★★★★ out of ★★★★★
The sequel to the Indonesian horror hit May the Devil Take You is a more than worthy successor to the storyline. Alfie, the survivor of the first film is drafted by a group of orphans to assist with the exorcism of their demon spirit of their wicked caretaker. Strong Sam Raimi and Wes Craven influences are in abundance in this bloody and fun showcase of what Indonesian Horror has in store.
Directed by Timo Tjahjanto
Get on the Indonesian Horror train pronto! It has already left the station, but if you hurry up you can get on and thrill to the fantastic ride that is currently rolling. Timo Tjahjanto, a charismatic young director with a proclivity for profanity, wowed the international horror scene with his debut film May the Devil Take You, where a young woman, Alfie (Chelsea Islan) battles a demon who made a pact with her ailing father. That film was highly personal, a tale of estranged family matters and the will to have to confront evil within your own bloodline.
Two years later, Alfie is on the move with her younger step-sister, Nara (Hadija Shahab) slumming it in flophouses and trying to outrun the nightmare visions of her encounter with the devil. She gets abducted by a group of teenage orphans, who don’t mean her harm, but feel that she is the only one who can help them defeat the demon spirit of their wicked former caretaker, Ayb (Tri Hariono) who they trapped and burned alive in the basement of their orphanage. He has mysteriously returned and ritually destroyed one of their flock, leaving the orphans desperate for help.
They have in their possession, a blasphemous book with ritualistic spells for summoning the demon, and it is their great hope that they can trap the spirit and banish him, but they need someone who’s been there and done that… and that’s Alfie. The group gathers in the basement and begins the ritual, but they find themselves overwhelmed and wholly unprepared for how to properly do battle. Let that be a lesson to you who would be interested in summoning a demonic spirit. You’d better have a containment plan with proven powers.
They were guessing. The book, was written in runes, and the book smart one in their group, Martha (Karina Salim) felt certain of what the book was telling them, but it appears to have been a trap. The spirit takes advantage of the group, possessing the weaker willed orphans and turning them into ghouls against their foster siblings. To make matters worse, one of them is evidently working against them, undoing any plans they had to succeed, as the devil comes to destroy the whole lot of them.
This sequel reminds me a lot of A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors, which is arguably the best sequel of that esteemed franchise. It told the story of the victims of a demon trying to fight back, and after initial confidence and courage, the demon proves to be too much. The bloody destruction of their crew blows up all their best plans. What? You didn’t have a contingency plan?
Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.Mike Tyson
This is, of course, part of the fun. There are some big surprises, and legitimately powerful jump scares in this film. Tjajanto has stated that this franchise borrows heavily from The Evil Dead, and it shows. The manic and slathering ghouls are cut from pure Raimi cloth, and they are hugely effective. The film also embraces the pace and flow of the Evil Dead films, keeping up a whirlwind of action and Tjajanto pulls no punches when it comes to inflicting these unfortunate orphans with some vicious violence.
The film was well shot, and used some classic Raimi-esque scenes, particularly with a flying circular saw-blade POV trajectory. The plot isn’t overly complicated, and for a foreign language horror film, you never have to struggle with the story. Some Indonesian idiosyncrasies show up, like the way the younger children will refer to the older children as Auntie or Uncle.
The acting, as you might expect from a film filled with tween actors is a bit of a mixed bag. Some of the characters are rather arch, and a bit one-note, but for the most part the characters come off endearing and earnest. The lovely Widika Sidmore, who plays the enigmatic Gadis is the highlight character of the show, although the actress looks considerably older than her peers. Her pivotal role grows throughout the film, becoming the center of the story, and she really owns the part.
Interestingly, this was not the only Indonesian Horror film to be featured at Nightstream, and by happenchance, they both took place in an orphanage. The Queen of Black Magic (2020) was also one of the best films in the big 38 feature roster of films streaming at the combined festival event. Following on the heels of the excellent and scary Satan’s Slaves (2017), the festival circuit is providing a launching pad for great Indonesion genre films.
The International debut for May the Devil Take You Too (a.k.a. May the Devil Take You: Chapter 2) was at the Nightstream Festival, a combination of five of the best genre film festivals who collaborated this year in order to have a COVID 19 way of showing audiences lots of new independent horror films from around the world. This film would have a hard R rating, for violence and gore, but would probably be suitable for horror hardened teenagers. It is legitimately scary at times, and will certainly make an Indonesian Horror fan out of you if you weren’t already on board.