While vacationing in Indonesia, Kathy, an American girl, decides to author a book on obscure black magic customs and rituals. Making the logical assumption that the singular way to unlock their deepest secrets is to learn the dark arts themselves, she turns to her new boy-toy Mahendra for assistance. He informs her that the most powerful local sorcery is known as Leák magic, but warns "a Leák master can change his form at will into anything he wishes, like say an animal. Or a tree." Kathy shortly begins studying under an ancient female practitioner, but after several lessons her blood offerings are no longer payment enough. Needing the fluid to regenerate strength and regain youth, the haggard witch tricks her naïve apprentice into unknowingly performing her bidding - by having Kathy's head sever itself from her body and fly around, entrails a-hangin', to harvest more sanguinary sauce in the most nauseatingly unthinkable way possible! Mahendra, noticing a change in his girlfriend's behavior (yet not too alarmed by the sight of her vomiting up live mice), calls upon his uncle, a powerful mystic, for help, which sets the stage for an astonishingly berserk climactic showdown where someone willingly transforms into an enormous pig-beast. Yes, you read that correctly.
At one point in the film, a character says, "It's kinda weird, isn't it? It's really unbelievable." Truer words were never spoken. Heavily steeped in territorial lore and legends, MYSTICS IN BALI is a perfect antidote for those bored with more standard fare and is an ideal introduction to Indonesia's unique, wonderful and fantastic filmscape. Though technically unpolished, the outing makes up for its flaws with sheer audacity and outrageous exuberance. It's so unlike anything made by rational humans that it's nearly impossible to avoid its grip. Characters wander about purposelessly, and hardly seem to question the illogical situations that unfold. Time leaps forward in fits and spurts, yet no clue is ever thrown to the audience. Major players metamorphose into serpents, fireballs and the aforementioned porcine monstrosities, and then there's the "Penanggalan." Once seen, a floating, disembodied head with dripping internal organs is not easily forgotten, and the indelible image has become justifiably famous. Xenophobes beware, but those searching for the most off-kilter motion pictures on the planet will find multiple reasons to rejoice with this cinematic oddity.
Based on the novel "Leák Ngakak" by Putra Mada (try findin' that one at your grocery store), MYSTICS IN BALI actually had to be filmed on the island of Java because Bali locals were too superstitious to allow the movie's supposedly-authentic rituals to be performed there. A complete video obscurity until now, the only known legit issue was in Japan on Sony's Mount Light arm, which was actually a pretty decent release for the time (it was fully letterboxed and uncut, with the framing raised on the screen to accommodate the foreign subtitles). Thankfully, that impossible-to-find tape has now been trounced by Mondo Macabro's typically excellent efforts. Working from an original negative, this anamorphic 2.35:1 disc is probably the best this rarity will ever be able to look, with much-improved clarity and bolder colors than available before. Print damage is still evident and there's some mild grain in darker scenes, but reportedly the elements supplied by Rapi Films were borderline rotten, so the fact that MYSTICS survived for a DVD transfer at all is a minor miracle. A frugal production, these inherent flaws are more than acceptable, all things considered, and only the least forgiving will be bothered. Of course, if you're in that boat you don't deserve this film on DVD, anyway.
In a continuing effort to introduce and educate slightly bent film-fans to alien cultures, Mondo Macabro has essentially crafted a crash-course in Indonesian exploitation history with the supplements on this disc. Who needs books when you have DVDs like this one? First we're treated to a 23-minute documentary chronicling the heyday of Indonesian weirdness. Superbly put together, this featurette was originally broadcast on Britain's Channel Four as part of Mondo Macabro's well-received television series. Starring a veritable who's who of the country's jaw-dropping genre picture industry, it mixes interviews with star Barry Prima, members of Parkit and Rapi Films, various actresses, special FX creator El Badrun, etc. with clips from several must-see items like THE WARRIOR, THE DEVIL'S SWORD, BLACK MAGIC TERROR and more. Outlining the reason for their local horror boom and discussing all the main movers and shakers, this is an enlightening, engaging and highly entertaining watch. And if you're not drooling at the mouth for these outlandish titles once the piece is finished, you need to get your priorities straight. In case the TV episode leaves you with a few unanswered queries, we next have a pleasing text essay by Pete Tombs filling in any gaps. Mostly concentrating on MYSTICS and its director, H. Tjut Djalil (who later helmed the unbelievable LADY TERMINATOR and DANGEROUS SEDUCTRESS), it's a very informative and thoroughly illustrated read. Fans of the company's namesake tome will be thrilled. Also included is a complete filmography for Djalil. We lastly have lengthy and humorous instructions detailing the steps necessary to become a Leák. Perform at your own risk. (Just for the record, I absolutely LOVE the cover art to this release and easily rank it among my all-time favorites.) (Bruce Holecheck)
Wanna know more about the Penanggalan?
Check out this tribute site!
Plan your next island trip with
the Bali Guide!
(This site offers some hilariously helpful info, such as, "Prostitution is illegal in Bali. However, like in many countries, everyone turns a blind eye. Many girls can be found in nightclubs and bars in most areas. They look usually just like the girl next door, albeit with a bit more make up on, and they usually dress to please the eye. For the most part, they are gentle, easy to be with, and a lot of fun if you want to dance, drink and have a little fun with, beforehand. Most will be yours for the whole night for about 200,000 Rupiah although they CAN vary from 50,000 Rupiah to 500,000 Rupiah and more depending upon the time of night and the situation.")
To purchase this DVD, visit our
friends at Xploited Cinema!
BACK TO REVIEWS