Southeast Asian creepfests The Womb and The Devils’ Deception are two of the finest pregnancy horror films in recent memory, with unforgettable images and unsettling goings-on.
One of the most interesting things about foreign horror films to me is when religious, traditional, and superstitious beliefs that are unfamiliar, or at least less familiar, to traditional western ideas come into play, which not only further open viewers’ eyes to those elements, but also lend an added air of mystery to the cinematic proceedings. Two Southeast Asian films that fit that bill and also deal with pregnancy horror screened at this year’s Bucheon International Fantastic Film Festival: Indonesian shocker The Womb and Malaysian chiller The Devil’s Deception.
★★★★1/2 out of ★★★★★
Directed by Fajar Nugros
Supermarket employee Wulan (Naysila Mirdad) should have stayed off of Facebook, because that is where she met the jerk who got her pregnant and then blew her off, and it is also where she met the couple — Eva (Lydia Kandou) and Agus (Rukman Rosaid) — who offered to let the financially down-on-her-luck young woman stay with them until she gives birth to her baby, who they want to adopt.
Although pleased to be living in a splendid, spacious rural house, Wulan begins having mixed feelings, especially when she finds herself the subject of what the couple reassures her is just a traditional ritual to assure that both she and the baby are fine. Seasoned horror fans can guess that Wulan’s hunch is on the right track, and when the couple’s adult son Bergas (Dimas Anggara) returns home for an unexpected visit, things get even creepier for the young woman.
Fajar Nugros has 25 film and television credits to his name as a director, and this is his first horror film. Here’s hoping it won’t be his last, because this atmospheric, unsettling slice of fright fare — with a screenplay that serves as writer Deo Mahameru’s debut feature — instantly became a strong contender for my Top 10 Horror Films of 2022 list.
Filled with pregnancy paranoia, unnerving set pieces, occult oddness, and plenty of surprises, the superbly acted and beautifully shot (by Wendy Agah Wahyudi) The Womb (originally titled Inang, AKA Devil in the Womb; 2022) is one to watch for as it makes its way around the festival circuit.
The Devil’s Deception
★★★★ out of ★★★★★
Directed by Kabir Bhatia
The Devil’s Deception (Talbis Iblis; 2022) shares many thematic similarities with The Womb, but, naturally, brings a bevy of cultural differences rooted in the supernatural to its story. Hajar (Azira Shafinaz) is near the due date to have her baby, and she travels with her nogoodnik husband Arshad (Amir Nafis) to a remote house far from their native Kuala Lumpur so that she can give birth with the help of midwife Junaidah AKA Mak Ju (Nasha Aziz), who employs a groundskeeper named Nasir (Zul Arrifin).
Hajar suffers from nightmares, and things are only going to get more unpleasant for her as she finds out some painful secrets about her marriage and learns about a terrible curse that involves the property on which she is staying. Don’t let this familiar-sounding set-up fool you; The Devil’s Deception is rich with unexpected occurences.
Bhatia is also a seasoned director taking his first crack at a horror film, and he is quite successfuly in doing so. The result is a macabre, discomfiting film that looks terrific thanks to Nurhanisham Muhammad’s cinematography and that boasts top-notch performances.
Reviews by Joseph Perry
The Womb and The Devil’s Deception screen as part of South Korea’s hybrid Bucheon International Fantastic Film Festival, which takes place in Bucheon and online July 7–17, 2022. For more information, visit http://www.bifan.kr/eng/.