Sunday, April 29, 2012

In short: Air Terjun Pengantin (2009)

Dedicated final girl Tiara (Tamara Bleszynski), plagued by flashback trauma concerning her car collision with a black cat and subsequently being trapped inside, invites her sister (I think) Mandy and a veritable horde of Mandy's young, pretty and totally non-descript friends out to a trip to a seemingly empty island not very well known as "the Bride Island". There's a tragic story about a black magician trying to steal a bride there, only killing her in the process, but these are modern times, so that's surely no reason to get nervous.
So, little does anyone expect the island not to be quite empty, but instead inhabited by a charming guy with an excellent mask who soon proceeds to slaughter the pretty hordes, drinking their blood to become invulnerable, per the recommendations of a hallucination (well, or a ghost, but since the guy's invulnerability will turn out to be quite limited, I'd bet on a hallucination). You know the rest.
I really could go two ways with this write-up. One possibility would be to bemoan the fate of Air Terjun Pengantin's director Rizal Mantovani, who started his career with the Kuntinalak trilogy, possibly the best films coming out of the great Indonesian horror boom of the second half of the Oughts, but has now come down so much in the movie life he has to helm Maxima productions with a (un)healthy emphasis on the non-softcore the Indonesian censorship allows, with much cavorting of pretty if surgically enhanced girls and boys in their underwear and swimwear while horrible music plays in the background.
However, and here's where the second and friendlier way to look at the film comes in, while it is undoubtedly true Air Terjun Pengantin can't compare with Mantovani's classier films, it actually does work quite well as what it is: a very low budgeted little slasher movie out to show nearly nude young people, some friendly yet effective gore, and to let its (clearly rather young and not oriented towards a traditional Indonesian life-style, whatever that may be) audience have a fun time with getting (sort of) scared. It may sound strange to some of you, but this sort of highly exploitative, commercially oriented horror cinema always feels very innocent to me, for instead of claiming any higher artistic goals, its proponents are never less than honest about the kind of transaction they are after: we give them our money, and they give us as much sexiness (in this case taking place in front of a landscape that's pretty pleasing to the eye, too) and blood as the censors allow (typically, Indonesian censors allow much more blood than sex, which makes the film's attempts at sleaze look even more innocent to eyes used to pink cinema and Italian sleaze like mine). It's nothing if not honest.
From time to time, Mantovani even has the opportunity to let some of his talent shine through. The latter parts of the movie - thankfully, this is a film that knows you gotta stop with the sleaze once the killing starts or lose any possibility of tension - still look cheap as hell, but also demonstrate a nice sense of pacing, and from time to time even give the director a moment or two to set up an elegantly framed shot (I'm especially thinking of Bleszynski tied to a tree in front of a waterfall, which is pretty brilliant in its horror paperback novel cover way).
The rest is routine, cheap, yet competent slashing with some small, yet appreciated, influences of Indonesian culture like the killer's mask and the motive for his violence. In this case, that turned out to be enough for me.

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