Monday, August 30, 2010

Perjanjian Di Malam Keramat (Indonesia, 1991)

Sisworo Gautama Putra and Suzzanna, the director and star, respectively, of Nyi Blorong, continue their long and successful association with Perjanjian Di Malam Keramat. This time out they’re not drawing upon Indonesian folklore for their story, but instead paying homage to the Nightmare on Elm Street movies, a series whose pervasive international influence can also be seen in the Ramsay Brothers’ Hindi scare-fest Mahakaal.

The beloved Indonesian horror queen here plays Kartika, a woman who is murdered, along with her entire family, by a gang of thugs hired by a crooked business associate of her husband. The spirit of a bulky murderer with a familiar looking, blade-festooned glove then happens along and possesses her body. As the Indonesians seem to prefer their ghosts –- or, at least, the ones played by Suzzanna –- a bit on the randy side, we soon see the freshly spookified Kartika foil an attempted exorcism by luring the holy man sent to do the job into her web by means of a ridiculous looking pair of prosthetic breasts. This bit depressed me a little, because, although Suzzanna is clearly north of forty here, she is still an undeniably beautiful woman, and is undeserving of such indignities. Doubtless, the producers here were anxious to insure that a proper boob-to-screen-minute ratio was maintained, as they also bring in Virgins From Hell’s Yenni Farida to parade around in an impressive array of hooker wear.

Anyway, while the fact that Kartika’s body has been inhabited by the soul of a Freddy Kreuger-like killer certainly has some effect on her modus operandi, the agenda remains hers. And so, for the remainder of the film, we get a reenactment of Freddie’s greatest hits, reeled out as a claw-gloved Suzzanna goes about the business of getting revenge against those who murdered her family. It’s the fourth Nightmare film –- containing some of the weirdest kills in the series –- that seems to have provided the lion's share of the inspiration here, and so we get riffs on the famous “roach motel” scene, the victims’ heads as garnish on a pizza (though this time it’s in a yummy meatball soup), and the Freddy as Jaws bit. None of these are slavish recreations, however, thanks in part to the yawning gap between the technical means of the makers of Perjanjian Di Malam Keramat and those of the Nightmare films. In other words, those -- like myself -- smitten with the endearingly handcrafted nature of the scare effects in old Indonesian horrors won’t be disappointed.

Interestingly, Perjanjian Di Malam Keramat doesn’t seem too invested in the original Nightmare films’ notion of Freddy murdering his victims in their dreams. Many of the surreal kill sequences appear to be occurring during their subject’s waking hours, and eventually reveal themselves to have been ineffective in real world terms, as the "victims" all show up present and in one piece for the final act. Perhaps Kartika’s goal is simply to torment her prey by subjecting them to repeated, nightmarish visions of their own gory deaths? And you’re right: English subtitles definitely would have been helpful.

Suffice it to say that Perjanjian Di Malam Keramat is not quite the class act that Nyi Blorong was –- keeping in mind that, given that Nyi Blorong is a film that traffics in baby eating and snake/human miscegenation, we’re talking about “class” in only the most preciously relative terms. In fact, the later film is every bit as trashy as you might expect such an opportunistic cash-in on a pre-existing property to be. Every scare moment is oversold by a cheesy synthesizer score, and Suzzanna’s acting style, so admirably restrained in Nyi Blorong, is all bug eyes and bellowing. In the spirit of the original Nightmare films, she also takes part in a good share of ghoulish clowning around. Kartika, like Freddy, has a fondness for kissing off her victims with a macabre bon mot, though, again, without subs, I couldn’t tell you whether they were LOL-worthy or not.

And YES, of course I’m going to tell you that Perjanjian Di Malam Keramat is deliriously entertaining despite all of its shortcomings. Its heroine (Elly Ermawaty) is a devout woman who first attempts to defeat Kartika through Muslim prayer. Fortunately, when that fails, she has some bone-shattering martial arts skills to fall back upon. So, in other words, this is a remake of Nightmare on Elm Street that ends with two women having a protracted, dizzily acrobatic kung fu battle. Color me sold. Hollywood may have taken a dozen or more stabs at telling Freddy Krueger’s story, but I’ll be damned if Indonesia didn’t get it right the first time.


houseinrlyeh aka Denis said...

I think a lot of Hollywood horror movies could do with a climactic kung fu fight.
Just imagine how much better The Sixth Sense would have been with Bruce Willis trashed by a little kid.

Todd said...

Hell, yes: "Surprise number one, you're a ghost. Surprise number two, I'm kicking your ass."

Lew said...

Terrific! Can't wait to see this, subtitles or not. Thanks for the review.

Argariski said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Arga said...

Like a nightmare of elm street element