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Saturday, July 25, 2020

Review: Impetigore

Director: Joko Anwar
Screenplay: Joko Anwar
Year: 2020

The number of countries that are seeking to have a space in the horror cinema map is ever-increasing, and Indonesia has not missed out on the opportunity. “Impetigore” found a house in Shudder that guarantees the visibility it deserves and that many horror fans will appreciate. 

"Impetigore" (original title “Perempuan Tanah Jahanam”), from director Joko Anwar (“Satan’s Slave”), starts when a strange man stalks Maya (Tara Basro; “Gundala”) while working. This man reveals information about her family right before attacking her and trying to kill her. Maya survives the attack, but the info sparks a curiosity to know about her past, taking her to the village where her parents lived. There she finds more secrets about her past that what she could have imagined. 

Alongside Maya, her best friend, Dini (Marissa Anita; “Folklore”), accompanies her to the remote village. The great work from both actresses and their chemistry never makes you doubt about the friendship that both characters share. Once in the village, both women are faced with several dangerous situations that give another dimension to their roles, which both can handle convincingly, and quickly gain the audience’s empathy. 

The plot of “Impetigore” seeks to mix various horror subgenres, which ends up being both a quality and a weakness. On one part, the supernatural component is elevated, that is its principal attraction, but on the other, it makes it difficult to focus and organizing the ideas that are presented. As a result, it takes a while to get into the plot and understand how the different parts interlock with the main story. A better focus and more refined ideas would have benefitted its cohesiveness and reduced its 106 minutes runtime, as well as improved the rhythm. 

Although it needed some refinement and focus, the story of “Impetigore” is excellent and intriguing. At the same time, the director accompanies it with a tense atmosphere that benefits it, but sometimes it ends in a cheap jump scare. While Maya keeps discovering more about the village and her past, the plots become increasingly more exciting, and every reveal is unexpected and gives a new layer to the problem. The horror element is always present, either as supernatural as in gore, body horror, and even some folk horror. 

“Impetigore” is not the new great revelation of Asian horror cinema, but undoubtfully puts Indonesia on the map. Its exciting story and great acting make it crawl under the viewer’s skin and leave it with some frightening moments. The long runtime and a fast-paced foreign language (for non-natives) can be intimidating, but “Impetigore” deserves the chance, but without expecting it to be a horror cinema gem.

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