The 400 Word Review: Impetigore
By Sean Collier
July 24, 2020
In an era when so few truths are global, there is at least one essential rule we can all live by, no matter where we are.
If you happen to inherit a decrepit old house in the middle of nowhere, do not spend the night.
Cinema has given us this warning time and again, whether the dilapidated manse is located in rural Texas, Transylvania or Indonesia. The latter country — a remote village on Java, more specifically — is the setting of “Impetigore,” an impressive if deeply troubling work of brutal horror from writer/director Joko Anwar.
Best friends Maya (Tara Basro) and Dini (Marissa Anita) are driven away from sleepy jobs as toll booth attendants after a shocking attack. A mysterious man stalked Maya for weeks; exiting his car one night, he quizzes her on her past before brandishing a machete. Authorities arrive in time to save the young woman, but not before the assailant shouts about a cursed village and Maya’s uncertain parentage.
Months later, Maya has done some digging. She’s located the village where her parents lived before they relocated to Jakarta when she was five; she believes that a sprawling home there is now her property. Dini offers to accompany her to investigate.
A less widespread truism: If your journey begins with an overnight bus ride marked with ghostly children peering out of the woods and some business about warding off evil spirits, consider calling an audible on your travel plans.
Things are clearly not right in the small village, which is experiencing an unsettling lack of children and a surplus of funerals. As Maya and Dini track down the village elder — a stoic performer skilled in Javanese shadow puppetry — and try to pass a few nights in the run-down house, the goings-on in the humble village turn decidedly sinister.
A blanket trigger warning should be issued for “Impetigore,” as even slightly tentative audiences will likely lose sleep after viewing. There is deeply troubling material to be found here, far beyond the bounds of day-to-day horror; think of “Hereditary” or Jennifer Kent’s “The Nightingale,” not Pennywise the Clown.
For those who can handle the subject matter, though, Anwar has a masterful, hypnotic approach that makes for a gripping — if terrifying — experience. “Impetigore” is a pitch-black fantasy of mystery and atmosphere; it will linger in your mind long after its dreadful final images.
My Rating: 9/10
“Impetigore” is now streaming on Shudder.