Sunday, September 24, 2023

Roh (1989)

... aka: Spirit

Directed by:
Susilo SWD

It's been awhile since I've seen HELLRAISER (1987), but this movie really brought back fond memories of it... It's a nearly scene-for-scene remake / rip-off, sans credit to the original filmmakers, naturally! All of the primary characters (Julia, Larry, Kirsty, Frank, etc.) have been duplicated, only renamed, and most of the same things that occur in the original film occur here in roughly the same order. Of course, being an Indonesian film, they didn't have near the budget or talent of the famous 80s hit, which is evident just a few minutes in. Most of this takes place inside one home and the sets are ridiculously simple and sparse. It's almost surreal how blank everything is here, as if this all takes place in some kind of rainbow void instead of planet Earth, though that strangely also gives this its own unique vibe.

Instead of the famous puzzle box, Satanist "Lucky" Lukito (Hengky Tornando - BLACK MAGIC ANNIHILATION) has acquired a special little Halloween-bargain-rack-lookin' metal sphere with a smiley face on it (!) to make contact with the underworld. However, the device ends up sucking him straight to hell, where he's tortured with hooks that shoot out of a rotating column and rip all of his flesh off. Lukito had been practicing the black arts in the rat-infested attic of his wealthy, oblivious brother Bramasto's (Pong Hardjatmo) mansion and, while staying there, also carrying on a passionate affair with Bram's dissatisfied wife, Astria (Enny Beatrice - VIRGINS FROM HELL).

After Bram slices his hand while cutting up chicken, he dribbles blood on the attic floor. The floor sucks it up, starts smoking and then we get a copy of the gory regeneration scene from Hellraiser, only this time using some very poorly executed stop motion animation to achieve the effect. Though Lukito can now speak and technically has a functioning body, he's weak, skinless and in a partial skeletal state. Only fresh blood can both sustain his life and help fully restore his body, and that's where Astria comes in. She loves Lukito, not her husband, and is willing to do whatever it takes to help her lover.

While her husband's at work, Astria starts dressing up sexy, hitting local bars and aquariums and picking up men. She brings them home, lures them into the attic and then hits them over the head with a hammer. Lukito then feasts on the blood and, with each new victim, starts becoming more and more human-like. Eventually he just needs a new skin suit to complete the look. Bram's college-aged daughter, Nadia (Sally Marcellina - THE WITCH'S DAUGHTER), is distrustful of Astria to the point where she refuses to even live in the same home as her, despite her father's wishes. She's also plagued by nightmares on her stepmother trying to kill them.

After stumbling upon Astria and Lukito murdering another of the their victims, Nadia gets her hands on the sphere and runs off. She's involved in a car accident and ends up in the hospital, where the sphere is accidentally activated. The wall cracks open, she steps inside and encounters most of the same, though slightly altered, demons / "cenobites" as seen in the original. There's a fat one, there's the one with the huge ring through its face that shoots fire out of its mouth and there's a female one, who always wear sunglasses because she has no eyes and appears to be the leader of the demons. Conspicuously absent though is the most famous of them all, Pinhead, though that would have perhaps made things a bit too obvious for comfort, or it may have been a make-up job beyond the talents of the fx crew. Also no Chatterer.

Clearly this is no match for the original film, and it's not even good as far as remakes are concerned (there are zero improvements to the first and it adds nothing new or novel to the original concept), but it's made somewhat palatable by the speedy pacing, large amount of make-up effects and, as you can probably tell from the screen caps, the extremely colorful visual presentation.

While Suzzanna is by far the most famous horror movie star from Indonesia, she wasn't the only actress in the game at the time and there were a number of others who rivaled her credit-wise. Beatrice and Marcellina were just two of them, but for some reason these actresses (Yurike Prastika, Farida Pasha, Rina Hasyim and Joice Erna were some others) are all but ignored nowadays. Drawing a comparison, we could say Suzzanna was a Jamie Lee Curtis type in that she got all of the fame and leads in the higher budgeted productions of the day, while the others were more comparable to the American B-movie "Scream Queens" that flourished around this same time. Tornando (sometimes spelled "Tarnando") also has quite a few genre credits under his belt.

The cast includes Agyl Syahriar in a useless role as Nadia's supportive boyfriend Djoni (to be fair this same role was equally useless in the original Hellraiser), Simon P.S. as one of the victims and Belkiez Rachman as Lukito's teacher (who may be Satan himself).

Though this was never officially released outside of its home country, it's now available online with several different sets of fan made English subtitles. The first set is a Google translate of the original audio, which skips over large portions of the dialogue, and the second was whipped up by a Clive Barker fan who didn't seem to follow the original audio much at all and decided to swap the original character names out for those from Hellraiser! The available print is also poorly formatted in what appears to be a faux widescreen attempt which frequently leaves the tops, bottoms and sides of people's heads cut off. Still, considering many 70s and 80s Indonesian genre films are in such terrible shape they're damn near impossible to watch, this at least looks OK-ish.

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