This delightfully creepy Indonesian horror has real drama and depth. Beneath the surface of the familiar setting (a group of people gather in a remote location, no working telephone) is the weight of historical crimes and injustice.

Nif, Jefri, and Anton are returning to the orphanage where they grew up, families in tow, to pay respects to the man who helped raise them, Mr Bandi. Bandi is bedridden, and the health of the orphanage seems to match his. It’s sparse, its few occupants tense, and before long there are bumps, body horror, and enough creepy crawlies to keep Ant and Dec happy.

The way in which the building’s history is fearfully whispered about mirrors the events of its past. Silence then, silence now. Woven into the fabric of the orphanage is multifaceted anger, of victims and people who failed to protect them. What starts as a typically nihilistic haunting story, with seemingly innocent people tortured with insects and forced self-mutilation, becomes a scene of generational outrage.

Director Kimo Stamboel is just as adept at shooting family dynamics as gruesome horror. Much of the film’s first half is people talking over tables, in cars, in foreboding hallways. Joko Anwar’s tight script builds its world tastefully, teasing the terror to come while crafting the closeness between all those involved. Genre films can sidestep emotional investment to get right to the bloodshed, but that’s not true here. Ario Bayu’s Nif is a loving father, a problem-solver, and an assertive communicator. His wife Nadya, played by Hannah Al Rashid, is a capable pair of hands, and everything feels okay when she’s around.

It’s because of the attention the film gives to its characters that makes everything feel as if it actually matters. With The Queen of Black Magic, Shudder adds another layered and frightening film to its impressive arsenal.


Available to watch on: Shudder (from 28th Jan)


CAST: Ario Bayu, Hannah Al Rashid, Adhisty Zara, Ari Irham, Muzakki Ramdhan

DIRECTOR: Kimo Stamboel

WRITER: Joko Anwar

SYNOPSIS: A reunion at an orphanage awakens memories and atrocities covered up decades ago, and something is determined to put things right.