Turns out it’s hard to find photos for Indonesian films that have the same name of remakes of 90’s sitcoms about teen witches. Sorry, no photos this week.
Before I get too far into this review, I just want to let you know I’m changing things up a bit this time around. I think there are far too many bullet points at the beginning of these movie reviews, so I’m going to cut a few of them out for the sake of time, your reading pleasure, and my sanity.
Also, I want to start doing this thing where I write a blurb about what I think the movie will be about before I watch it. Keep in mind, I don’t typically watch trailers for movies before I review them unless I’m using Amazon Prime. I usually have the thumbnail, title, and brief description Netflix gives me to go on before I watch. Since this is a Netflix movie, I didn’t have a trailer to watch, so enjoy my thoughts before I saw this damned thing:
From what I can surmise from the blurb Netflix has given me, this movie is about a haunted doll possessed by a demon. Based on the thumbnail, this doll is fucking terrifying whether or not it has a demon inside it. I mean, it’s one thing to substitute the original Annabelle which was actually a Raggedy Anne doll with whatever Hollywood cooked up, but this is something else entirely. It seems like this is going to be a Child’s Play situation mixed with something like Annabelle, so it’ll be interesting to see what directions this movie will take that separate it from those two iconic, more popular movies. It’s also interesting to note that this movie didn’t pop up on my recommended page until after I watched the new Sabrina series, so this movie has either done that intentionally or gotten really lucky.
Synopsis: A man named Aiden fucked everyone over in this movie, but we don’t actually find out about any of this until an hour and six minutes in. Turns out, the douche canoe wanted to best his brother at designing toys all to impress his father. When his dad dies, he’s not left an equal portion of the stocks from his toy company, so he gets mad and is suddenly meeting a very hairy man with a lot of eyebrow in a dark basement. Aiden wants his brother dead, so the shaman (or whatever he is) sends a demon that wants to inhabit human bodies for funzies to his brother. In reality, the shaman sends it to his brother’s wife, therefore screwing over Aiden because his brother is still alive. After some time, we discover that the wife is possessed by the child of a demon that can only be sent from one body to another, but never cast out. To fix this, some paranormal experts decapitate her with a necklace made of bamboo and stuff. This makes the demon really mad so it weasels it’s way back into Aiden’s life via a doll he’s really proud of making and brings home for his wife. The doll then gets possessed when his adopted daughter, also his niece, plays the Charlie Charlie game and forgets to say goodbye. Eventually, the demon flits between about 4 hosts and is killed in the end…even though it was stated multiple times that this was impossible. Aiden is then arrested because apparently it’s not cool to sic a demon on someone you don’t like, though I’m not sure that crime falls under the control of the local police, but that’s neither here nor there.
Yeah, that was a headache, huh? Imagine watching this movie and not getting to the actual plot until an hour and six minutes in.
Let me also mention here that this is a foreign film written entirely in Indonesian. There is no indication on Netflix to suggest this is a foreign film, but I guess that’s meant to be a theme for this month’s reviews! So, like with Rare Exports, if I have fans listening in Indonesia, I’m sorry for anything that may have been lost in translation.
Year made/Directed by: It was made in 2018 and directed by Rocky Soraya according to the poster and Rocky’s film history, this movie is part of a series of scary doll movies that I have no desire to watch because they look terrifying.
Rating: I gave this movie a Meh. I liked the story, but it would have flowed a lot better had we learned about Aiden summoning a demon to help him get ahead in the toy business before we watched the same people walk through dark hallways looking for a ghost we know nothing about. Also, it would have made more sense that in the beginning Aiden was more obsessed with how this doll was doing in the toy business and would have made him a more important character much sooner.
Favorite Death: All throughout the beginning of this movie, we’re led to believe that Aiden and Maira co-parent Vanya and work alternating shifts so they can be home for her during the day. Well, in one scene (and one scene only) it’s revealed that Vanya actually has a babysitter. Of course, because we never noticed her before, this is the scene where she dies. I don’t even think we learn her name to be honest. Anyway, Vanya is coloring or something with her in her bedroom while Laras and the others are downstairs talking to the spirit that’s haunting the doll. Something goes wrong and the demon eventually makes its way into Vanya. Why it doesn’t stay there is beyond me, maybe some motherly love happened behind the scenes or something.
As the demon takes hold, Vanya is holding some crafting scissors and with what else but a flash of lighting in a dark room, she stabs her babysitter THROUGH THE FACE with CRAFTING SCISSORS. This demon has some manic power if it can jam kids crafting scissors through enough bone for it to have gone completely through this woman’s jaw. Now, scissors through the face would be pretty devastating, but it definitely wouldn’t kill you. Nonetheless, we see the babysitter lying dead on the ground moments later. I mean, if she wanted to quit her job, there are much better, less painful ways to do it.
Funniest Part: The entire first part of the movie where normally, we’re not supposed to be afraid of the doll. Like, yeah it’s supposed to look kinda creepy, but not so much that it unsettles my stomach BEFORE it’s possessed by a demon.
A close second is the fact that during every single scene that happens at night, it’s thunderstorming. It’s funny because we NEVER see rain, just lightning and it’s always used as dramatic and scary lighting for a jump scare.
What they did right: Man, this is really tough. The doll itself is scary, but like I said earlier, it’s not scary like you’d hope a doll to be scary. The proportions of the doll are all kinds of messed up so it already looks inhuman. The head is larger than the kid’s head, the eyes take up half the face, it has man-hands, it’s arms are longer than its legs and it’s never wearing shoes so we see the feet the whole time and they’re weirdly detailed and super tiny. Wow, that was not the goal of this bullet point at all. Um. Okay, the kid actors were really great and the characters were actually believable. The plot was really interesting, and they used their special effects wisely. There, have some positivity.
What I thought would happen: I thought the aunt would get possessed by the demon and re-create the entire scene from the beginning (or rather, the middle since we don’t get context for far too long) thus leaving Vanya in the care of the paranormal investigators or something. Turns out I was right, but everyone else got a taste of the demon too so it bounced between bodies, signifying its possession not only with colored contacts, but a giant hooked witches’ nose from Party City’s Halloween clearance sale.
Thoughts from Interviews: The only interview I found was one in another language and I don’t trust YouTube’s captions to help me out on that one.
Trivia: The only thing IMDB tells me about this movie is that it was intended to be more of a spinoff of the movie “The Doll 2” which is, itself, a sequel of “The Doll” by the same director. So I suppose if you care enough, we didn’t miss anything spectacular in the first two movies that would make or break our understanding of this one.
Just a precursor, I’m going to be using the phrase “dude in a dress” a few times here. That phrasing is meant to be comical because the actor they chose to play a female character was what I believe to be a man dressed like the demon that’s supposed to be Vanya’s mother. However, my stance on transgender folx, transsexual folx, and drag performers is extremely positive. I love what they do and they are wonderful humans. I don’t mean for this statement to be derogatory, but if it comes off that way, feel free to send me an email at email@example.com and we can chat about it.
Lately I’ve been trying this thing where, as I’m watching the movie, I’m also reviewing it AND taking notes, and I find that this method is just not practical. For example, I didn’t know I was going to love Rare Exports as much as I did until it was over, but because I was caught up in what I thought was going to be a zombie movie, the review switches gears near the end and I go from being snarky and skeptical to loving every second. I’m not cool with that kind of inconsistency, so I’m going back to the way I used to do things; watch the movie and take notes (which are available to $5+ patrons) and then write the review having seen the whole thing. I think that makes the most sense and offers more room for an actual review rather than simply regurgitating what the movie was about.
So like I stated in the synopsis, we don’t really get into the story until an hour and six minutes in. Until that point, all we know is that there’s a kid named Vanya who’s been adopted by her aunt and uncle after her parent’s tragic death. That death somehow involved the paranormal and a team of investigators that I think might be Christians named Laras and Raynard. So these two come to investigate the house that we later learn belongs to Aiden’s (the uncle that adopted Vanya) brother. His wife apparently fell ill suddenly one night and, after coughing up blood and her eyes changing color, was put on bedrest. Eventually, things progressed and somehow someone came to the conclusion that she was possessed. I’m not sure, but it could have been that scene where she was hanging on to the outside wall of her house three stories up spitting blood from her mouth and screaming in three voices. But hey, that’s just a guess.
Now, I mentioned that I think the investigators were Christians. This was one little tidbit from this movie that didn’t make a whole lot of sense to me. I don’t know how prevalent Christianity is in Indonesia, but Laras was constantly talking about God and Raynard, at one point, meditated so hard that God showed him a place in a deep dark cave on another island where the demon hid a heirloom that could kill it. It didn’t have a lot of Christian themes, but there were no sex scenes, not a lot of PDA like kissing, and no cursing, so maybe there’s something there. I just thought it stuck out a bit because you don’t often find horror movies directed or influenced by Christians.
Along with this weirdness, there was also some strange English tossed into the film. All signs and readable things were translated to English, and at one point, it’s Vanya’s birthday and Aiden and his wife, Maira, decorate their house with mylar balloons that spell out “HBD VANYA.” HBD as in Happy Birthday. I can understand if maybe in post production the Charlie Charlie board and restroom sign was edited in but the balloons were decorations in the background, that had to have been intentional, they even used some English dialogue at one point as if it’s normally inserted into conversations in a completely different language. Can anyone from Indonesia confirm that this is a thing? There were also a LOT of references to easily identifiable American movies. To name a few I noticed The Conjuring, Child’s Play, Annabelle, The Exorcist, Star Wars, and Sherlock Holmes. A plethora of stolen ideas, at least I thought so until I got to the one hour and six minute mark.
This movie seems like it might have been edited wrong or directed by two different people. Remember my review of The Open House? No? Well, you should go listen to that, it was an awful movie I’d love to hear your thoughts on. Anyway, that movie contained about 5 scenes in which different people went down to a basement to re-light a pilot light. In this movie, Vanya lurks around the darkened hallways of her home illuminated only by strikes of lighting outside and the screen of an iPad she’s using to detect entities. It’s extremely repetitive and takes up a huge chunk of the first half of this movie.
On the playground one day, a friend of Vanya’s told her about the Charlie Charlie game and an app that you can use on your iPad that will detect entities around your house so once you play the game, you can see the spirits. So, naturally Vanya plays the game in hopes that she can see her mother (the woman possessed in the beginning) one more time. However, this playground kid is also an asshole and encourages Vanya to play with it until she nabs something real. Upon his pestering she finds out her home is haunted by something that looks an awful lot like her dead mom but also kinda like the evil witch from Snow White.
Turns out this thing is not her mom and actually the demon come back to try and make its way into a human body. There are a lot of scenes where the demon, still dressed as Vanya’s mom, lurks around corners and screams at various characters from the shadows but I’m pretty sure the demon in these scenes was actually played by a man in a dress because the face shape completely changes and the hair looks like a wig the more the movie goes on. I’m not sure, you tell me.
Also, I wanted to make sure I mention this, but I’m not sure where it best fits. The entire time, we’re supposed to believe this doll is haunted, but I don’t think it ever really is. I mean, maybe, but it’s confusing. Let me try and explain this. So, Vanya makes contact with a demon through the Charlie Charlie game, but then she forgets to say goodbye, so we see what looks like something going into the doll. It’s eyes move and it’s all very creepy. BUT once the haunting begins, the only person to experience the doll moving is Maira. The thing levitates around her, hides behind her, shifts its eyes back and forth at her and whatever, but every time Vanya experiences a spirit, it’s never through the doll, it’s an actual apparition of her mother. At one point Laras calls the doll the medium for the spirit to come through. If that’s the case, then why isn’t the doll the thing moving around and scaring people? That’s honestly a lot scarier than a dude in a dress. This element becomes even more confusing when the heirloom that can kill the demon is thrust into the doll’s chest. The doll then explodes into misty soot or something, and we think everything is fine until the actual demon appears again and has to be killed a second time. Why was that necessary if the thing was taking up space in a doll? Also, I thought the whole idea was for the demon to take over a human body, so the doll really isn’t necessary.
Moving on, we find out the entire plot of the movie and then, for some reason, Aiden is arrested at the end. I don’t know why and I don’t care enough to look it up. I’m going to assume that somehow the shaman snitched on him about the whole demon possession thing and he was nabbed for murder or something.
The end of the movie includes a very weird scene that only reinforces my assumption that this movie was made with a Christian message in mind. Vanya is called downstairs by Maira and in the way, she meets her mother. This time, her mom is actually there, simply visiting from the afterlife. You know, because in this world, killing your brother requires a sacrifice, but people can just pop in from the underworld whenever they want without so much as a blood ritual. Anyway, she makes amends with Vanya, tells her not to be sad and poofs away into a white mist off to heaven or something.
As you might expect, there is a bit of a cliffhanger where Laras gets a call that there’s another doll case that’s worse than this one, but I can’t imagine we’ll see anymore doll movies from this series, unless they really are trying to copy Annabelle in which case the prequel to this spinoff is likely scheduled for next fall.
In conclusion, the characters were strong, the story was good, and I was interested in the end, I just didn’t appreciate how the whole thing was laid out. I mean, aside from the writing which was really bad anyway, the story itself was pretty interesting, it was just the execution that made me rate it the way I did. Maybe I missed something along the way but it really seemed like something happened between the first and second half of the film to change things up. Also, the Christian message was a bit weird because it wasn’t really a central theme of the movie. That might have elevated it a bit, but tossing in some religious chants does not a message send.
Anyway, that’s all I think I have to say about this film. I hope you don’t watch it, but I also hope you do. I’d love to talk about it with you. Hey! That rhymed!
Last Week’s Review: Rare Exports (Positive)
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