Directed by Kimo Stamboel, The Queen of Black Magic is a zesty reboot of a 1981 Indonesian film of the same name. Originally titled Ratu Ilmu Hitam, it is a supernatural satay that first premiered in Indonesia back on November 7th of 2019, but thanks to Shudder, a broader audience now get to dive into the darkness as of January 28, 2021.
First and foremost, some might ask, who is Kimo Stamboel? Previously working on films such as 2009’s Macabre and 2016’s Headshot, Stamboel is a brilliant, multifaceted director who has been nominated, and won, various film festival awards. As for The Queen of Black Magic, he took the helm and lent his expertise to create a well-marinated cinematic entrée that is a hybrid cross between 2002’s The Ring and 2012’s Sinister.
Briefly summarizing The Queen of Black Magic, it follows three men who travel miles with their families to the secluded orphanage where they grew up. Doing so to visit a bedridden father figure, Mr. Bandi (Yayu A.W. Unru: Tabula Rasa 2014, Possessive 2017), let’s just say this is not exactly the best set of circumstances by which to have a reunion. Thus, as the story unfolds, they all unwittingly become ensnared in a macabre web of sorcery designed by a vengeful soul from the trio’s past.
This 99-minute voyage into the realm of the dark arts sets off a series of adrenaline rushes. Traveling the entire length of the nervous system like sine waves with an ever-increasing amplitude, these rushes then mirror the intensity of the disturbing images that flit across the screen.
Case in point, the opening scene engenders an aura of mystery with subtle undertones of maleficence. Eyes are locked onto an aerial view of a solitary car, giving one a visual cue of a road leading to infinity. This image alone gives off an overwhelming sense of isolation and a palpable disconnect from the civilized world which is emphasized by a lack of cellular signal.
A zoom view facilitates audio and visual on the dialogue exchange amongst the family members in the car. This sheds light on the family dynamics and gives a personality meter reading for each family member, and a smile is apt to slowly spread from ear to ear as parents everywhere relate to the psychological torture of dealing with disgruntled, tech-savvy children. Their main concern, of course, is keeping up with their social media content and that is nearly impossible to do when there is no cell signal. Hence, a litany of complaints follows and we learn that these parents, Hanif (Ario Bayu: Impetigore 2019, The Bridge 2020) and Nadya (Hanna Al Rashid: The Night Comes for Us 2018, Dead Out 2019), have been endowed with a super-size chunk of patience and humor.
Once a deer accidentally gets hit by the car the jocular mood vanishes like a wisp of smoke and an unshakable sense of foreboding rolls in like a storm. Something is just not quite right. Though once at the orphanage, Hanif meets up with his childhood friends, Anton (Tanta Ginting: 3 Dara 2 2018, Darah Daging 2019) and Jefri (Miller Khan: The Bridge 2018, Foxtrot Six 2019), and the three families greet each other warmly. So, though the evening begins innocently enough, after a shocking discovery the night takes a massive turn for the worst.
Eva (Imelda Therinne: Shackled 2012, The Professionals 2016) did a stellar job in portraying her germaphobic character, outfitted with coal black gloves and mask as well as being armed with a bottle of sanitizer. Meanwhile, Lina (Salvita Decorte: The Night Comes for Us 2018, Abracadabra 2019) nailed the portrayal of a woman who is willing to go to any extreme to achieve the ultimate physical perfection. But little did these two women know that their phobias would ultimately turn against them by an enraged witch exacting her gavel of justice.
Without giving any more away, the twist at the end of The Queen of Black Magic is so shocking it will leave you speechless and in a temporary state of suspended animation. Additionally, there are also some special effects that will make your flesh crawl and cause you to heave and scratch at exposed skin as if you have a bad case of poison ivy. At the conclusion, the adrenaline sweat is wiped off brows and heartbeats go up a notch. Interested yet? You should be, because Cryptic Rock gives The Queen of Black Magic 5 out of 5 stars.