Review – Satan’s Slaves (1980) : Fantasia International Film Festival!

by Vincent Leblanc

My second film on Day 10 of the Fantasia International Film Festival was the midnight screening of the 1980 Indonesian supernatural/horror film Pengabdi Setan aka Satan’s Slaves. It was the International Premiere of the new 2K restoration presented by US distributor Severin Films. The screening was part of the festival’s Fantasia Retro series. 

The film was written by Naryono Prayitno, Sisworo Gautama Putra and Imam Tantowi, based on a story by Subagio S. and was directed by Sisworo Gautama Putra. It stars Ruth Pelupessi, Siska Widowati, W.D. Mochtar and Fachrul Rozy.

 

Read the following synopsis if you want to know more about “Satan’s Slaves” (copied from the Fantasia website):

“An Islamic burial, in sharp contrast with the wealthy — and secular — Indonesian family that mourns the buried matriarch. The following night, Tommy, the younger of her two children, is awoken by a ghost at his bedroom window. His sister Rita, on the other hand, seems to handle her mother’s death with a lot more levity, angering her father when she turns to partying instead of sulking grief. Furthermore, upon consulting an astrologer, Tommy becomes fascinated with Western images of the occult, prompted to work through the pain with the aid of a little harmless, fictional (?) black magic. But soon, strange phenomena seem to truly afflict the family: phone and doorbell pranks, falling photographs, and other telltale signs of the supernatural, coinciding with the tumultuous arrival of the new help…”

I was excited when I found out that the festival was going to present a special screening of Satan’s Slaves. During last year’s edition of the festival, they showed the remake of this film and I loved it. I highly recommend you seek it out. It’s on Shudder right now and goes by the same title. Well, since then, I had been meaning to find the original film but couldn’t by myself. It had only been available on our side of the world via rare VHS-quality transfers, often without English subtitles. 

Based on Indonesian cultural elements and practices I witnessed in the remake, I knew a little bit what to expect from this film. The story was interesting. Now, I’m not an expert in Indonesian cinema, but this movie was obviously made with a small budget. I’m sure, it most cases, that some sequences were not made to be funny but you can’t help but smile at some of the rudimentary tricks the filmmakers used (shaky zooms, strange framings, etc…). The acting is also not necessarily the film’s strongest suit but it doesn’t matter. I appreciated the effort of everyone involved, both in front and behind the camera.  

It’s a bizarre flick but I’m really happy to have had the opportunity to finally watch it. 

US distributor Severin Films will release the film on Blu-ray probably towards the end of the year. This restoration looked great. 

I am giving Satan’s Slaves a 3 out of 5 Hairpieces!

 

Here’s a trailer to show you what I’m talking about: 

#Fantasia2019 #FantasiaFest #SatansSlaves

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