As the maternal figure who goes by the name of Mawarni Suwono (Ayu Laksmi) in Pengabdi Setan, you’re one hell of a mother-flipping-pancakes worth of dread.
You succumbed to your mysterious disease in the film and then for some reason, your spirit lingers to haunt your surviving husband (Bront Palarae) and four children. Not like they did anything to deserve it as the film showed how they cared for you when you were confined to bed. All you had to do was ring your bell and they’d attend to your every need.
But it’s really terrible how you made them (and the audience) cower in fear. And I honestly like how you get creative with your scares. There’s the way you turn your head slowly to reveal an unsettling smile or your favourite song Kelam Malam playing unexpectedly in the dead of the night on the radio. Oh, scariest of all … you ringing that bell! Well, we can blame that on your family because they decided to bury it with you.
I still think about how you appear by your teenage son Tomi’s (Endi Arfian) bedside to scream “Sikat rambut Ibu!” (Comb Ibu’s hair) at him. I have texted that line twice to my brother at night and I think that’s why he has yet to come to my house to hand in something that I’ve asked for.
Then, there’s also how you like to creep in the hallway to scare your other younger children Bondi (Nasar Annuz) and mute Ian (Muhammad Adhiyat).
Ibu, you may be the mother of all fears in Pengabdi Setan but the real star of the show is director Joko Anwar.
The horrors in Pengabdi Setan is effectively delivered through a potent combination of dreadful atmosphere, eerie everyday sounds (floor creaking and doors opening slowly) and remarkable performances by its cast. There’s humour for the audience to find some relief and of course, in the way Joko skilfully baits his audience to keep on watching for secrets to be unveiled.
There are too many secrets in Pengabdi Setan. If only Ibu was truthful about certain aspects of her life, then her death would not have resulted in such dire consequences for her remaining loved ones.
The film introduces a whole new layer to the fear of dying as Ibu, no longer has any control in how people choose to narrate the way she lived.
Oh well, Ibu. Woman, you should leave your family in peace.
Find solace in knowing that they will perhaps understand that you did what you had to do out of love.
Pengabdi Setan is not only a brilliant horror movie about your hauntings, I think it’s also a heartbreaking story on the insane, unexplainable things people do out of love.
On the bright side, love is also a form of divine protection.
And I will keep reminding myself of that if I hear your bell ringing at night.
Director: Joko Anwar
Cast: Tara Basro, Bront Palarae, Muhammad Adhiyat, Endi Arfian, Nasar Annuz, Dimas Aditya Edy Fedly, Ayu Laksmi