Saturday, September 17, 2022

Susuk (1989)

... aka: Charm Needles
... aka: Magic Implants
... aka: Susuk (Ilmu Pemikat)

Directed by:
Imam Putra Piliang

Film Indonesia gives the English translation of this title as "Magic Implants" but a far more accurate translation (also one used by most other websites) would be "Charm Needles." According to the National Library of Medicine, susuk are "metallic pins usually made of silver, gold or its alloys, measuring about 5-10 mm in length and 0.5 mm in diameter." The article continues, "It is claimed that susuk makes its wearers more beautiful, keeps them young, improves health, relieves pain and even help them attain an affluent career. A shaman would slowly rub the skin and gently insert the pins while doing some chanting. The procedure is painless with minimal or no bleeding and the pins remain in the soft tissues without causing any visible scarring or altered sensations." Susuk became a topic in various western medical journals when mystified doctors and dentists started spotting these pins in the X-rays of numerous patients who had emigrated from southeast Asia, particularly from Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore. When questioned about them, many patients refused to reveal what the pins were or what they were doing embedded in their flesh. That's because it's all supposed to be a secret between the recipient and the shaman who inserted them. Revealing any details about them is said to completely eliminate the charm's power.

Sounds like a potentially fascinating foundation for a movie, right? Sure... just not in the hands of this particular director. Instead of utilizing these magical pins in any kind of novel or interesting way, instead we get a tired, cliché-ridden, trashy soap opera about two warring factions of black magic practitioners.

In one corner, we have young businessman Permana (Baron Hermanto); a generally nice young fella happily and faithfully married to the devoutly religious Tania (Yana Achbarie). In the other corner we have actor Johny Indo (didn't catch the character name so we'll just refer to him as "Johny" from here on out), an evil man with appears to have mob connections and also Permana's primary competition at work. Johny is sleeping with the equally devious Nancy (Debbie Cynthia Dewi), who works as Permana's secretary but has aspirations to become a pop star and is first seen "performing" (lip syncing) Whitney Houston's "I Wanna Dance with Somebody" at a sleazy nightclub. In order to get a leg up on his co-workers, Permana has been going to shaman Ada Tamu (Mashud Pandji Anom) to get the pin treatment. Next thing he knows, he's the most successful (and wealthy) employee at his company.

Johny (who's both jealous and suspicious about Permana's sudden success) and Nancy (who's actually secretly lusting after Permana) go to the same shaman for help. Unlike most of the black magicians in these things, who tend to be dark, mysterious and live in caves or huts littered with human bones, smoldering cauldrons and various talismans and trinkets, this one is a goofball who lives in an apartment with his name on the front door and decorates the walls with posters of half-naked magazine centerfolds. He's also comically horny and gets random boners (accompanied by "funny" sound effects) whenever young females show up looking for help. 

Ada Tamu makes his lady visitors strip, gropes them and slaps them on the behind. When Nancy and Johny show up, he stares at her legs and cleavage the entire time, kicks Johny out of the room and then sticks pins in Nancy's chin and ass after making her strip down to her underwear and bend over. To increase her seductive powers, Nancy returns to Ada Tamu a second time and he makes her lie on her back spread eagle as he sticks pins directly into her vag. The process works and she's successfully able to seduce Permana and make him fall in love with her. She then starts fleecing him of his money.

Tania finds out she's pregnant, but the fact her once-loving husband is now starting to come back from work late every night, refuses to talk to her, refuses to have sex with her and is spending all of this time with his secretary makes it a little difficult for her to celebrate. While she goes to her trusted friend (Tien Kadaryono) for advice, Permana and his girl Friday are love montaging it up at a lake, a water park, a pool and the nightclub, where Nancy treats us to a "performance" of Houston's "The Greatest Love of All" while unsuccessfully trying to hide her closed mouth with the microphone. As he falls deeper into the spell, Permana then starts becoming verbally and physically abusive toward Tania and threatens to leave her. The confused housewife eventually turns to a cleric for help.

There's some kung fu fighting, a car chase, lizard eating, puking, a brief possession, an even-briefer wizard battle and a zombie (just a man with a bloody face), but nothing really seems to perk up this slow-moving, talky and uninteresting film. It's poorly acted, written and directed and so low budget they couldn't even afford any special effects or gore. The primary focus is more on the "sexy" soft-core elements, but they're too awkward and reserved to achieve the desired effect. The 78-minute VCD version I viewed strangely seems to have removed most of the nudity, but not all of it. Most of the time Dewi (who is best known for playing the younger Leák Queen in Mystics in Bali) goes to remove her bra, the film suddenly cuts away. However, in other scenes she's seen getting out of bed naked and is topless during a sex scene, so why they bothered cutting the rest of it out is anyone's guess.

The director also made the genre films Perjanjian Setan / "Contract with Satan" (1983) and Akibat Guna-guna Istri Muda / "A Young Wife's Witchcraft" (1988). Neither of those, nor this one, were ever released outside of Indonesia to my knowledge.


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