Saturday, August 16, 2008


As I mentioned previously in the HELL'S GROUND review, foreign films can often be fascinating by translating domestic classics into a different cultural sensibility. Even when a movie's especially derivative of stateside terrors, seeing well-worn genre tropes in new contexts makes them simultaneously intriguing, amusing, and accessible. Curiously, various portions of the world rip off American horror films differently; while Italian horrors are notorious for slavishly copying popular trends, India, Turkey, and other Eastern countries are just as guilty. It's just that their versions have an energy, verve, and a unique sense of audacious ridiculousness that makes them infinitely rewatchable.

Well, most of them, anyway. Director Sisworo Gautama Putra's 1982 film SATAN'S SLAVE is an Indonesian take-off of PHANTASM, and though it's interesting to see Don Coscarelli's film retold against a Muslim backdrop (though, to be honest, if you're looking for the equivalent of the Tall Man or dwarfs or silver spheres, you won't find them here), the movie as a whole is lacking.

SLAVE plays very much like a conventional Western ghost story, focusing on hauntings and demonic possessions until late in the film, when the living dead arise. The family at the story's center has recently lost their mother, and in their grief have turned their backs on religion, thus allowing the evil spirits to take hold; while it's interesting to see how Islamic beliefs dictate the story, it's more of a plot device to get the ball rolling.

SATAN'S SLAVE comes close to reproducing PHANTASM's vaguely dream-like atmosphere, helped by a trippy Tangerine Dream-styled score, but it loses its momentum fairly soon and boredom quickly settles in. Aside from a goofy-looking "Satan" in a dream sequence, it's pretty slow going until the zombies show up (and even then it's kinda dull, even if the undead inexplicably hiss like Sleestaks).

If you really want to check out the wild delights Indonesian horror has to offer, try MYSTICS IN BALI or VIRGINS IN HELL instead.

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