The 2016 film Munafik evoked an uneasy feeling but, in a good way. That eerie feeling stayed with us long after the movie ended that we imagined things at every dark corner.
Its intimate story about a man struggling with his faith after a family tragedy struck a nerve. It also had an interesting subplot on the supernatural. The fact that the film was imbued with religious elements elevated the experience even more.
With Munafik 2, however, nothing quite remains in our minds after the movie ends … despite the many jump-scares and writer-director Syamsul Yusof going big with the story. In the sequel, he shines the spotlight on a group that’s misinterpreting Islam for its own benefit – an issue that’s very real, involving extremist groups around the world.
Munafik 2 continues with Ustaz Adam (Syamsul reprising the role) having self-doubts, which appears in the form of a female ghost who speaks with an Indonesian accent. (She could be a demon he previously vanquished or the devil itself.) But he tries his best to be on the righteous path despite the challenges and does his duty as a preacher diligently.
Meanwhile, in the neighbouring village, a man named Abuja (Nasir Bilal Khan) has started a new teaching, by twisting the words of Al-Quran to suit his worldly desires.
Anyone who dares to speak against him ends up suffering greatly. One such person is Sakinah (Maya Karin, making her comeback to horror films).
It is when Adam comes to Sakinah’s aid that things start to go really wrong for Adam and his family.
Syamsul has said in interviews that he didn’t want to stray too far from stories from the Al-Quran and Kisah-kisah Nabi (Stories Of The Prophets) in writing the sequel.
But he seems to have taken the stories from the sources too literally; the traits of Abuja is no different than that of Abu Jahal, the Qurayshi leader who strongly opposed Prophet Muhammad’s teaching during the Jahiliyyah period.
However Abuja doesn’t look like he belongs in the modern setting; for one, the character is dressed like a villain from the olden days, and his honchos walk around with flame torches!
In today’s scenario, we know the worst kind of villains are wolf in sheep’s clothing, when in actuality they are committing the most heinous crimes. Painting a villain in black alone takes away any suspense from the film.
Munafik 2 would’ve benefited if Abuja is not so blatant (or that loud). Nasir, although a good actor, plays Abuja like a typical baddie in a Malay drama, which is a bit disappointing. The audience is not told why and how Abuja became this way.
It doesn’t help that in the first 15 minutes, Munafik 2 goes back and forth between the hero and the villain, making the story-telling a tad messy and chaotic.
And while we’re on the technical issue – why oh why, must the score be so loud all the time that it keeps drowning the volume of the dialogue? Sigh.
The jump-scare scenes are a bit too obvious as well. Admittedly, they are intense that we grip our seats, but some of them are just way too predictable that you can guess what’s coming next.
Thankfully, Syamsul does inject originality to some of the classic horror movie shots. The one that has Adam waking up in a confined space is not bad, and as a director he tries to make the supernatural scenes fresh.
For example the scene in which Sakinah gets possessed by a djinn and has a debate with Adam in Arabic is a standout in the film. The arguments from both sides are sound.
Actually, the most enjoyable part of the movie is the dialogue. Adam has all the best lines and whenever he is having clever exchanges of words with someone (especially the demons), that is when the film shines the most.
This is because Adam remains an impressive character, one worthy of further movies.
Syamsul’s embodiment of this man who fights and struggles every day to do the right thing is a perfect reminder that we all need to be more like him in keeping the faith.
A surprising performance also comes from former Akademi Fantasia winner Mawi. Although his scenes aren’t many, you’ll remember him thanks to an emotional scene when his character confides in Adam.
Munafik 2 could’ve been a much better movie if only a little subtlety was exercised and the villain’s actions aren’t so stereotypical.
If Syamsul does make a third film, perhaps a little restraint and turning down the music a few notches would be appreciated.
Catch this movie at Golden Screen Cinemas nationwide. Follow GSC on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
Director: Syamsul Yusof
Cast: Syamsul Yusof, Maya Karin, Nasir Bilal Khan, Rahim Razali, Fizz Fairuz, Mawi, Fauzi Nawawi