My mailbox got a visit from the FedEx guy with another big ol’ package of goodies from Malaysia just the other day and naturally lil’ ol’ me couldn’t wait to give a watch to one of them on Movie Nite with my sweetie last evening. With a well-earned day off today, that means I’m free to tell you all about the creepy Witchcraft story that is “Nasi Tangas”. 😉
Our synopsis goes like this: “Hairi and Fatin are close childhood friends who co-own a small food stand together. Mira, who is also Fatin’s best friend, admits that she likes Hairi. Fatin helps them to unite and get married. As time passes, Mira becomes jealous of Hairi’s close friendship with pretty Fatin. Mira’s wicked mother persuades Mira to use the witchcraft of “nasi kangkang” in order to compel and enslave Hairi to obey her as she has with Mira’s father. To achieve her intention, Mira is even willing to sleep with the evil shaman who instructs her in the forbidden spells.”
Now from what the Trailer showed… and a little research I did… I soon discovered the idea behind this one is a pretty gross bit of Malay folklore in which some sort of love spell can be cast by tricking a guy into eating… errr… ahhh… umm… a rice dish made out of vaginal secretions, menstrual blood, and feces. Eeeeewwww!! Yep, I kid you not. Somehow I just know this one’s gonna be nasty. Still wanna hear all the icky evil details? Then… if you’ve a strong stomach and a liking for odd Asian horror… just “Read On” o’ Gentle Visitor and let this wee Catgirl tell you all about it.
Now as I’ve mentioned before, this lady loves her creepy Asian movies… especially when I get to see some new little bit of odd folklore included in the package. Sometimes it’s a new kind of ghost… maybe a unique monster legend… often a bit of superstition or witchcraft peculiar to that part of the world. I’m an insatiable little dweeb when it comes to learning neat screwy silly things like that. “Nasi Tangas” is all about that sort of thing…. in this case a particularly gross bit of witchcraft as practiced in Malaysia by desperate women to seize control of wandering husbands. As with all such primitive magical traditional practices, it’s a big no-no in Islamic Malaysia…. and really, really, gross and icky to boot… so naturally it’s a perfect idea for some low-budget exploitative horror filmmaking. Just what a certain Catgirl ordered… 🙂
So what’s the deal with this one? Ok, ok… now it seems there’s a shamanistic black magic spell called “nasi kangkang”… or “crotch rice” according to Google Translate… in which a woman is told to lovingly prepare a delicious rice bowl that she may then squat over during the full moon while chanting some magic words as the steam condenses on her…. well… ahhhh… ummmm… “intimate bits”… and then drips back down to…. errrr…. ahhhh…. “flavor” the dish. Sometimes, as in this particular film, she’s instructed to add other… shall we say… “special herbs and secret spices”. Like her own feces, or hair clippings, or toenails. Then she feeds this to her boyfriend or husband to cause him to become madly and completely enslaved to her and her alone. Yep. Seriously stomach turning and nasty, right?
Anyways…. that’s the basic idea here. Apparently there’s a downside to all this gross stuff too, and that’s the horror element that forms the central part of our story. What’s that basic story about? Well we rapidly get introduced to two old childhood friends Hairi (played by Azwan Kombos) and Fatin (played by Shima ). They’ve known each other for like forever and are that sort of male/ female “BFF” couple that know each other so darn well that they hang out constantly, have fun, and never seem to ever let romantic ideas get in the way of being the closest of companions. They get along so well they even run a business together, one of those little open air restaurant stalls you see in lots of Thai, Malay, and Indonesian films. Hairi has a girlfriend of course… Mira (played by Adiba Yunus), who despite being his one and only steady love interest, is constantly annoyed by just how darn close Hairi and Fatin are. Hairi eventually marries Mira… but that doesn’t end her smoldering jealousy and suspicions that Hairi and Fatin are secretly more than just best friends. Which they aren’t… but hey when has truth ever gotten in the way of “obsessive crazy”?
Pretty soon she finds out that her mother Mak Ton (played by Delimawati) has secretly been using the evil black magic ritual of nasi kangkang on her own husband, Pak Bakar (played by Den Wahab) to punish him for his gambling and vicious temper. It isn’t long before her own jealousy has her following her mother’s wicked example and employing the same evil magic to both control Hairi and terrorize and punish Fatin.
We get the usual sorts of witchcraft stuff along with the particularly icky details of this particular practice as Fatin struggles to save herself and her old friend from suffering the fate of Mira’s father and becoming nothing more than a shambling somnambulist slave to Mira, who naturally turns more and more towards evil as our story progresses. It’s a definite that this one wants to slather on the exploitative sensationalistic gross-out subjects to sate that portion of the audience drawn to such material for the sake of sheer grossness and vulgarity. Being a Malay film, it’s done in a much tamer way than you’d expect in, say, a Thai film where just about any taboo goes, horror-wise. But still…. for a Malay film, it’s pushing it.
This one uses its story to tell a basic morality tale the way Malay film usually does. You know the lesson by now… “Witchcraft is Evil and the almighty Allah will forsake all those who traffic in it or use it”. There the expected climactic bit where our trusty Islamic ustaz shows up to put the Holy whammy on Mira and end all the evil and terror. Not as flashy as in some other Malay films, but effective nonetheless. They hit all the usual themes… even having Mira commit adultery with her bomoh teacher Embah Senu (played by Herman Tino) as payment for learning the “Ultimate Nasi Kangkang ceremony”…. weird given that all this was supposedly to keep Hairi faithful and save their marriage. Guess it’s more of a “Do as I say, not as I do” kinda thing… 😉
In general, the movie works, although I have to say both Carolyn and I were suitably grossed out by the whole story and the unsavory stomach turning folklore on hand. That says a lot, when you remember that this lady has seen her fill of cannibals, freaky incestuous mutant freaks, fetishistic sexuality of practically every form and flavor imaginable, and the slimy excesses of some of the Shaw Brothers Cat III film catalog over a long movie watchin’ career. Maybe it’s because I’m a cook by profession, but this one had me really, really…. REALLY… queasy by about the mid-point of the story. Horror wise, there’s not a whole lot going on that hasn’t been done better or before… and the gross factor only carries you so far.
With that I suppose it’s fair to say this one scores 2 “Meows” out of 5. I just can’t say I liked it all that much. I’d like to be able to say it’s a fun, naughty lil’ romp through some queasy taboos that also scared me, but…. sigh…. I just can’t when all is said and done. Sorry Malaysia, I hope you enjoyed this one more than me. Maybe next time….The DVD is the usual nice simple Malay release…. supposedly Region 3, but secretly All-Region, the film is presented widescreen and letterbox with good understandable English subtitles on board all for right around 10$US in the usual places for the enjoyment of all the foreign Malay horror fans out there. That’s right, Gentle Visitors… Neko knows who you are. 🙂
As always, there’s a suitably nasty lil’ Trailer for those of you so inclined… Enjoy!!