying to lure Aishah away into the jungle. Yep… that just can’t be good.
Throw in the freaky demon that attacks the village as soon as Aishah disturbs the rice barrier by accident and you’ve got one confusing situation on hand. The village bully Atan (played by Sharnaaz) naturally blames Aishah for the events… especially since she favors handsome quiet Kamal over his loutish romantic attentions and pretty soon has the whole village upset about her being cursed or something. It doesn’t help that Atan wants to be village chief… a job that would automatically be Kamal’s, as son of the former chief, except that he isn’t married. Oh yeah…. Atan just so wants Aishah to be gone…
This is also where this movie sort of began to lose Carolyn… not the romantic stuff mind you.. but the whole rest of the plot. Our little village. It’s not hard to figure out that it’s not exactly a “normal” place. The sheer fact that the invading Japanese seem totally clueless about it… or that crazy demon lets you know that it’s one of those “Brigadoon” kind of mystical places kept outside the rest of the world by some magical curse. Once Kamal is pressured by Aishah to return her to her own home village only to discover it gone… wiped away as if by the passage of years and years of time that much becomes evident that something is up. Then there’s that disfigured little girl… who over the course of our story rapidly ages to an old disfigured woman as Aishah keeps encountering her. There’s probably some local Malay folklore that would explain this all to a viewer… but not being Malaysian, it had my sweetie going “Huh?” fairly quickly. Heck… it had me scratching my head too, especially once the “big plot twist” occurs and our story hangs a left on us.
Oh yeah. Once Aishah has fallen in love with hunky Kamal and married him things go all crazy. It turns out all the villagers are really some sort of zombie people who kidnap unlucky humans to bring to the village. Why? Not really certain… although in Kamal’s case, he wanted a wife and fell for Aishah the moment he found her dying from her wounds during that Japanese attack. So… what the heck is the deal with our demon? Well… not certain why… but it seems he’s actually our movie’s “good guy”. Ummmm? What? Yep… Neko kids you not. He’s not eating villagers… he’s stealing back all the humans and restoring their memories before dumping them back into the real world. Not sure how he got the job…. and heck… this wee Catgirl thought that Demons or Jinn or the like weren’t things that Allah permitted to do good stuff anyway in Malay lore. Ooooohhh… Neko’s sooo darn confused!!
Eventually we find out too that our disfigured woman isn’t a witch or something… in fact she’s a “good guy” too. Being born all freaky, it seems she’s able to see into the spirit realm that holds the village and to interact with it in some limited fashion. She saw Kamal snatch Aishah and has spent 60 odd years trying to save her on behalf of the little sister Aishah left behind. After the demon finally manages to catch Aishah, kill pitiful Kamal, and release her from the “phantom zone”, the hermit lady reunites them just in time for our ending. But not without one last twist…. you see she carrying Kamal’s child and Auntie Ibu wants her back…. Guess that means we’ll get a sequel.
So. How did this one go down? Hmmm. Well…. it had a neat premise… it really did… but for me at least I can’t say it worked all that well. Somehow it left me with too many questions and messed with what little Malay folklore knowledge I have to just plain confuse me at times. A bit more explanation of our zombie villagers and their grand scheme was definitely in order to make this one both understandable as well as enjoyable. Maybe having the Japanese invaders actually find the village and run afoul of the demon might have been fun too… but given that whole “time slips by quickly” thing made that impossible. Darn… the ol’ “army guys versus monsters” plotline is always fun. 😦
So I’d have to give “Sembunyi” a meager and barely reached 3 “Meows” out of 5. The effects aren’t bad… the acting is acceptable… but the story could definitely have made more sense. Might just be me… perhaps a native Malay audience would have liked this more. The Malay Region 3 disc was pretty good, coming with nice English subtitles for that crazy nice price that Malay imports have, 6-9$ US most places. It’s probably worth a look if Malay film is your thing, but most of you Gentle Visitors need not rush right out to find a copy…. Ah well… perhaps next time out I’ll catch a gem.
As always… there’s at least a nifty trailer to be had, so let’s take a peek!!