Sunday, April 17, 2022

Hukum Karma (1982)

... aka: Karma Punishment
... aka: Karmic Law

Directed by:
Jimmy Atmaja

Striking out with the ladies, Bramono (Hendra Cipta) goes to see powerful black magician Jubah Hitam (Ucok Harahap). The wizard gives him a special ring that he cannot take off, which enables him to become irresistible to members of the opposite sex. He first sets his sights on virginal village girl Darti (Sri Gudhi Sintara). After he promises her the world and eventual marriage, the two start a sexual relationship and Darti becomes pregnant. Bramono then decides to end the relationship in none-too-subtle fashion, which includes flaunting his lovers right in her face, berating her, slapping her, pushing her down, punching her in the face (!), hitting her in the stomach with a car door (!!) and throwing her from a moving vehicle (!!!) Because Asian women in black magic horror movies cannot possibly suffer enough, Darti also loses her mother after she vomits blood all over her and, in a coup de grace, dies giving birth to Bramono's child in a graveyard. However, she manages to recite a curse and vows that her death will be avenged. After this twelve-minute-long opening, we finally get to the title screen, which is spelled out in afterbirth.

Many years later, Darti and Bramono's daughter, Fitri (the very beautiful Marisa Haque), has been raised to adulthood by her loving granny (Wolly Sutinah). After receiving adequate martial arts training, Fitri relocates to Jakarta to attend school. There she meets mini-afro'd rich kid Roy (Irwan Palengcahu) and decides to date him despite the fact he doesn't lift a finger to help her when a couple of thugs attempt to kidnap her at knife point. Not that she needs his help anyway, as she's able to easily kick their asses all on her own. Still, putting in a little effort wouldn't have hurt! Roy takes Fitri back to his mansion home to meet his mother (Mieke Wijaya), but she turns out to be a complete moron who doesn't understand that Fitri is way out of her son's league by just about every metric aside for the whole being born into wealth part. She even attempts to pay her off to make her go away!

Roy takes Fitri to the Graffiti nightclub, where we get to see a groove band, choreographed disco dancing, a female snake dancer (who sucks on the snake's head) and a disappearing act performed by GIANT Jheri curled magician cum police officer Tony DeVota (Eddy S. Jonathan). Unbeknownst to Fitri, but Bramono is also now living in Jakarta and running a crime / prostitution ring out of the same club. Once he spots Fitri and tries to use black magic against her, he starts shaking and his magic ring starts bleeding and crushing his finger.

Bramono returns to Jubah Hitam so he can get the ring off. It's tossed in a teacup and starts bleeding some more. Jubah Hitam then slices his own stomach open. A glowing intestine lamprey (?) shoots out, sucks some blood from Bramono's chest and spits it into the cup, which starts smoking. He then recites a chant, the cup spins and glows and a little green ghost shoots out of it. I'm not exactly sure what all of this is doing but I guess it's cool. Bramono then repays the black magician for his help by attempting to beat him up and stealing his powerful beetle talisman, which, among its many other uses, can heal wounds. Before Bramono can turn his magic against him, Jubah Hitam vanishes, but he'll be back.

Fitri and Tony attempt to infiltrate Bramono's club but are cornered by his goons outside. A martial arts fight with boards, chains and axes ensues, which ends with Tony dead and Fitri in the hospital. Once she recovers, she meets up with Jubah Hitam, who teaches her his magic. Through meditation and going through rituals like having a dead chicken drip blood on her head, she's learns to levitate, disappear and reappear at will, scale mountains in a matter of seconds and withstand being stabbed. After the wizard finishes with his round of teachings, his head explodes! Our heroine is now ready to get revenge.

While this eventually proves to be worthwhile schlock, there are a few problems one must first be willing to forgive, starting with the fact this is front loaded with melodrama and takes a little while to get going. The second major issue is with the various fight scenes. Even though there's always something rewarding about watching a woman beat the tar out of a bunch of bad guys, that doesn't change the fact that this kind of thing was being done so much better in other Asian countries at the same time. While Haque tries her best and can do decent high kicks, the stunt ability and fluidity just isn't there, and she's let down by the subpar fight choreography, staging, camerawork and editing, which could have all helped improve the action scenes if they'd been done with more care.

After the slow set-up, this thankfully does become pretty good in the second half. Fitri first pays a visit to her almost mother-in-law and causes her to have a heart attack by staring at her with her green glowing eyes. And then it's off to do battle with Bramono's thugs, which she dispatches one by one. The real pay-off though is the long fight between father and daughter at the very end. It features all kinds of insane stuff, including lots of lasers, glass shattering, getting kicked down a hillside, riding a glowing rock through the air like a surfboard, flipping, flying, climbing up tall trees, decapitation, a head sprouting from a neck stump, a tree being transformed into a woman and Bramono being attacked by the lamprey thing, which pops out of his stomach, eats his foot and then disembowels him!

There were a couple of poor quality VCD releases for this one in Asia, but it's never been released elsewhere and is currently not available in an English version. I also was unable to find any theatrical poster. The director also co-wrote and was assistant director on Mystics in Bali (1981), easily one of the most famous 80s horror films from Indonesia.

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