director H. Tjut Djalil
When you’ve seen one Indonesian exploitation horror film from the 1980’s, you’ve….well, you’ve only seen one. And that is exactly where I’d been sitting since watching Lady Terminator (1988), oddly enough, another film by director H. Tjut Djalil.
And oddly enough, though perhaps less so, considering it’s the same director, we’ve got a sort of similar theme running here. An American woman comes to Bali to investigate the native black arts of the island, known as “Leyak”. She has an affable, knowledgeable guide, a romantic interest fellow from Bali, who introduces her to a witch queen who initiates her into her wildly cackling brand of dark magic.
The theme is similar in that in Lady Terminator, we also had a foreign woman come to investigate a traditional mythological idea as well, only to become eternally embroiled in the native evils. According to the notes on the DVD, the Indonesian exploitation movies started as films for the local market and so focused on local lore and stories, but toward the end the films tried to get marketed abroad and so brought in actors from outside the country. And thus, these gems of strangeness.
Mystics in Bali is crazy camp hilarity. The German actress who plays the American is easily the worst in the film. Between her and our hero, we have two people out of whom it’s very hard to get a decent reaction.
But the best camp is in the special effects which are wonderfully lo-fi and yet quite involved and relatively evocative. We’ve got a long prosthetic tongue drawing on a leg, two women transforming into pigs and then snakes, and best of all, a head that detaches (along with what I guess is the spinal column) and flies through the air, eating babies out of the birth canals of pregnant mothers. And lots of little animated zaps and magic bolts.
It’s clunky, cheap and brilliant. As bad and laughable as it is, it would be totally ruined with some Mystery Science 3000 “laugh track”. This film needs to be seen to be enjoyed.
The funniest line from the movie, and I hope I get this right is when a group of elder mystics are sitting around discussing the strange attacks and one guy says, “The accounts say…that it’s a flying head.” To which everybody nods, as if he’d just said it was a bunch of wild teenagers. I don’t know. File under: needs to be seen to be believed.