Sun, 25 Nov 2001

'Jelangkung' a guilty pleasure

Joko E.H. Anwar, Contributor, Jakarta

When American movie director Sam Raimi made his breakthrough in 1982 with Evil Dead, critics and audiences alike raved about his ability to create an extremely entertaining horror film on a shoestring budget.

Nobody seemed to care that he stole bits and pieces from numerous other horror films, because Evil Dead was very inventive at the same time.

With bigger budgets, the director proved his talents with such memorable movies as The Gift and hopes are high for his upcoming film Spider-Man. Meanwhile, his debut movie still serves as an inspiration for aspiring filmmakers around the world.

Indonesian horror movie Jelangkung, which has been playing to full houses at the Studio 21 theater in Pondok Indah Mall, is not as impressive as Evil Dead, but it is arguably as entertaining.

With most Indonesian filmmakers today seemingly trying to satisfy their own egos by making arthouse films, it is refreshing to see a movie that was actually made with the enjoyment of the audience in mind.

Made with tongue firmly in cheek, Jelangkung offers almost two hours of enjoyable viewing. The movie never takes itself too seriously, so even though there are numerous holes in the plot, the audience is willing to forget about them and go along for the ride.

Jelangkung will remind you of numerous films that it seems to be trying to imitate. The story about three students investigating the legend about a ghost in a small village will quickly remind you of The Blair Witch Project.

However, while that 1999 indie hit was able to frighten audiences with unseen terror, Jelangkung succeeds in creating scary ghostly images.

The story begins with the three students investigating buildings in the city that are reportedly haunted. After failing to find anything, they decide to go to a village where, sometime in the 1940s, villagers killed a five year-old boy in a gruesome ceremony.

Why did they kill the boy? Who was he? Who knows.

According to legend, the ghost of the child haunts the area. And this time the legend turns out to be true and the three students summon his spirit.

Technically, the movie is clearly a debut effort. Shot on digital video, the camera never stops dollying, giving it the look of one of co-director Mantovani's music videos. The two directors also make ample use of cheesy digital effects.

And the acting in the film ranges from good to hilariously bad. However, in the fine tradition of popcorn films, Jelangkung succeeds in making the audience scream at key moments.

Some people may object to the less than satisfying quality of the picture, since even in the theater the movie is played directly from a video projector, rather than being transferred to film.

However, the less than sharp images actually help create an atmosphere of fear.

The movie is clearly more appealing to younger audiences, which it seems to be targeting. They will be less critical of the movie's shortcomings as long as it gives them a few good scares.

As for adults, the movie can be seen as enjoyable, mindless entertainment. A truly sinful pleasure.

Jelangkung **1/2 (out of ****); Horror, 102 minutes; Starring Winky Wiryawan, Melanie Ariyanto, Rony Dozer, Harry Pantja; Directed by Jose Purnomo and Rizal Mantovani; A Rexinema Presentation; In Bahasa Indonesia.