(Welcome to The Quarantine Stream, a new series where the /Film team shares what they’ve been watching while social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic.)
The Movie: Impetigore and Satan’s Slaves
Where You Can Stream Them: Shudder
The Pitch: If you only watch American horror films, you’re missing out. Outside of Hollywood, horror films can be weirder, wilder, crazier, more ambitious, and often piss-your-pants scary. And in recent years, Indonesia has announced itself as the latest major player in the genre. Much like how France and Japan created new horror filmmaking waves in the late ’90s and mid-00s, the Oceanic nation feels primed and ready to inspire a thousand imitators with its utterly unique brand of terror. And director Joko Anwar is leading the way.
Why They’re Essential Viewing: Joko Anwar has a number of credits to his name (including an Indonesian superhero movie that I’d very much like to see, please), but two of them are exclusively streaming on the Shudder horror streaming service and both of them are utterly sublime. Both Satan’s Slaves and Impetigore strike a remarkable balance: they’re emotionally moving, character-driven mysteries that revel in grandiose twists and stellar reveals, all accomplished while being scary-as-hell crowdpleasers.
Genre film fans already had their eyes on Indonesia thank to the Raid films (directed by a Welsh filmmaker but starring and largely crewed by locals) and The Night Comes For Us (the most violent action movie ever made, seriously), and Anwar represents the next filmmaker that deserves a large and loving spotlight. His films have all of the ingredients you’d want out of a stellar western horror film, but prepared with a flavor that can only exist from an artist working outside of the Hollywood system. Satan’s Slaves and Impetigore are accessible and fun horror films, yes, but they feel distinctly of their nation. There’s nothing boilerplate about them and while Anwar knows his Hollywood films (one of them cheekily quotes The Texas Chain Saw Massacre in its closing scenes), he never feels indebted to them.
Both Satan’s Slaves (itself a remake of the 1981 Indonesian film of the same name) and Impetigore feature characters thrust into horror due to their proximity to poverty or their desire to escape it. The former finds a rural family dealing with a violent home haunting following the death a longer-suffering mother. The latter follows a young woman from the city who ventures to a distant village to track down a secret inheritance and gets more than she bargained for. Both films are fast-paced, surprisingly funny, and loaded with specific cultural details that make them a fascinating, educational watch for a western viewer (I fell down a Google rabbit hole after looking up a plot point involving different languages in Indonesia). And perhaps more importantly, both films are utterly terrifying, introducing disturbing concepts that would turn a Hollywood exec’s face white while also never losing that fun spring in their step that makes them so damn watchable.
Anwar has done something special: his films are as crowd-pleasing as a Hollywood horror film, as mysterious as a Japanese horror movie, and as unrelenting as a French horror movie. I honestly don’t think anyone else is making movies like this right now and I can’t wait to see how other filmmakers try to top this.
So here’s what you need to do: fire up Shudder (or pony up the $5 a month to subscribe) and have yourself one hell of a double feature. We can add Indonesia to the list of countries showing everyone how to do horror right.
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