Jailangkung (2017): Embodiment of style-over-substance horror

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Review: Rizal Mantovani & Jose Purnomo’s sleeper hit Jelangkung (2001) was an integral part of Indonesian film resurrection. This harrowing story—about ancient ritual of summoning spirit using wooden avatar called ‘jelangkung’—was highly phenomenal that it spawned two sequels and cleared the path for other Indonesian ghouls to silver screen.

Sixteen years later, the winning team, Mantovani & Purnomo, is reunited with their winning formula into making a reboot titled Jailangkung. While their 2001 hit is a lo-fi production, this one is completely the opposite. With new target audiences, Jailangkung repackages itself with younger and fresher look; but, was it worth the scare?

Dread embarks in Jailangkung (Notice the different spelling!) when Ferdi (Lukman Sardi), a widower with three daughters, fell mysteriously ill without any medical explanation. His daughters—Angel (Hannah Al-Rashid), Bella (Amanda Rawles), and Tasya (Gabriella Quinlynn) —along with a colleague, Rama (Jefri Nichol), seek answers for the father’s malady to the family’s residence in Alaskeramat (literally means ‘hallow woods’), a remote place by the lake. There, the party finds an obscure ‘jelangkung’ and a box full of old tapes detailing Ferdi’s practicing a ritual—to summon his late wife’s spirit—which apparently went wrong.

While the premise seems promising, Jailangkung falls short in manifesting it into a whole body of horror, despite the set-pieces which appear to be grandiose (and expensive) for a horror film. There’s no doubt in the technical direction to create an eerie atmosphere and gritty spectacles. Mantovani and Purnomo have the penchant in making this film a stylish horror with obscure production design, slick cinematography and other nerve-racking details. Yet, the final product is more like the embodiment of style-over-substance horror which is barely neither coherent… nor scary.

Jailangkung missed too many opportunities for the sake of horror hullaballoos and overly cheap jump scares. The plot is a whole bloody mess (without the ‘real blood’, of course); the editing is clumsy; the dialogues are banal at best and ridiculous at worst; and there’s basically nothing but jump scares and failing set-pieces. Once entering the horror mode, Jailangkung derails from the plot—neglecting the family tropes they first introduced.

The biggest mishap in Jailangkung is how the film fails to accommodate the new ‘jelangkung’ myth they have invented. The new mantra—‘datang gendong, pulang bopong’ (trans. ‘carried aback when come, upfront when leave’) —feels gimmicky, meaningless, and goofy. In addition, there’s more to it that makes the whole supernatural world a mess (why would they need the ghost hospital part, anyway?).

The messy plot sinks the characters, making them all underused and one-dimensional. Lukman Sardi could still deliver convincing performance, but the plot hinders him from reaching top potential. Even, Nichol and Rawles’ ready-made chemistry (from Dear Nathan) barely stands out, although both actors manage to display their prowess.

For final verdict, Jailangkung almost made a decent horror should it not be weighed down by weak narrative, dialogues & basically everything but the visuals.

[imdb style=”transparent”]tt7076668[/imdb]

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