Review by Sean Boelman
Indonesian horror really is something else, especially when compared with the sensibilities typically associated with the American form of the genre. The Queen of Black Magic is a legitimately and surprisingly disturbing film made so effective by the unorthodox way in which it earns its scares.
The movie follows a group of people reuniting to pay their respects to the man who ran the orphanage in which they were raised as their homecoming is cut short when a series of horrifying supernatural occurrences begin to plague them. It’s a simple setup, but writer Joko Anwar knows how to create an effectively spine-tingling situation.
Part of what makes this film feel so different from most horror movies is that it is absolutely relentless. American horror largely deals in the tension between the scary moments, but Anwar’s script hits the ground running and never lets up. The ending is perhaps a bit too much too quickly, but the rest of the film is adequately terrifying.
As is the case with much of the genre, the message here is definitely very obvious. In the final act, the villain basically has a monologue spelling out the moral of the story, and while it is undeniably well-intentioned, the attempts to tie this age-old fable to the modern day don’t always succeed.
Perhaps the biggest issue with this movie is that, at a certain point, the characters begin to become indistinguishable from each other. The cast does a great job of freaking out and acting scared out of their minds, but they aren’t given much to work with in an emotional sense. The roles often feel like shallow caricatures.
The thing that is missing from the script is more of an investment in the family dynamic between the characters. A majority of the best moments of the film take place at points throughout the movie in which the characters are split apart, but there definitely could have spared to be some more memorable parts with the characters all together.
On a technical level, the film is definitely very impressive. Apart from a few shots in the final act that are dependent on less than stellar CGI, the visuals are very good. The use of gore in the movie is definitely very liberal in certain scenes, but it doesn’t ever feel like it is excessive or unnecessary.
The Queen of Black Magic is a legitimately scary and disturbing horror movie, something it feels like doesn’t come nearly enough these days. Genre fans will definitely be excited to see the gnarliness of what goes down.
The Queen of Black Magic is now streaming on Shudder.