Sunday, October 25, 2009

Vamp or Not? Kuntilanak Beranak

vcdOnce again we have a Kuntilanak based film – this time directed by Ian Jacobs and released in 2009 – that demands a look under ‘Vamp or Not?’ rather than going straight to review. This seems a common theme with the kuntilanak, which the Indonesian film industry seems to be using generically to describe a ghost, a demon or a vampire. The title can translate to Vampire gives Birth – an odd title as we shall see.

This one sees a group of film students in the hallway of a disused house. They are nervous as they scout for a location for their indie horror film. Then they come across an abandoned video camera. It still has power and they start playback. The majority of the film is the camera footage… or at least is meant to be.

lost camera is foundYou see the camera was owned by a girl named Aline and whilst the footage is on her camera, not all of it was thus shot. She travels with a group and there are at least three cameras in use (not counting the footage shot in standard third party style). The idea is kind of a collage of Blair Witch and Diary of the Dead. Anyway Aline speaks to her spiritualist mother and then meets her friends Mai and Bim. They are working on a college project and meet with fellow students Bobby and Dea.

the wierd womanBim has had the idea that they should go to a nearby village and investigate the disappearance of a Ronggeng Dancer. Her disappearance made headlines but she was never found – it is assumed she was murdered but no murderer was brought to justice. They question several people, most will not talk to them and some say that to mention the dancer is bad luck. We also hear that the troop leader’s wife killed herself. They get to the troop leader’s house and meet a woman who cackles about the fact that 'she is coming', 'she is dead' and 'she has a charm'. The woman enters the house and, when they playback the footage of her, the camera failed to capture her. They go into the house and are confronted by the troop leader. It is clear that the woman is a ghost of his wife.

followed homeThey’re approached outside by a mute who manages to indicate that he will show them where the dancer lived. They arrange to meet him the next day. However that night several of them see things from the corner of their eyes. Aline’s mother sees something behind her daughter and says that the dancer has followed them home and that they should not return to the village. Aline actually dreams of the corridor we saw in the prologue, though she has not been there yet.

the gang - who is filming?Dea is crept up on in the bath. As for Mai she goes downstairs and sees her mother who says she not asleep yet. As she returns upstairs she bumps into her mother. It is clear that this creature can take on other forms (in this case the mother). Whether such shape shifting could be called vampiric is unlikely, it is as likely to be a ghost, a demon or a witch. The next day the boys are dismissive of the hallucinations and they return, in the evening, to the village to meet the mute.

possessed by spiritsThey are shown the house and, once inside, they split into two groups! This is another bit where the footage being shot on Aline’s camera doesn’t stand up to story scrutiny, as well as moments when they are all in shot in the car and what happened to them in their respective homes. Anyway we get a series of events such as possession, attacks, a throat slit by a fan blade and taking the form of others in the group. None of it is terribly vampiric. Of course there are films with vampiric ghosts but this one seems, simply, a standard haunting.

portrait of the dancerWe then discover that the dancer was potentially having an affair with the troop leader. He had some headwear that was a dance charm and he gave them to the dancer who was then attacked and murdered by his jealous wife. It is this charm that keeps her there, she cannot leave the place whilst she wears it. Then things become very weird indeed.

kids in the basementAline and Mai go into a basement area. There is a tree that has razor blades hanging from it and nearby they discover the corpse of Dea (who may have been killed by Bobby upstairs when she was possessed by the dancer, though he may have attacked the dancer shape-shifted into her form). Then, nearby, we see kids, many kids, and they obviously have something to do with the dancer – especially given the ‘gives birth’ part of the title. The problem is that the film doesn’t explain what they are and why they are there. Does the kuntilanak kill to feed them? Who knows?

influenced by the Blair Witch ProjectThis is the problem, there is a strange mystery here but it isn’t explained. Other than that, the film is much more ghost than vampire and is clearly very influenced by the Blair Witch Project. I have to go Not Vamp.

The imdb page is here.

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