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Leaving their home in Jakarta, well-to-do dad Hanif (Ario Bayu), his wife Nadya (Hannah Al Rashid) and their three kids drive to the remote rural orphanage where Hanif grew up. At first, it’s all laughs and backseat bickering – until the car hits something. Having established that the collision was with a now dead deer, they drive off, only for the camera to reveal that the real victim was a child, now dead in a ditch. Up comes the title card, by which point viewers of this Indonesian horror will have some inkling that The Queen of Black Magic isn’t going to mess around.
After this unnerving first 10 minutes, there is a long expository lull as an unwieldy cast of characters is introduced. These include the two guys Hanif was best friends with back at the orphanage, their wives, enigmatic servants, two of the current teenage residents, and the dying old man who ran the place. Eventually, after a couple of creepy anecdotes about demons and madwomen locked in bedrooms, the action finally kicks in with a pretty unrelenting stream of horror. Possessions by unquiet spirits result in regurgitated caterpillars, millipedes in eye sockets, someone getting their mouth stapled shut, a woman with an eating disorder mutilating her body, and a bus full of corpses. Then it gets really nasty.
Director Kimo Stamboel deploys some clever visual effects and trick camera angles to heighten the gross-out factor – a twist reveals the agent of chaos isn’t just cruel but seeking justice for historical abuse. But ultimately it is all a bit repetitive, derivative (particularly of other Asian horror pics) and somewhat sleep-inducing.
• The Queen of Black Magic is available on Shudder from 29 January.
Source: The Guardian
Keyword: The Queen of Black Magic review – derivative gross-out horror | Film