Joko Anwar (director)
23 July 2020 (released)
It’s not exactly a novel approach but Impetigore’s mixing of genre tropes is tightly constructed and makes for an entertaining suspenseful experience.
Maya (Tara Basro) is working in a motorway toll boot talking and bantering with her friend and colleague Dini (Marissa Anita). It’s a dreary job at night and not perked up by a customer who is making a habit of going there and creeping her out. This time he asks a number of questions about her early life, parks and with a sword makes towards Maya whom he attacks slicing her leg. Luckily the women had the wherewithal to call security and the attacker is shot. In the hospital Maya recounts what the man said asking her about her home village of which Maya knows very little.
Stuck selling fake brands Maya and Dini decide to go the village to see if there is anything there after Maya has done some research that suggests there’s an inheritance waiting. At the bus terminus they have difficulty even getting the drivers to acknowledge the place exists eventually getting one to take them.
What they find is a miserable place bordering on destitution under a dark cloud. The family home is huge, empty and long ago abandoned to the elements. Not wishing to arouse suspicion they make up a story about researching the puppets and interviewing the puppet master Ki (Ario Bayu). Back at the house Maya starts to look around and finds some old photos, meanwhile they notice a funeral and then another the next day. They eventually meet with Ki who seems reasonable enough though clearly has something on his mind.
There’s a distinct otherworldliness about the film as Maya and Dini unravel what is going on in the village and Maya’s connection with it. Slowly unravelled taking the viewer with them it’s an uncomfortable journey through dark family history, black magic and ghosts. It maybe gets too expositional towards the end when the viewer is very likely to have worked things out and comes across a little heavy handed. Characterisation is shelved for the most part by writer and director Joko Anwar (Satan’s Slaves) as he concentrates on the narrative though there’s enough for the viewer to form an emotional bond and elicit a sympathetic response with Maya and Dini.
The two leads are very good with a nice line in banter bringing some relief from the gloom, which is oppressive at times. The hues are dark relying on shadow and very little light for effect though maybe they went too far as details and more subtle elements are lost. The horror is in the story itself more pensive than physical so is not overly violent though has its moments.
Impetigore is available now on Shudder.