Horrorfest 2021 Presents: Ratu Ilmu Hitam aka The Queen of Black Magic (1981, Liliek Sudjio)

Suzzanna gives a chilling, multi-layered and effective performance in The Queen of Black Magic, aka Ratu Ilmu Hitam, an early 1980s Indonesian horror movie that is quite gory and very entertaining. Murni was just an innocent woman accused of witchcraft by the local villagers. Wronged by a man who lied to her about marriage, and completely innocent, she is thrown off a cliff. Yet a local shaman rescues her, and trains her for revenge!

The locals already think Murni is a witch, and thus she decides to become one. Striking back at the villagers in so many different ways, she becomes a force of terror, a nightmare to the locals. One kill I particularly remember is her using a scarf to hang a man from a tree. Plus causing a man to tear his own head off, and have the head fly around, which is crazy and a tad freaky.

However a local holy man appears and throws a wrench into Murni’s master’s plans. Even though the finale is a bit too long and isn’t completely satisfying, I still really like this movie. The Queen of Black Magic is the second Indonesian horror movie I have seen, and both of them stand out in my mind really well. Sometimes it’s nice to venture out and watch a foreign horror movie, especially since many of them are often better than American or European ones.

Horrorfest 2019 Presents: Dark Water (2002, Hideo Nakata)

Due to having seen a lot of Italian, German, British, US and even French horror over the years I have sadly neglected Japanese horror, or J-Horror as fans love to call it. So I decided to view the well regarded Dark Water, of which the remake is only more well known since it is is American. I liked this movie, particularly because Dark Water is as much a moving drama as it is a really creepy movie where very creepy things happen. Some which are only explained later on, which ups the creep factor even higher. I loved the eerie shots of the apartment building, and I was reminded of how horror movies love to use empty hallways to freak out the viewer. Well Dark Water and The Sixth Sense are both great examples of utilizing space and dim lighting to scare the viewer, making them feel very uneasy. It helps that the ghost in this movie is that kind of foreign ghost that does not care if you believe in them or not. Disbelief never helps people in a ghost movie.

Hitomi Kuroki is fantastic in this movie as the struggling mother trying to keep custody of her daughter after a bitter divorce. She is both sympathetic and overwhelmed, dealing with issues no mother should have to go through. Although the movie also focuses on her daughter, I felt that the movie went through Kuroki and that she was the reason Dark Water is such a near great film, one that anchors the dramatic elements and makes us care even as we are nervously waiting to see what happens next. Oh and I rather liked the final act, which served more as a coda than an ending, just because it was a haunting of a different kind. Hideo Nakata decides that living can be a tragedy in itself, and that we may see ghosts of any kind no matter where we go. They haunt us, giving us a window into a past that we often do not remember, and they never go away very easily.

Corruption Appears In Many Forms

Takeshi Kitano’s “Violent Cop” from 1989 is at times rather brutal and takes a hard look at cops in Japan during this time period. Azuma is Dirty Harry without any restraints whatsoever, breaking procedure endless times, a cop without honor and any sort of boundaries. These actions result in consequences, ones that the film examines, reactions to events that result in a rather shocking moment that I did not expect. Although I find Sonatine (1993) to be slightly better, Violent Cop is rather unflinching and surprisingly bleak for a movie that was as successful in Japan as this one was. Heartily recommended to anyone who likes cop films and foreign cinema.

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