Thursday, November 4, 2010

Mystics in Bali (1981)

Indonesian exploitation is something that's seldom talked about in the field of cult moviedom, and that's a shame. Like many other non US countries that was producing exploitation, the country made low-budget films made largely to appeal to foreign markets. The thing though, is that many of these movies from Indonesia were pretty much fucking insane. Seriously, watch trailers for films like "The Devil's Sword", "Lady Terminator" and "Virgins From Hell." These movies, even if they didn't always deliver, are reminders of how exploitation and genre cinema may look from another countries eyes, and I thank God for that. With all of that out of the way, let's take a look at one of the most popular Indonesian titles, 1981's "Mystics in Bali."

American gal Cathy (Ilona Agathe Bastian) is visiting Indonesia for research purposes for a book she's writing about black magic. So, with the help of her new boyfriend Mahendra (Yos Santo), she learns of "Leák magic", and even meets an old Leák witch (Sofia W.D.) who sounds like what would happen if the Wicked Witch of the West and Yoda had a kid. Anyways, the witch teaches Cathy - with some blood offerings in return. However, when these offerings aren't enough, the witch tricks Cathy into doing her bidding - by making Cathy's head detach from her body, entrails hanging, and making said body part float around in search for blood.

So yes, "Mystics in Bali" is exactly what it sounds like. So, is it good? In a word, yes. Granted, the electronic score by Gatot Sudarto really doesn't fit the proceedings IMO, and the dubbing is pretty bad (though in this rare case, it kinda enhances the whole experience), but while it may not be "good" in a more traditional sense, it's still a lot of fun in a "Wow, what is this?" kind of way. This is a movie were floating heads drink blood, long tongues stick out, and climactic battle scenes reach nearly apocalyptic proportions. It's all also capably directed by H. Tjut Djalil, who fortunately takes his time with letting things go over the top and strange. Most directors in this case would have blown their wad early, yet Djalil manages to let it move at a nice pace, all without making it boring. It also, in spite of it's all around daffy nature, is steeped and respectful to it's cultural roots and lore, creating a world that most viewers aren't used to seeing in genre films - and really, that's how you could describe many an Indonesian genre film.

"Mystics in Bali" should make for a good starting point for those interested in Indonesian cult cinema, and a must for fans of the out there fringes of horror and exploitation.

Rating: 7.5/10

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