Timo Tjahjanto’s (half of The Mo Brothers) May the Devil Take You (originally titled ‘Sebelum Iblis Menjemput‘) is the prodigal cousin of Evil Dead who lives too far abroad that it gets tangled deeper in the hardcore nastiness of occultism. The nightmare it introduces might feel close and yet so far; but then, this bone-chilling and blood-gushing diabolical phantasmagoria is a guaranteed tough watch. It’s definitely not for the fainted heart; but, most definitely, it’s not for the pious heart.
Pedantic resemblances to its influence are inevitable, however, May the Devil Take You is bold enough to differ in all its nightmarish way. While it’s a cabin-in-the-wood story—only the cabin is changed into an abandoned resting villa (well, it’s a holiday cabin for Indonesians after all) with a ridiculously hard locked door to basement and a strange entity’s first-person POV as well, it’s not a groovy ordeal; it’s a pure horror that embraces every notion in Stephen King’s infamous quote, “nightmares exist out of logic.”
Timo Tjahjanto immediately introduces this movie as one about devil-worshiping gone wrong. Eerie imagery of infernal manifestations demands audiences’ full, undivided attention before warning them what kind of nightmare it would showcase. It won’t take long before the devil lures the audiences along with the main protagonist, Alfie (Chelsea Islan), to the ill-destined villa, where she encounters her father’s second wife (Karina Suwandi) along with the step-siblings—Maya (Pevita Pearce), Reuben (Samo Rafael) and Nara (Hadijah Shahab). The unholy reunion is only the beginning of horror as secrets start to unravel and the devil arises.
Those who have followed the director’s earlier works might have seen where the movie heads. Safe Haven, a segment in V/H/S-2 might be the closest benchmark. Timo Tjahjanto revs his horror with a rapid, long agenda full of terrors and perils with a sole purpose to let the devil wreaks havoc and jeopardizes the character, or even worse, to take them in and make them lambs of the devil. One thing to bear in mind: logic doesn’t suit the devil and, so, it doesn’t suit this movie as well. Hell is unleashed to only kill off characters or make them surrender to the insidious force of evil; there’s no other reason. That’s how May the Devil Take You have their diabolical fun.
The devil doesn’t shy away from making explicit apparitions which only gets scarier as the story goes. You need to discover the delightful terrors by yourself. The visceral impact is high—results of blood-gagging spectacles or furious demon-possessed human (this one will immediately remind you to Fede Alvarez’ Deadite in Evil Dead remake) attractions or Cronenberg-inspired skin-ripping body horror pageant or the grave-diving terror that might be borrowed from its distant cousin, Drag Me to Hell as well as many other terrors awaiting. However, the gore-gasm might not be as satisfying as in the director’s earlier works, since this movie focuses more on the supernatural elements rather than in slasher tropes, which apparently only becomes some nightmare accessories.
On a more somber note, it seems that emotion isn’t the movie’s best suit as well. The terror overwhelmingly engulfs everything including emotion that should’ve been carried better by the protagonists. Islan, wearing the movie’s final-girl cliche hard and tight, is heading straight to the emotionless wall despite her in-terror performance which is quite convincing. Pearce and Rafael also often get sidelined to the distant background. Only Karina Suwandi who steps in and defies expectation. Her presence feels unsettling ever since the beginning and it only gets more frightening as the story goes.
Again, with a well-crafted embodiment that pushes the practical FX exploits to some extent, May the Devil Take You really takes its time to have the infernal fun. Those who believe in Stephen King’s remark quoted earlier will be please with this. Further, Sam Raimi should, sooner or later, find this movie and be proud of it.