Review: Pelukis Hantu (2020)

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Back in the mid 2000s, supernatural TV shows suddenly ruptured and became nationwide phenomena, with almost every national channel having one of it. Now that the trend dwindles, there’s one gimmick that apparently survives —the ghost painter, a psychic who possesses the ability to paint metaphysical beings behind closed eyes, albeit generic, to visualize the ghosts to audiences. That profession, for whatever it is, is the epicenter of Arie Kriting’s directorial debut, Pelukis Hantu (Ghost Painter).

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In Pelukis Hantu, a struggling painter, Tutur —portrayed by Ge Pamungkas (Ghost Writer)— takes the ghost painter mantle in a local TV channel despite his inability to see ghosts. On his first show for the dying show, as his eyes are closed on a live broadcast, he suddenly gets the supernatural visit from a kuntilanak, ghost of woman with a troubled past. As he carries on with a new skyrocketing career, the same kuntilanak haunts him in every live show, prompting him and two collaborators, Udin (Abdur Arsyad) and a mystery blogger, Amanda (Michelle Ziudith), to investigate what’s behind the apparition.

Review Pelukis Hantu (2020)
Ge Pamungkas as the titular ghost painter in Pelukis Hantu (2020)

Arie Kriting, a comedian-cum-actor turned director, seems to have followed his fellow comedian, Bene Dion Rajagukguk’s path for his directorial debut. Pelukis Hantu is a well-intended horror-comedy that satirizes showbiz industry and reminds audiences of a collective trauma in the aftermath of the infamous ’98 riots. It’s a bold move to take, given his off-screen persona characterized with vocal political protests and artist solidarity. And yet, his message ends up being a mere buzz rather than a shoutout in his own story as it ends up overwhelmed by unfocused comedy and scattered narrative.

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In the narrative department, the story is all over the place with characters mostly wear the motivation on the sleeve. Surprisingly, none of the motivation and, subsequently, the director’s message align in the narrative. The problem is Pelukis Hantu never goes beyond the surface and stops to reflect on how moments and revelations affect the characters. At the peak of its blandest, the story simply moves on after revealing its heartbreaking story about the country’s dark history. The ’98 racial violence is a topic most storytellers try to avoid; but, Kriting takes a bold step only by nudging it in a blockbuster. Strangely enough, the reluctance to dip deeper into the topic makes the impact fades as soon as it comes out.

With Pamungkas portrays his typical character and Ziudith’s character mostly gets overwhelmed with inconsistency, the deal goes to Arsyad as a comic relief. While the comedic timing is either hit or miss, Pelukis Hantu takes a lot of advantages from it. With the audacity to go where recent blockbusters avoid to go, it’s sad to know that this movie does not go beyond what people have known.

Ghost Painter (2020) 97min | Comedy, Horror | 16 October 2020 (Indonesia) Summary: Amateur painter lies about his ability to see ghosts and takes on a job as a ghost painter on a TV show. Turns out, he could actually see the ghost.
Countries: IndonesiaLanguages: Indonesian

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