Saturday, February 6, 2010

In short: Kuntilanak Beranak (2009)

A group of cute college students looking for a location to shoot their own indie film in enter a large, dilapidated house in the country. There, they find a video camera containing a tape that shows the misadventures of another group of cute college students.

The latter group was trying to make some sort of sensational report to get some unseen producers to give them money for something (don't you just love the precision of detail that has gone into the plot?). The best thing they could come up with was to try and find out what really happened to a disappeared dancer.

At first, the country population was less than helpful and/or ghosts, but a helpful, insultingly acted mute guy ooga booga-ed them in the direction of an old dilapidated house. With a surprising amount of reason, our heroes postponed the search of the house until the next day. That night, they had rather disturbing encounters with a female ghost obviously out to warn them off from disturbing her home.

With a surprising lack of reason, the students/filmmakers/whatever entered the house anyway, only to have more ghostly encounters and run around screaming a lot.

So, the children of Blair Witch Project have obviously made it into Indonesia. Kuntilanak Beranak is no full-grown POV horror film, though. A lot of the shots are supposed to come from the cameras everyone is dragging around (and somehow all got onto the single camera the first group of students find, but oh well), but director Ian Jackson doesn't seem to care much about sub-genre conventions and also randomly uses shots that aren't. He also seems to have a thing for cameras hanging at about ceiling level looking down at the characters for no discernible reason - it's certainly not looking as spooky as it is probably supposed to.

For its first thirty minutes or so, the movie makes a relatively positive impression. While it is very obvious how low the budget must have been, neither the pacing nor the acting are too embarrassing. Some of the early ghost appearances are even quite effective, especially the (common in Indonesian ghost movies, as it seems) scene in which one character finds her strangely zoned out mother sitting alone in the dark in the living room, only to turn around and find that her real mother is just coming down the stairs and she just talked to a ghost in disguise.

As soon as the characters enter the cursed house, the film loses any interest at building and maintaining a mood and turns into all shaky cam and screaming all the time. There are still one or two neat ideas to be found, like the ghost of a dancer possessing someone to dance creepily, but Jacobs isn't able to milk them enough to fill another forty minutes. Screeching only gets a movie that far.

Even so, I won't come down to hard on the film. Being too long, but having four or five creepy scenes isn't too bad a record for a film this cheap, and while I wasn't exactly enraptured during the film's second half, I also wasn't too bored.


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