Saturday, April 23, 2022

Telaga Angker (1984)

... aka: Lake Eerie
... aka: Telaga Maut (Lake of Death)

Directed by:
Sisworo Gautama Putra

In less then one minute, and before the opening credits even begin, we get not one, but two, distinctively Asian ghost sightings. The first is the leyak (sometimes spelled leák), which is also called a krasue or a penanggalan or a palasik or an orp or an arb or a manananggal or a number of other names depending on which part of Asian we're talking about. While the names may be different, the ghost itself - a flying woman's head (or skull) with attached entrails - is essentially the same. The second is the sundelbolong, which is the ghost of a scorned woman, often (but not always) a former prostitute, who's usually been murdered or has died during childbirth. This ghost is pale, has sunken-in eyes, is dressed in a long, flowing white gown and has a secret (a giant hole on her back) that's hidden behind her long black hair. Iconic Asian horror star Suzzanna is the headliner here, which should automatically be putting this on your radar. The Queen of Indonesian Horror had already played the sundelbolong at least once before in, you guessed it, SUNDELBOLONG (1981), and here she is at it again. Even the opening credits want you to recall her famous previous role in that hit film, with her before-the-title star credit announcing "Suzzanna Sebagai Sundelbolong Dalam ("Suzzanna as Sundelbolong in...").

Well, Suzanna's character isn't really Sundelbolong here. It's Anita and she's a wealthy, very pregnant housewife who lives in a remote mansion with her loving husband Robby (George Rudy), monster magazine reading young son Sandy (Sandy Taroreh) and sister-in-law Lenny (Nina Anwar). Everything's going well until the family go to a park to hang out and Robby comes across some hooligans; one of whom "accidentally" bumps into him and snatches his wallet. Robby chases the man down, beats him up during a fight and is given his wallet back. However, some of the other thugs have already taken all of his cash out of it, so Robby does what no one else on the face of the Earth would do in his same situation: He angrily throws his wallet back in the guy's face and then walks off! Hey man, replacing your driver's license and the rest of your cards will probably cost you more money than what you just lost. Plus you just gave some low life criminals your home address!

Soon after, and while only the ladies are home, the thugs break in. Not wanting any trouble, Anita gives them a key to their safe and instructs them to take all of the cash they have and then leave, but the men aren't satisfied with just that and decide to gang rape Lenny while they're at it. Anita attempts to break it up by smashing a chair over one of the guy's backs but is forced to flee when they come after her. She locks herself in an upstairs bedroom, ties a sheet to the balcony, climbs down, makes it to her car and takes off. The men stab Lenny to death, then jump in their vehicles and catch up with Anita. After forcing her off the main road, they push her car into a lake. A very deep lake. This sequence is actually very well done and surprisingly haunting as there's an eerie synth score to accompany the sight of the car slowly sinking and turning as it approaches the bottom and the panicked Anita drowning.

While Lenny's body is discovered when the rest of the family returns home and is laid to rest, Anita's never is. Because of that, the thugs try to extort ransom money out of Robby by claiming they're holding her hostage. So, it goes without saying that everyone's surprised when Anita miraculously returns home one evening. However, she's not quite the same. She's despondent, monotone, a little cold and has a slight echo to her voice, plus her visit turns out to be short-lived. It's just her ghostly way of saying her final goodbyes to everyone. After both the dad and son (whose constant whining and crying wears out its welcome real quick) experience ghostly phenomena (a photo of Anita cries, heavy breathing is heard, a disembodied living head is seen in a toilet...), Anita vanishes yet again.

Determined to get to the bottom of things, Robby ducks into a discotheque (yes, we get some great dancing to flashing colorful lights, plus a fantastically cheesy disco song to boot!) and spots a woman who's a dead ringer for his late wife. She claims her name is Suzanna but she's actually just Anita in sundelbolong form out to raise a little hell. Instead of the mature homemaker she used to be, "Suzanna" is a bubbly airhead with pushed-up cleavage who wears a lot of pink clothes, pink boas, pink hair bows and giant pink flowers in her hair. She kills a young couple screwing in the woods, buys a vendor's entire stock of rice cakes and scarfs it all down and then steals the man's baby, breastfeeds it (!) and leaves it on her former husband's porch.

Meanwhile, Robby attempts to track down the killers, starting with the people who had stolen his wallet. After trailing one of the men to a massage parlor (which has posters for Suzzanna movies on the walls!), he chases the man to some loading docks and ends up getting himself killed. Anita / Suzanna then finally decides to track these goons down and kill them all off. She just waits too damn long as two of the main bad guys manage to kidnap her son first. Anita's uber-religious brother Wijaya (Rukman Herman) comes to help.

After an almost entirely serious first 40 minutes, the middle portion is filled with comedic scenes that completely mess up the tone. Most of these feature Dorman Borisman performing music in a three piece amateur band that includes a fat shirtless guy playing a tambourine. He also attempts to feel the ghost up and reaches his hand all the way through her back hole. Indonesian comedian Bokir is also featured in a few comedic bits as some kind of incompetent / phony spiritualist or exorcist.

Despite the tonal issues, this is pretty fun overall and it certainly helps a lot that Suzzanna seems to be having a ball playing what amounts to three different roles (mother, bimbo and ghost). She gets shot and run over, turns her head around backwards, flies, cackles, snarls, glares, insults people, smokes cigars, rides a tandem bike all by herself, wears HUGE white and black gowns that look like circus tents, shoots lasers out of her eyes to blow up a boat, throws a guy from a tree top until his brains are popping out of his head, impales a guy with a sharpened bamboo pole and, during the most memorable bit, drives a huge bulldozer (!) and uses it to lift a guy off the ground and then smash him! She also appears as a green ghost with a skull face and laser eyes and the leyak / krasue makes a welcome second appearance.

Like Sundelbolong, this was a big box office hit in Indonesia and was the fourth highest grossing film of its year. It's never been released outside of Asia and has yet to be available in an English friendly version. The only home video releases I could find were old VCDs. Someone out there needs to save the entire Suzzanna collection so she can become the worldwide cult star she deserves to be!

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