Prepared to be terrified. Indonesia can surely produce a film that will rival American greats like “The Conjuring” and “Insidious” with “Satan’s Slaves (Pengabdi Setan),” a tale of spirits, the occult, and more, which made its Canadian premiere at Montreal’s Fantasia International Film Festival.
Rini (Tara Basro; “Killers,” which was also presented at Fantasia back in 2014) lives with her parents and 3 younger brothers in a secluded home, away from the downtown life. Her mother (whose eeriness and context reminded me of Zelda from “Pet Sematary,” but a tad less creepy; nobody can be as creepy as Zelda from “Pet Sematary”) has been bound to her own bed for an extensively long time with a terrible, mysterious sickness. To manifest to her family members that she needs help, she rings a bell that rests beside her bed. Unfortunately, she succumbs to her illness and passes away. After her funeral, father needs to go work downtown for a little while to make some money; otherwise they will lose the house. Rina is then responsible to take care of her two youngest brothers along with her 16 year-old brother, Tony. Unluckily for them, that’s when mother’s bell begins ringing on its own and some extremely odd things begin to occur to every one of the 4 siblings. Something wants to harm them; something threatening and not of this world.
First of all, prepare to be blown away by an absolutely perfect cast. I absolutely fell in love with each actor and each character they portrayed. From appealing older siblings to adorable younger ones, the casting for this movie was unequivocally on point. Not one flaw in any of the performances; from main character to the smallest of roles. They’ll make you laugh; they’ll make you want to cuddle them; and most importantly, where many horror movies fail, they’ll make you care for them and their well-being.
Secondly, the creepy-level is definitely way up on the scale. With touches and influences of “Insidious” and “The Ring,” “Satan’s Slaves” has a serious grasp on the podium of one of the scariest films of 2018 (although it was officially released in 2017, but made its Canadian premiere this summer). Despite some scares being predictable from the camera angles being shot (and they are most likely meant to be predictable), some other scenes are quite impressive and unexpected. An aspect of horror films that always impresses me is when a film can creep me out visually, without relying solely on audio jump-scares with the sound cranked up. Although I wasn’t terrified out of my pants like some scenes from “The Conjuring” had provoked in me, there were definitely some memorable scenes (the cloth on the painting, being one of them).
The source of evil, without spoiling anything, did arise from a basis that tends to be used more and more often in the past few years. Despite this redundant detail, the rest of the plot is beautifully crafted together with some interesting twists and turns in the outcome of the film, like any good storyline.
You must find a way to watch “Satan’s Slaves” as soon as it is made possible. A remake of a 1980 film of the same name, “Pengabdi Setan” is an incredible ride of fear, shock, and edge-of-your-seat thrill that is sure to make you want more horror to slither its way out of Indonesia. It deserves a solid 4 stars out of 5.