Writer/ director Timo Tjahjanto doesn’t hold back on punching out the gore laden shocks in this inept but playful Indonesian frightener that draws heavily from J-Horror and The Evil Dead. The scares start swiftly in a pre-credit sequence which deftly relays titbits required before plunging viewers face first into the fug of a bungled ritual. The pact sees financially struggling, middle aged father, Lesmana (Ray Sahetapy) make a deal with a demon in exchange for wealth. Lesmana becomes cursed with inevitable set-backs (usually detailed in the small print of such transactions) then finds himself bankrupt, hospitalised and edging on death. Lesmana’s wife and children move into his villa, discover demonic paraphernalia and are forced into battle with soul hungry spectres, hell-bent on possessing then massacring them.
Scares intensify steadily through MTDTY’s riveting set-up before an opening credit sequence glides through Lesmana’s life post ritual/ in the run up to his hospitalisation. From there we meet daughter turned protagonist Alfie (Chelsea Islan), a troubled youth/ family black sheep, who reconnects with her estranged family. Writer/ director Tjahjanto adroitly establishes character dynamics before hurling everyone into a blood-soaked battle during which bones crack, faces are ripped off, hair is eaten and blood barfed in abundance. Those seeking depth and substance in terms of internal character conflicts, honed plotting, epiphanies and a fragment of elegance are probably in the wrong screen. For MTDTY flaunts slaughter, gore and audacious frights like confetti in a mortuary, yet frequently judders due to plot deficiencies and goes on for far too long.
MTDTY keeps its gangrenous tongue, severed in cheek without skimping on scares: a hair-raising encounter in a hospital is a highlight. Its creature design, sometimes Goblin-like score (by Fajar Yuskemai), sound and set-pieces are bejewelled which a bodacious flair which strengthens scares and augments the visuals. The story is slight and improperly bobs like a broken dream memory (despite being punctuated by grueling fantasy violence) with dialogue that tinkers on histrionic. This makes MTDTY often intentionally and unintentionally hilarious, but it’s a fun mess none the less. Despite mid-script deficiencies, Tjahjanto’s film is an exuberant, gutsy, possession/ body horror that’s as frightening as it is hilarious and hard to shake off.
The 62nd BFI London Film Festival runs from 10 – 21 October. Tickets available now from www.bfi.org.uk/lff