“Ratu Ilmu Hitam (Queen of Black Magic)”

4 STARS

Buried secrets and supernatural revenge have the run of the house (or in this case, an orphanage) in “Ratu Ilmu Hitam (Queen of Black Magic),” a loose remake of the 1981 Indonesian horror film of the same name. Directed by Kimo Stamboel and written by Joko Anwar, this duo’s sick and twisted minds make for one hell of a gory, brutal, and terrifying cinematic ride.

Childhood friends Anton (Tanta Ginting), Hanif (Ario Bayu), and Jefri (Miller Khan) take their families on a journey to the rural orphanage where they were raised as children. The director of their former home is terminally ill, and they want to pay respect to their original father figure. A few miles before his arrival, Hanif accidentally hits and kills a deer — a fitting omen for what lies ahead. Once sequestered in the orphanage with the other visitors, strange incidents begin happening. Things turn sinister as the dark history and buried secrets from their past are revealed.

The story takes time to set up, but the sweeping creepiness factor quickly pays off. There are themes of revenge, coming to terms with past sins, and battling evil demons within that give the story a bit of sophistication. The film is stylish and skillfully directed, beautifully shot with near-virtuoso framing that builds the most effective type of nerve-racking suspense. Horror and suspense fans know it well: this is the type of movie that never allows your heartbeat to settle down.

The bloodthirsty third act is what most viewers will be waiting for, and it rises to the gory occasion. The horror effects are slightly cheesy, but they’re still fun, gross, and disgusting. This is not a movie for the squeamish, and especially not for people who are afraid of insects.

“Ratu Ilmu Hitam (Queen of Black Magic)” doesn’t shy away from dark elements in the story, and some of the subject matter could prove upsetting to many people. But if you’re an open-minded fan of horror, this is an impressive achievement in the genre.

By: Louisa Moore

This film was screened at Fantastic Fest 2020

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