Sunday, March 17, 2019

Dukun Ilmu Hitam (1981)

... aka: Black Magic Shaman
... aka: Black Magic Wizard

Directed by:
A. (Abdillah) Harris

In a small village, an evil shaman / black magician (Dadang Iskandar) occasionally turns into a hairy-faced, werewolf-like creature and is attacking local ladies. His equally evil wife Dewi (Ruth Pelupessi, who also played a similar role in THE SNAKE QUEEN) is a cave-dweller snake woman who sometimes appears as a scaly-faced human and sometimes appears as a python. The two have a baby daughter who's just hatched from her egg. Dewi would like her to have a sister so she goes to a home, kills the mother (in her snake form), injures the father (in her human form) and then steals their baby. With maggots burrowing in his face, the father manages to crawl to a teacher's (W.D. Mochtar) farm where, after a few blows to the stomach and head, he pukes up a bunch of bloody maggots and centipedes. He then puts in a dying request for the teacher to find / save his daughter and notes he'll know who she is because she has a unique black birthmark on her wrist. Still, she's won't be easy to find. Before transforming back into a snake, Dewi handed the two babies off to her husband to raise, which he does in complete seclusion.

Many years pass and the babies are now teenagers. Sari (Farida Pasha), birth daughter of the snake woman and shaman, has the same cheekbone facial scales as her mother and an angry temperament to match, while Maya (Dian Ariestya), the stolen human baby, has turned into a cute and sweet-natured young woman. The shaman treats the girls no differently though and teaches both all he knows about black magic. Soon, they're casting various spells, controlling a killer rubber-bat-on-a-wire pet, transforming into bats themselves, creating fireballs and learning how to fly. Sari is, of course, jealous of her sister's beauty and normalcy as a human, and the two don't get along very well.

While doing laundry, a piece of Maya's clothing washes down the river. When she goes to retrieve it, she meets Panji (Ray Sahetapy), a student of the same teacher Maya's father had spoken to before dying. The two start frequently meeting by the river to talk and eventually fall in love. Because Maya isn't ready to divulge much about her home life, Panji decides to secretly follow her there. Once he learns who she's living with, he reports it to the teacher. A meeting is arranged and Maya is informed all about her lineage and what became of her birth parents. That prompts her to abandon her evil family and start studying at the school. Meanwhile, the shaman is up to no good, especially after Dewi returns to the picture. Angry their daughter has left them, the two start transforming into their animal forms to kill villagers, which leads a torch-carrying mob to burn down their home. Temporarily defeated, Dewi slithers away at Sari's request while Sari and her father are driven back into a cave.

About a decade later, Panji and Maya have married and are raising a daughter named Ayu. All that time, Sari and the shaman have been sharpening up on their black magic skills. Wanting to get back at her sister, Sari sneaks into her niece's bedroom and force feeds her a baby snake. When Maya discovers what's happened, she unsuccessfully tries to pull the snake out but then must suck it out with her mouth and becomes possessed. In scenes clearly ripping off Cronenberg's RABID (1977), she runs around the village trying to seduce and feed off men using a snake that sometimes pops out of a bloody wound on her neck. The disappointing, unexciting finale is a black magic showdown featuring talismans, a magic dagger, fireballs, one of the characters continuing to fight after losing their head and the worst cheap-o laser fx I believe I've ever seen.

Either I've seen one too many of these things by now and the charm is starting to wear off or this is just a mediocre version of this type of film. Seeing how I doubt I'll ever really tire of things like witches turning into disco balls and fire-breathing decapitated heads, I'd say this just isn't all that good. It's a really low budget production, even by 80s Southeast Asia standards. As a result there's a lot of talk (including far too many bland romantic scenes between the two young leads), minimal action, flat lighting and photography, bland art direction and awful special effects. All that I could live with had this been crazy enough... or trashy enough... or imaginative enough... or energetic enough... or even unintentionally funny enough. However, it's none of those things. Most of the "best" stuff is relegated to the first ten minutes and finale. Jean Michel Jarre's "Oxygene Part 4" must have been insanely popular in Asia at the time as this is about the tenth film early 80s film I've see use it!

Like most pre-2000s Indonesian films, this was never released in English, which is automatically going to make it a no-go for most viewers who don't speak the language. The fact it isn't very good and you can find similar yet much better films elsewhere is likely to doom it to this fate.

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