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Review: Shudder's IMPETIGORE

By: Michelle Halloween

  Fresh off the success of the well-received film SATAN’S SLAVES (2017); Joko Anwar dives back into the Horror film realm with IMPETIGORE. Once more, Anwar proves his own love for the genre with this relentlessly frightening film. From it’s introduction, to the very last moment before the credits roll, IMPETIGORE is sure to induce a few scream-at-the-screen moments.

  A creepy man attacks Maya (Tara Basro) while she is working in a toll booth. With her friend Dini (Marissa Anita) on the line to offer support over the phone, Maya’s attacker seems tormented, and pleads with Maya to “release him and his village.” With a machete the size of Jason Vorhees’, he cuts a line into Maya’s thigh before he stabs her in the head. Only, he doesn’t get the chance because he is shot by an officer with great timing. 

Based on the attacker's words and a cryptic note she finds inside of her wound,  Maya decides to look into her family history as the woman who raised her, Maya’s late Aunt, never offered much information about Maya’s parents. Convinced that Maya could have inherited some sort of fortune, Dini suggests Maya return to the remote village she and her Aunt left when Maya was young. Together the two women embark on Maya’s hometown with not much of a plan and many questions. 

  The dreary yet, majestic village offers Maya hope that she will discover more about where she came from and who her parents are. The village paths are all but empty, and a huge home sits deserted and overrun by nature. Maya and Dini arrive at the home of Ki Saptadi (Ario Bayu) the village’s famous puppet master and leader. The women are instead greeted by the tall and menacing Nyi Misin (Christine Hakim) who suspiciously tells the girls to return the next day.

  Maya and Dini decide to stay at the large abandoned house for the night instead of trekking back to civilization and returning to try Saptadi again. Nothing fares well for Maya and Dini after spending the night in the abandoned home for Ki Saptadi and Nyi Misin have other plans for the city girls. It is revealed that the village is inflicted with a merciless curse and it’s all thanks to Maya. 

If you have seen SATAN’S SLAVES, you know that Anwar is unapologetic when it comes to deals with the Devil to solve infertility. This never bodes well for the protagonists (or any of the expecting characters) and offers a shock for viewers as the story is no less brutal on children or infants. In a similar fashion to the VVITCH, viewers will be forced to endure a few uncomfortable scenes throughout the film. Even the beautifully scored puppet shows end up blood-soaked in some scenes. Otherwise, the movie has all the horrifying elements that will make you jump, scream, and cringe right up until the very end. 

There is no question that, IMPETIGORE is Joko Anwar’s gift to the genre. He’s a horror fan himself and, it was pleasing to see many homages to classic horror films like FRIDAY THE 13TH, and an unmistakable nod to THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE. In addition, the shuddersome score adds to the fearsome atmosphere the film sets. The performances by Tara Basro and Marissa Anita are flawless. It’s no wonder Anwar brought Basro back as the protagonist for IMPETIGORE. Basro is definitely Scream Queen material.

IMPETIGORE is all the rage amongst those who viewed it at the 2019 SunDance film festival as well as those who are currently watching on Shudder, myself included. The film brings the nostalgic chills from classic ghost tales, along with a gory-slasher element.  Horror blogs and reviews are buzzing about the performances, gore, gruesomeness, and film locations. IMPETIGORE will stick with you, especially when you’re up at night trying to unsee or convince your mind to think of more pleasant things like cute little babies. Ones with all of their skin.

IMPETIGORE is available now on Shudder!


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