I’m finally moving on from French films in my Fantasia Int’l Film Festival 2018 reviews! (you’re welcome, francophobics!) My first non-French film review is for the Indonesian film, Satan’s Slaves (Pengabdi Setan). It has something for everyone! Ghosts, creepy wells, cultists, auto accidents, and more! Let’s get into it, shall we?
Rini is the eldest of 4 siblings living in a relatively large house in the Indonesian countryside. Her father is apparently out of work and her mother is bedridden with an unspecified debilitating (and degenerative) disease and her grandmother (also living there) is ancient. Mom used to be a popular singer but her popularity and royalties have dried up. When mom succumbs to her disease and dies, strange and spooky things start happening around the house. Supernatural things. To make matters worse, dad took off (to find work?) and the family has no way of getting ahold of him. Rini seeks help from an imam’s son and from an expert on the occult. The increasingly nefarious incidents get worse and more frequent until it becomes clear that evil will prevail if they can’t find a way to stop it.
Satan’s Slaves is quite obviously an amalgam of many other modern horror films. Which is not necessarily bad in and of itself. It seems to have primarily been influenced by the most well-known “J-Horror” and the James Wan produced PG-13 horror films of the past 15 years or so. (mostly the Insidious and The Conjuring sequels/prequels). Again – not something that makes it bad per se. And I wouldn’t go so far as to call the film bad. It’s not. But (uh oh) it’s so middle – of – the – road that it can’t quite be called good either. It’s just that it’s so full of familiar scares and cribbed (bordering on contrived and/or trite) plot developments that it never earns the viewers’ full attention. I found myself checking the remaining time a few times while watching. I never became exasperated with the amount of time left though. Perhaps because the characters – with the exception of the father – were well fleshed out and compelling enough. And the story is an interesting one even though the subject has been thoroughly explored in superior films. And there are a couple of good scares in its over-long runtime. (over 100 minutes!) I guess I’m saying that it’s inoffensive enough to merit a casual viewing (perhaps while you’re ironing your handkerchiefs or whatever).
The Final Cut: Satan’s Slaves is a fine (just fine) supernatural / cult creeper that doesn’t offer much in the way of originality but its solid characters and tried – and – true central theme are enough keep it from being a total waste of time.