Review: Tusuk Jelangkung (2003)

Directed by:
Cast: , ,

Not available in Australia on DVD (to our knowledge)

I have, on occasion, had the moral dilemma of whether I should review a movie in light of its cultural context or whether to discuss it as it stands on its own. Admittedly, this tends to happen after a pretty ordinary movie, so I try to justify it in any context whatsoever. If nothing else, it tends to lessen the bitter, bitter bile that tends to build up.

And if you haven’t guessed, yes, this was a mental exercise I did after Tusuk Jelangkung because the film was pretty dreadful and any chills or shocks I may have felt in watching the movie was as much from the screaming girls in the audience than anything on screen.

I suppose my biggest problem with the film was that there was no sense of immediate threat to any of the characters. Even if we had developed any attachment to them, it quickly got to the stage where you realised that they weren’t even going to kill off the comic relief. And without that sense of danger, it quickly became just a bunch of teenagers posing.

And boy was there a lot of that. The number of scenes where the group walks in, line themselves up and look around in that pantomime fashion (maybe wave some torches around if the scene’s dark enough) was pretty annoying. Added to that was the questionable scene progression. While it is true my knowedge of Indonesian geography is somewhat limited, I really have to question the need to pass through some large caves in the middle of a swamp to get to an island. Or perhaps drive through a sewer tunnel to get out of a city and into the jungle. It was almost CS Lewis-esque the way this happened only to suddenly find oneself with a roadside the ghost can make an appearance upon.

The characters themselves were basically the stereotypical bunch you find in horror films. Though I can’t shake the feeling there were some casting changes and script rewrites in the middle of shooting. Where the movie starts off with the central five ‘normal’ kids, they soon get joined by two active types who seem to be more competent and adventurous than the rest. And yes they are pretty (well at least the ones that aren’t supposed to be some kind of comic relief) — so at the very least, the movie succeeds as a star vehicle though the plot is too paper thin to extract any real dramatic brilliance from the cast.

As for the ‘monster’, well I have to say for a little guy, he sure gets around. The fact that whenever there’s a ghost sound, it tends to be him laughing, has a thing for hopscotch and he seems to have friends with similar hobbies (well at least the haunting the living hobby), you’ve got to wonder how tormented that soul really is. Admittedly he, at the very least, gets somewhat explained but the presence of his fellow ghosts is kind of brushed aside.

Being so harsh so far, I suppose I will give some credit to either the director or the cinematographer because there were some scenes which were just plain cool. It looks like at least one of them has a decent eye that could be used for good instead of evil if not hampered by such ordinary circumstances.

But overall, the film is really quite cringeworthy to watch. Looking at it from a cultural standpoint, you can perhaps understand the lack of any real goings-on during the movie but it still doesn’t make for good viewing.

4 Non-Threatening Ghosts out of 10.
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