Ratings Key

= Excellent. The best the genre has to offer.
1/2 = Very Good. Perhaps not "perfect," but undoubtedly a must-see.
★★★ = Good. Accomplishes what it sets out to do and does it well.
★★1/2 = Fair. Clearly flawed and nothing spectacular, but competently made. OK entertainment.
★★ = Mediocre. Either highly uneven or by-the-numbers and uninspired.
1/2 = Bad. Very little to recommend.
= Very Bad. An absolute chore to sit through.
NO STARS! = Abysmal. Unwatchable dreck that isn't even bad-movie amusing.
SBIG = So Bad It's Good. Technically awful movies with massive entertainment value.

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Bayi ajaib (1982)

... aka: Baby Magic
... aka: Baby Wonder
... aka: Magic Baby, The
... aka: Miracle Baby

Directed by:
Tindra Rengat

Rumors of gold at the foot of a waterfall lead rivals Kosim (Muni Cader) and Dorman (W.D. Mochtar) to fish through the waters. The already-wealthy Kosim is the first to strike, finding a handful of gold nuggets. Angry, Dorman returns home where he retrieves a crinkly old map that will supposedly lead to the remains of his Portuguese ancestor Alberto Dominique. Dorman follows the map to the X, starts digging and uncovers Alberto's buried tombstone. He then reconstructs the grave to appease the spirit in hopes that it will bring him good fortune. Soon after, Kosim's very pregnant wife Sumi (Rina Hasyim) is walking through the woods after a visit with backwoods female shaman Casima (Wolly Sutinah). After being scared by a bat hanging in a tree and a random Dalmatian (!) she falls on top of Alberto's grave. It starts smoking, the ground gives way and Sumi falls into an underground, cobweb-filled cavern. Unable to climb back out, she starts exploring around and finds herself in a tomb. Torches light themselves, crystals start glowing green and red and then a stone lid levitates off a coffin. Alberto's skeleton comes walking out, goes up to Sumi, places its hands over her stomach, rubs around and then does a ballet-style leap off-screen!

When his wife doesn't return from her appointment, Kosim organizes a search party in the middle of a storm but they find nothing. That's because Sumi has already levitated out of the cave and walked back home in a trance. By the time Kosim finds her, she's in hysterics and her pregnancy has reversed. I'm not meaning it's reversed as in she's no longer pregnant, but that her actual pregnant belly is now on her back! Casima and an elderly nursemaid manage to push the belly back around to the front just in time for her to give birth. The baby comes out looking nothing at all like a baby, but instead some lump of bloody, pulsating flesh. The nurse tries to dispose of it outside, but there's a lunar eclipse, the baby sheds the cocoon and then jumps up and bites the woman's throat. Kosim finds the nurse's body and follows a trail of blood from his home through the woods where he finds his now normal-looking baby on top of Alberto's grave.

We then jump ahead a number of years. Kosim and Sumi have raised the boy, Dede, normally but the child turns out to be anything but. Using his supernatural abilities, Dede causes havoc and injuries to street performers just for a laugh. During a birthday circumcision ceremony (!!) he dulls the scalpel so the procedure cannot be performed. He makes a man wreck his motorcycle then causes a neighborhood bully to lose a (literal) pissing contest before having a carriage run over him. When a man shows up to warn Kosim of what his son truly is, the boy uses lightning to impale him with a falling tree limb and wind to create a whirlpool to drown him. Religious music causes the boy to freak out and he slaps his dad in the face and runs off after he attempts to drag him into a temple. Sometimes Dede's head detaches and sometimes he takes on the ugly appearance of the bald-domed Alberto with a white beard, bushy eyebrows and massive forehead.

As all of the evil kid shit is going down, Kosim is using his wealth to try to bribe his way into a position as village leader. Dorman (yeah, he's still around) also wants to be the village leader. That briefly reignites their bitter rivalry, but it's all for naught as another guy ends up winning. After relating a flashback showing Alberto being executed after ordering a quartering by horses, Casima gets held down by zombie hands that emerge from the ground while Dede's detached head chews her throat out. That's enough to finally push Kosim over the edge. Right as he attempts to bash the little brat's head in with a rock, a village elder (Husin Lubis) shows up with an alternate solution: An exorcism and some prayer. The happy (?) ending finds little Dede at another birthday celebration, where he's cheerful and all laughs as his foreskin is sliced off by the goofy guy with the scalpel (Bokir), who then rubs a glob of Vaseline on his wiener (!!!)

If any of the plot points sound familiar, that's because this is blatant rip-off of THE OMEN (1976) right down to the kid ominously riding around on a bicycle and trying to kill his mom when she becomes pregnant with a second child. It even poorly attempts to duplicate a number of the famous Omen series death scenes. Bits are also copied from IT'S ALIVE (1974), the first Omen sequel (including the presence of a raven during one of the murders), the 1981 slasher flick The Burning (the entire Rick Wakeman score has been pilfered) and God knows what else. But none of that means this isn't a lot of fun in its own right! The crazy moments are almost nonstop and it's fast-paced, tasteless, crude, surprising, genuinely bizarre and has enough uniquely Indonesian elements to at least somewhat distinguish it from all of the movies it's "borrowing" from. So, even though this is a shameless, technically inept rip-off at the end of the day, the entertainment value is still through the roof.

Unfortunately, this title has never been available in English but it's still worth watching for bad / weird movie aficionados and isn't difficult at all to follow even if you can't understand the dialogue. The original running time is almost always listed as 94 minutes but I was only able to find two different versions: one running 72 minutes and the other just 67 minutes. Seeing how the editing is absolutely terrible throughout both of the available versions, I'd say whoever distributed this on VHS / VCD are responsible for hacking the original film down. I'd hate to think the 72 minute cut is the full version!

Though completely unknown here in America, this is a somewhat popular cult item in Indonesia and was actually remade just this year (as Bayi Gaib) by prolific director Rizal Mantovani. A now 71-year-old Hasyim even returned to play a supporting role in it.


Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Pemburu Mayat (1972)

... aka: Corpse Hunter

Directed by:
Kurnaen Suhardiman

During a thunderstorm, a man buries a sheet-wrapped corpse, trolls a graveyard, watches a woman strip down to her bra and then sneaks inside her apartment and stabs her to death. The victim worked as a dancer at a nightclub and the cops are immediately on the case. Police Chief Kardi (Alam Surawidjaja) puts young Inspector Hanowan Dinas and female Inspector Zumani on the case. Dinas goes to interview the victim's coworkers and finds several shady suspects among them, including the portly owner and the angry boyfriend of the deceased. There's also someone suspicious who works at the nearby morgue: a constantly-scowling groundskeeper. An autopsy reveals that the victim was raped after she was killed. Since other corpses have recently been dug up in a cemetery and likewise sexually violated, the cops have a necrophiliac serial killer on their hands. As is usually the case, the culprit may or may not be the most obvious character.

The busy Susi (Nenny Triana) not only works days in an office but is also the hostess at the club at night. Her colleague Dano is scrawny, awkward and has a huge crush on her. Since he may also be the killer, that puts her in danger. At home, Dano is saddled with a smothering, whiny, emasculating mommy who helps him button up his own shirt, puts a napkin on him like a bib before dinner and even attempts to hand feed him. When he runs off, mother goes into his bedroom and jealously rips up his collection of nudie posters. Dano observes the goings-on outside the local morgue, which someone has already broken into once to rape a corpse. He then joins a funeral procession and asks questions about the deceased. Sure, this makes him look suspicious, but does it also make him the necro killer?

Concerned citizens start patrolling the graveyard on their own at night to keep the corpses from being dug up. The killer still manages to steal a body and drag it through the woods to an abandoned building. A street vendor who just happens to be right outside counting money hears noises, peeps in through a keyhole, sees the killer taking the death shroud off the body and then reports it to the police. Chief Kardi then comes up with a plan. He orders all of the policewomen on the force to line up and be evaluated to find the perfect decoy to help ensnare the killer.

In probably one of the most hilariously sexist scenes ever, the Chief examines the female police officer's bodies and passes on the ones with pooches, the ones who are too old and the ones who aren't that pretty as the camera goes up and down their bodies and then stops on the area that explains why they're being rejected. He finally settles on plain tomboy Ayta Mariarti (Titiek Puspa, who is apparently a famous Indonesian singer) because the body is at least good and she has potential. With help from Inspector Zumani, Ayta Mariarti cleans up very well with a sexy dress, makeup and big fake eyelashes. Then she's taught how to flirt, coached how to swivel her hips while she's walking (!) to entice the killer and given karate lessons.

Meanwhile, Susi is leaving karate practice at night when Dano approaches her. He tries to touch her ass and then makes a pass but she kindly rejects him. When her boyfriend sees them walking together, he responds by slapping her in the face. Later that night, the killer sneaks in through Susi's bedroom window with a knife but she's able to use her martial arts skills to toss him out the window. But will the psycho come after her again, or will he take the shined-up decoy bait and thus fall into the police's trap?

This is very similar to those police procedural gialli that were all the rage in Europe in the early 70s. Only this is cheaper and far less exploitative. The copy I watched (a VHS distributed by Citra Video) has very little violence, very little tasteless content, no gore, no nudity and all of the necro content is restrained and off-screen. There's a lot of humor but the mystery components are nothing you haven't seen 100 times before, with silly red herrings, constant just-the-legs-walking-around and just-show-them-from-behind shots to conceal the killer's identity and a few cheat scenes to try to throw you off track. The minute the killer is revealed the film ends on a freeze frame.

Surprisingly, many of the comedic elements actually are amusing and, while this is low budget, it's not completely horribly made. However, it is mediocre and forgettable. The only available print is in poor condition and it's not in English, so I doubt many are gonna want to dig this one back up again. And you won't be missing out on anything if you don't.

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