Theme: BUGS. Lots of them. Crawling all over and INSIDE and just AUGH. Basically Director Kimo Stamboel made sure THE QUEEN OF BLACK MAGIC was filled with every single thing that would make me squirm!
Childhood friends Hanif (Ario Bayu), Anton (Tanta Ginting), and Jefri (Miller Khan) bring their fams to the orphanage they all grew up in order to pay their respects to its dying Patriarch, Mr. Bandi. Hints at the trouble to come start almost immediately — Nif’s family brings up the fact that none of their cell phones work, and he runs over something on the way that he *thinks* is a deer.
When everyone arrives, caretakers Maman (Ade Firman Hakim) and his wife Siti (Sheila Dara Aisha) start acting very, very strange, and it’s only a matter of time before the Queen sends hordes of bugs and escalates each person’s fears into life-threatening acts they commit under her control. Once the blood, bugs, and bile get started, long-BURIED secrets are uncovered which are tied to the disappearance of a former teacher, Ms. Mirah, and a student named Murni.
As a whole, the film felt oddly paced, you could guess the revenge plot thread they tried to obfuscate pretty easily, and there were too many characters involved to devote enough time to them all. That said, I found the extremely uncomfortable torture and gore fascinating to watch. A mix of practical and CGI (with the practical parts working much better than the digital) F/X created several gross-out moments that just. kept. getting. worse.
Bringing it back to my opener: bugs under the skin and in the throat are a big NOPE from me, and having one of the characters’ self-harm by cutting off pieces of their flesh made me feel all kinds of revulsion – I think I said “No no no no nonononononononooooooooooo” about every 30 secods once the violence ramped up. One other thing I did enjoy was seeing stills of the gross-out gore from the original 1981 film of the same name that played through the end credits! It got added to my ‘to see’ list immediately.
Really, what I wanted most, was MORE of the fantastic “Queen.” Even though you see her in shadow several times throughout, she doesn’t make a full appearance until the very end, and she’s only on screen for about ten minutes. And listen, THOSE WERE THE BEST TEN MINUTES OF THE ENTIRE FILM. What an absolute joy to see a female villain fully embrace her role, with no mercy for anyone. She needed way more screen time, and I would 100% watch a sequel if she were the main focus.