Saturday, January 05, 2019

Vamp or Not? Kuntilanak (2018)

This 2018 film, directed by Rizal Mantovani and hailing from Indonesia, suffers from not quite knowing what it wants to be. It has a horror theme but the young cast pushes it down a kid’s arena to a degree. That said it has some effective scare moments but what we are interested in more than anything is whether it is Vamp or Not?

So we have looked at several movies with kuntilanaks as the primary monster. Sometimes the vampire correlation is obvious, at other times not so much. In this case the kuntilanak of the story seems to be much more of a spectre but is it a vampiric ghost? We shall see.

According to Bane’s Encyclopedia of Vampires a kuntilanak is a variant of the pontianak, suggesting that “In the folklore of Indonesia and Malaya there is a vampiric demon known as a pontianak. When a woman dies in childbirth, as a virgin, or as the victim of a pontianak attack, she will then transform into this type of vampire”. We do not know how this kuntilanak became what she is (ie whether she died in childbirth) but she is a child stealer who seeks to replace her lost child.

anger in art
It starts in a house and Anjas plays with a remote-control car. He hears his name being whispered and calls out for his mother. He wanders into a room where a large mirror is covered by a dust sheet but then his dad calls him. His dad reminds him that his mother is dead and it is clear the boy blames himself – she had gone to buy him the car and had an accident. The father tells him not to blame himself but gets angry with him when he wants to stay up rather than go to bed. In his room he angrily draws his mother as the mirror begins to move.

trail of blood
He investigates and the mirror has written on it “when she comes you will be gone”. Suddenly a female figure is sat there but then he realises it is his mother (the kuntilanak has taken her form). She holds him and asks whether he wants to go with her and he answers in the affirmative – at which she changes into a monstrous form and he seems to be physically affected by the transformation; it is difficult to tell but she might be indulging in energy vampirism. The father investigates his scream and finds a trail of blood leading to the mirror.

Our main characters are a group of adopted kids. The lady who has adopted them is going away for three weeks and the eldest (by quite a way, being a teen, the rest being pre-teen), Lydia (Aurélie Moeremans), is being left in charge. She has arranged for her boyfriend, Glenn (Fero Walandouw), to get her a new mirror. Glenn is host on a paranormal investigation show and has looked at the “kuntilanak house” and takes the mirror – bringing the cursed mirror to the house with the kids.

nail in the head
Primary lore is offered by Miko – the bookwormish kid. We get the idea that the kuntilanak either lives in the forest or the mirror. They can be summoned but are attracted to children – especially those missing their mother. We discover that the children can be rescued but they are often deposited in strange places (atop trees, in henhouses). This doesn’t overly fit in with Anjas who we meet again as a spirit as he has been killed, nor does it fit with the look of being drained and the blood left at his abduction. He shows the kids, through a picture, how the kuntilanak can be defeated – with an iron nail. This is not in the neck (as per the pontianak’s folklore) or permanently in the head as a power limiter as in Paku Kuntilanak. Rather she is literally staked in the head in a stabbing motion.

Aurélie Moeremans as Lydia
Her primary activity is very much a haunting more than anything else. But she is able to become corporeal and interact with the living in such a way. She is also able to possess the living (and possesses Lydia). That is about all around the lore, however. There is precious little vampiric – unless one believes she was draining Anjas (and as mentioned that isn’t conclusive). If that is the case this is then Vamp, if not it is still of genre interest.

The imdb page is here.

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