Color, 1980, 95 mins. 49 secs.
Directed by Sisworo Gautama Putra
Starring W.D. Mochtar, Siska Widowati, Fachrul Rozy, I.M. Damsyik, Ruth Pelupessy, Diana Suarkom, Simon Cader
Severin Films (Blu-ray) (R0 HD/NTSC) / WS (2.35:1) (16:9), Brentwood (DVD) (US R0 NTSC)

Though Satan's SlaveIndonesian cinema has Satan's Slaveproduced more than its share of mind-twisting action and fantasy films over the years, its horror output has been more sparse with most of its contributions coming after the Japanese horror renaissance. We've had a few wild oddities though like Lady Terminator and Mystics in Bali, though if you want to see what a full-blown gothic horror film from Indonesia looks like, just feast your eyes on Satan's Slave. Released in 1980 and loosely remade in 2017 as Satan's Slaves, it's a fast-paced fright feast that flings enough black magic, ghost, and zombie elements around every few minutes to keep you on your toes.

Following the death of matriarch Mawarti (Suarkom), the family of Munarto (Mochtar) and his children, Tomi (Rozy) and Rita (Widowati), is plagued by uncanny events including glimpses of the dead woman's spirit. The arrival of new housekeeper Darminah (Pelupessy) is a harbinger of even worse things to come, with Rita's boyfriend, Herman (Cader), advising that they take up mystical defenses to guard against growing forces of evil in their midst. Disco dancing, much screaming, mystical rituals, an earthquake, evil confetti, a homicidal chandelier, levitations, and other assorted mayhem quickly follow.

Satan's SlaveFrequently compared to a handful of horror films from the previous year (mostly Phantasm and, thanks to one scene in particular, Salem's Lot), Satan's Slave isn't as derivative as most descriptions make it sound and offers a unique spin on the formula of an average family being assaulted Satan's Slaveby escalating supernatural forces. Basically a fun ooga-booga haunted house scarefest with an interesting Muslim spin at the end (playing the same role Christianity does in Hammer's Dracula films), it also makes for good party viewing with a series of nutty assaults by the living dead in its various guises. It's unlikely too many viewers will find it all that terrifying in the traditional sense, but that hardly matters with this much going on.

First released on English-friendly DVD in 2008 from BCI/Eclipse as an "Eastern Horrors" double feature with Corpse Master, alas plagued by some annoying occasional pixellation apparently inherent in the original master. Fortunately it fares much, much better in its 2020 incarnation from Severin Films as standalone Blu-ray and DVD options. The new scan from the camera negative is a beauty and shockingly immaculate for a vintage Indonesian genre film; prepare to be very pleasantly surprised. The DTS-HD MA 2.0 mono audio is also in solid shape (given the basic Satan's Slavenature of how it was originally mixed) and features optional English subtitles. In "Satan's Box Office" (9m8s), producer and Rapi Films President Gope T. Samtani chats about his entry in the film business in the early '70s, the success of horror films at the box office with an emphasis on plots culled Satan's Slavefrom local legends, concepts like "the head gets cut off and comes back again," the importing of American talent for some titles, and a bunch of crazy-looking titles you'll wish were available on Blu-ray immediately. Then in "Indonesian Atmosphere" (8m11), screenwriter Imam Tantowi touches on his personal aversion to horror films, the theatrical market around 1980, the development of the story at Rapi (originally entitled If She Comes), the story behind the house location, and the local beliefs that helped underpin the narrative. Joko Anwar, director of the remake, turns up for a Skype interview, "Satan's Slave Obsession" (9m47s), discusses his love of horror from the '70s and '80s, his fascination with urban legends, the prevalence of jungle settings at the time, and the filmmakers who had the biggest impact on him. Finally you get two of Anwar's short films, "Jenny" (11m7s) and "Don't Blink" (1m2s), both of which are fun little bite-sized spookers (though the latter is really a grisly little commercial).

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Reviewed on June 23, 2020