May the Devil Take You (Sebelum iblis menjemput) (2018)
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Critic Reviews for May the Devil Take You (Sebelum iblis menjemput)
There's enough of a story to make all of the scary stuff mean something, which is a lot to say for a horror movie.
Tjahjanto has delivered a body count that's a mere fraction of The Night Comes For Us yet still manages plenty of blood-soaked, broken-limbed moments...
It's a clever twist on the usual haunted house scenario, although it might have been even more riveting if there was a bit of coherence and connection in there somewhere.
In the Evil Dead-style scenario that follows, Tjahjanto deftly flings all manner of witchcraft, voodoo and splatter just to see what will stick. The subtext may be shallow, but the blood runs deep, ensuring the viewer one hell of a crazy night.
Audience Reviews for May the Devil Take You (Sebelum iblis menjemput)
So, I think it's fair to say that I was looking forward to this movie. The reason for that being that its director, Timo Tjahjanto, directed the best pure action movie of the year, at least that I've seen, in The Night Comes For Us (also a Netflix 'original'). He also directed Killers, a film that I greatly enjoyed, and L is for Libido in the ABCs of Death, a messed up short if I ever saw one. He also directed Headshot, but I have not seen that movie, despite wanting to. Anyway, the point is, that much like Gareth Evans before him, I was curious about how a horror movie from Timo would look like. Though, to be fair, he also did direct Macabre in 2009, which is a horror movie, it's just one that I haven't seen. Turns out that this is my first exposure to what he can do in the horror genre. And, if I'm being honest, I do not know what to make of this movie. It's certainly a good movie, to be sure, but at the same time, it's also worse than I would have expected and/or wanted. I think it's also fair to mention the fact that the movie, quite obviously, wears its Sam Raimi and Evil Dead influences on its sleeves, even though it might not contain the same darkly comedic tone of of Raimi's trilogy. That's not to say that it doesn't manage to add its own unique twists to its haunted house setting, but the influences are very clear and, once again, just because it's influenced by it, it does not mean that it is a shameless rip-off. It bears repeating, but the movie does manage to stand out on its own. But there's also parts of the movie that I did not like. I suppose I should start off at the beginning, naturally. So, this young woman, along with her stepmom (if she can be called that), step-siblings and half-sister, go to her father's villa after he comes down with a mysterious illness. While at this villa, naturally, they uncover a terrible secret about him and the demons he wanted store in his closet, quite literally. Well, really, it's more the cellar, but the pun doesn't work as well as closet. I think the first thing that one notices about the movie, duh, is the visuals and I do find that the visual style is one of the strongest parts of the movie, particularly during the climactic act. There's something surreal about it, like it's happening in another dimension or the very representation of hell, even though it might not be as strong as it was in, say, Event Horizon. Basically, the Alfie's step-siblings end up releasing this demon/ghost/demon priestess that their father was trying to keep stored in the cellar. Alfie's father made a deal with the demon priestess, who serves as a concubine to the devil and therefore she has supernatural powers, made a deal with Alfie's father. In exchange of souls, he was given large amounts of wealth. But, when the demon priestess came to collect Alfie's soul, he refused and he killed the priestess and buried her in the dirt in the cellar. As a result, she's been trapped in there for years until the dumbfucks opened the cellar door, that was all locked up with paper talismans glued to the door. The first bit of the film, when the priestess takes possession of Alfie's stepmother is actually really fucking good. Because it's a lot more, I don't know, practical. I think that's the wrong word to use, because the demon priestess herself, when she's not possessing someone, has, mostly, practical make-up effects on. It's just that when she's possessing the stepmother, it's a lot more effective, given that the actress playing Laksmi, the stepmother, uses a lot more of her physicality, just crawling on all fours, jumping up and down, it's a lot more effectively creepy than the stuff with the actual demon priestess when she's not possessing anybody. The reason I say that is because the movie is a lot more jump scare happy as opposed to building proper horror around this character. I don't know, the demon priestess didn't really do much for me as a character. Again, I just think the philosophies in scares changes. The horror is a lot more bland and generic when it's the demon priestess herself. But, when she possesses people like Laksmi or Maya, it's a whole lot better. It's not that the make-up on the priestess looks cheap, but it just feels cheap. I really do not know how to explain it as properly as it all comes across in my mind. I guess the best way to illustrate it is to say that the possession bits feel more real as opposed to the obvious horror fakery, if that's even a word, of the non-possession bits. And it's a shame, because there's great potential in this movie and yet it manages to undercut that very potential by going back to stuff that doesn't really work as well. Part of me wonders why that was, because it seems obvious to me that parts of the movie don't work as well as the others, so why not cut out the stuff that don't work and enhance the stuff that does. It seems like a perfectly logical conclusion to come to in my mind. And there's also some cheap effects here as well, like Nara opens the closet doors and there's a painting of a portrait and the woman in this portrait then frowns a bit. The effect of the frowning is so bad. It's minor, but if you notice it then you can't unsee it. There's also other stuff, like figurine faces turning to demon faces after someone passes in front of them. A stuffed (like taxidermy) tiger's face changes through CG and, again, the effect is so bad that one even has to wonder why they even bothered. I don't get what the point is of having this painting frown, this figurine's face turn demonic or why the tiger's face changes. I guess it's meant to be something like the demon priestess' influence is everywhere or something. I don't know, all I know is that it looked bad. And another thing is the fact that the movie's narrative is barely coherent. I mean I know what I know because there's some scenes that made it perfectly clear what was happening, like the whole flashback to when the father refused to give the demon priestess Alfie's soul. But, really, everything other than that lacks cohesion. I don't wanna say it doesn't make sense, but the narrative doesn't do a good job at really investing you in it. Sometimes you don't know why things are happening and the film leaves you completely in the dark. Not because it builds up the mystery, but because they couldn't tell a story that was coherent and smooth to watch. Even with that, the bits that are good are still really fucking good. Like I said, if you take the actual demon priestess out of the equation, and you just focus on Lakmi and Maya's possessions, the film, honestly, really fucking shines. To the point where if the demon priestess had been entirely cut out, it would have been a vastly better movie. With her in it, however, the movie suffers from it tremendously. It's too generic, bland and jump scare-y to be truly effective horror. Everything else outside of that is great. The climactic act is great because, again, the visuals themselves are strong and the content of the film also delivers. But, like I said earlier, this is a movie that undercuts its own potential to service a character that ends up making it feel more like a cheap American horror movie as opposed to something that feels decidedly tied to Indonesian culture. I'd still say that, as a whole, this was a good horror movie, but it's one that also severely disappointed me given the pedigree of the people behind the scenes.
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