Joko Anwar’s latest horror follows Maya (Tara Basro) who, after surviving an attempt on her life, discovers she has a potential inheritance to gain in the form of a manor within an old village in rural Indonesia. She travels with her friend Dini (Marissa Anita) in the hopes of attaining some kind of wealth, but when they arrive it becomes apparent the village and manor are entwined in a dark history.
Impetigore begins with an incredibly unnerving cold opening, one which highlights Dini and Maya’s relationship, and more importantly includes that murder attempt. It’s a strong start, the possibility of Maya meeting a horrific end at the hands of this mysterious individual who seems to know everything about her, and the simplicity of the horror is executed so well that despite it only being the opening minutes, we’re hooked. So begins the narrative motif of isolation also, as well as possibly some strategic foreshadowing from Director Anwar.
In some regards, the film feels like a spiritual Silent Hill feature as much of the aesthetic of the iconic video-game genre is captured (however unintentionally). The village, despite being populated, is eerily desolate, with the villagers intensely aloof, clearly not overly keen on outsiders. There’s a beautifully unsettling atmosphere that comes from the isolation of an incredibly rural village, and the contrast between Maya’s unrewarding city life. The reoccurring ritualistic funeral parades within the grounds only further emphasise the other-worldly aesthetic that the village emits.
Much of what works about the atmosphere is how little there actually is – there’s an intentional all-too-quiet soundscape, presenting Maya and Dini’s very presence as invasive toward the community, The simplicity of the original score dominated by piano and strings, and sound design establish an unsettling tone which is constantly unnerving, leaving you on edge and even a little agitated.
Tara Basro gives a great performance as Maya, producing a believable descent from initial confusion to mania following the ordeal she is put through, on top of the visions that plague her character throughout the film. While the film is carried remarkably well by its attention to unique detail thereby enhancing the horror, Basro’s performances provides a level of humanity which is distinctly lacking within the community. We believe her desire for a better life, her friendship with Dini - the brief moments of comedy provide levity and builds on a solid foundation lending to the believability of their closeness - their sisterhood which links to the theme of family that runs the whole film.
Well, family and fate – specifically Maya’s. Without spoiling anything, much of the conflict revolves around familial history and how much responsibility one takes for the actions of a bloodline. Maya is forced to discover and ultimately confront the seemingly inhuman acts of her parents and grandparents within the village. Part of the way Anwar complexifies this question is directly disconnecting Maya from her family – she discusses her lack of a familial relationship, being raised by an aunt who rarely spoke of her parents. This links perfectly to the other key theme of fate. As Maya makes key choices throughout the film that cause her fate to be in a state of constant flux, and keeps her journey constantly refreshed and uncertain. It’s brilliant character development reflecting the narrative’s own progression.
In addition, there are some fantastic horrific visuals throughout, although one or two effects seemed slightly off-key, such as digitally rendered blood. However, for the most part, the horror hits and it is delightfully sinister. There were even some little metatextual references to other horror classics with a possible homage to the ending of The Texas Chain Saw Massacre as well as a few other hits people may be able to pick up on.
Impetigore releases on Shudder July 23rd.