Tuesday, October 20, 2009

31 Days of Halloween - Day 20 - Movie

"Mystics in Bali" (1981) was a real chore to sit through. This was mostly due to the really inane dialogue present in this dubbed print of this Indonesian movie. The editing was also fairly sloppy and in terms of storytelling there seemed to be some unaccounted for jumps in time.

The story concerns a young, vapid, American woman who travels to Bali to learn about their form of black magic called leak (pronounced "leyak") so she can write a book about it. She's already researched voodoo. This woman is about as convincingly cast as a scholar of the occult as Denise Richardson was as a nuclear physicist in that James Bond movie. Her balinese boyfriend helps her get in touch with a Leak queen, essentially a witch hag with really long fingernails and a high pitched cackle that's pretty unsettling. This leak queen takes the young woman on as an apprentice, teaching her things like shape shifting, and then using her to grow younger by sending the writer's head and attached entrails out to bring back blood. Eventually her boyfriend, at the urging of his good magician uncle, realize that the writer and her master must be destroyed, leading to a a climactic battle full of unspecial effects and the most sudden ending in a movie that I've ever seen.

Characters appear suddenly without any explanation as to who they are. As I mentioned, there are large gaps in time. The writer has one shown lesson with her master and the next day (or seemingly so) announces to her boyfriend that she's now a leak master. In addition to the banal dialogue, the two leads are the most passive characters you could find in a movie. The special effects are incredibly crude, especially the energy effects, but the crudeness of the make-up effects actually makes them more disturbing, particularly in the scene where the writer and her master transform into snakes, and to a lesser degree when they transform into pigs. There's a nice bit where the writer starts vomiting up what looks like guacamole and live white mice, which both she and her boyfriend aren't concerned over. While the special effects for when the writer takes her Penanggalan form, with her vampire head and entrails flying off looking for victims, are really poor, there is a moment that outdoes the notorious severed head scene from "Re-Animator." Here the writer's head descends between the legs of a woman in labor and sucks out her unborn child. It's all implied, but is incredibly effective, as we watch the mother's pregnant abdomen wither away to nothing.

The movie does improve at about the two-thirds mark, but that does not make up for what you need to sit through to get there.

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