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Satan’s Slaves film review: Indonesian horror hit goes from haunted house to zombie apocalypse

Indonesian director Joko Anwar’s horror remake is a slow-burning tale involving a family of four children and a demonic fertility cult that builds to a chaotic conclusion featuring a full-blown zombie apocalypse

PUBLISHED : Monday, 19 March, 2018, 7:01pm
UPDATED : Monday, 19 March, 2018, 7:01pm

3/5 stars

Joko Anwar’s Satan’s Slaves is a remake of the 1982 Indonesian film of the same name and recalls a host of Hollywood horror classics, including Rosemary’s Baby and Night of the Living Dead. A simple yet effective chiller, it centres on a family of four children who uncover a terrifying truth about their mother’s associations with a satanic cult.

An acclaimed singer in her youth, Marwina (Ayu Laksmi) is now bedridden by a debilitating illness that soon snatches her away from her daughter Rini (Tara Basro) and her three younger brothers. Even before her death, the children start experiencing strange phenomena in their home and the neighbouring cemetery. These only get worse as the seventh birthday of youngest child Ian approaches.

Anwar (creator of HBO Asia’s Halfworlds) confines much of the film’s action to the family home, playing up the sibling rivalries and inherent stresses of having many different generations living under one roof. Rini, at age 22, is particularly torn between her roles as mother to her younger siblings, carer to her sick mother, and potential lover to Hendra (Dimas Aditya), the new boy next door.

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As the film’s title might suggest, its supernatural threat stems from a demonic fertility cult, although they are intentionally left in the shadows for much of the film. The film also toys with a haunted house element, and as the third act inevitably spirals out of control, a full-blown zombie apocalypse adds to the family’s substantial woes.

A slow-burning tale that builds to a chaotic and somewhat muddled conclusion, Satan’s Slaves is bursting with ideas. It also confirms Anwar as one of the region’s best genre filmmakers.

Satan’s Slaves opens on March 22

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