Color, 2009, 114 mins. 41 secs.
Directed by Joko Anwar
Starring Fachry Albar, Marsha Timothy, Ario Bayu, Tio Pakusadewo
Severin Films (Blu-ray) (US R0 HD) / WS (1.85:1) (16:9)
Originally released as Pintu Terlarang, the modern Indonesian horror film The Forbidden Door is an earlier and very peculiar genre effort from Joko Anwar, a disciple of the local masters who's best known now for the solid semi-remake Satan's Slaves and the fun Impetigore. His third feature here takes a page from the Álex de la Iglesia school with its off-kilter, genre-twisting story and stylized animated credits, with a twisty story that seems to have a major shift in direction every ten minutes or so.
Professional artist Gambir (Albar, star of the great "Safe Haven" segment from V/H/S 2) makes a pretty good living in Jakarta with his controversial cast art pieces with a particular affinity for pregnancy, and he seems to have an average home life with his wife, Talyda (The Raid 2's Timothy). Of course he goes around saying things like "I must be the luckiest guy on earth," so it's just a matter of time before everything goes straight to hell. In a confessional booth he's told to beware anyone who tells him not to open a secret door, and of course a little home redecorating reveals a rust-colored door with a big padlock against a wall. Talyda tells him it's just a nondescript room, but things keep getting weirder as he tunes into a hidden surveillance feed featuring a spooky young boy who seems to be leaving hand-scrawled messages asking for help. At first he goes along and hangs a gigantic painting over the door, but as he learns that there's an entire underground surveillance network going on involving a building called Herosase, he becomes more paranoid that anyone or everyone he knows might be hiding a terrible secret.
Though it does it within the horror genre, The Forbidden Door feels a bit tricky to pin down for much of its running time given the constant nudges that something is very, very amiss, even if the exact circumstances aren't made clear until late in the running time. Viewers seem to have divisive reactions to the twists that unfurl in the last ten minutes (including a kicker buried in the closing credits that adds another reading to the story), but the story does play fair even if the very indulgent running time of almost two hours feels like a tad much. However, the main reason to watch the film is the clear centerpiece of the story that hits at the 90-minute mark, an outrageous blood-spraying tour de force that could almost be a sick little short film all on its own. Even if you don't feel like you're clicking with the film all the way at first, be sure to stick around to see what happens when the other shoe drops.
The 2021 Blu-ray of this film is touted as the North American premiere in that format, though there doesn't seem to be another legit Blu-ray release anywhere else in the world unless there was a very covert one in Indonesia. In any case, the film looks great here given that it was shot on film and given a very stylized color scheme that starts off very flat and beige before filling up with more contrast and color as things get weirder. By the end it's full of eye-popping reds all over the place, so don't worry, it looks like the appearance is intentional. The DTS-HD MA Indonesian 2.0 stereo audio sounds good throughout for a fairly unassuming mix, apart from a deliberately amped-up music score; optional English subtitles are provided of course. Anwar appears for both an audio commentary and a video interview, "Opening the Door" (17m29s), which combined go quite in depth into the film's importance in his career, the source novel, the childhood experience that made him consider it a personal project, the casting process, his own film education watching supplemental features on DVDs, and the very disturbing reason the Indonesian censors wanted him to remove one sequence. Also included is a batch of deleted and extended scenes (2m34s, 1m28s, 2m45s, 4m42s) with optional commentary by the director explaining why they hit the cutting room floor; none of them are essential and mainly expand on the couple's domestic life, which is interesting to see but would have bloated the running time beyond absurdity. A making-of featurette (22m2s) is an enjoyable peek behind the scenes with lots of production footage and interviews with the cast and crew on the set, followed by some raw Herosase footage (7m5s) with a very Videodrome vibe and a quick 1m poster and stills gallery. Also included are two trailers, the first of which constitutes one gigantic spoiler-- so don't watch it before the movie!
Reviewed on November 25, 2021.