Review: Impetigore (Sundance 2020)

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Title: Impetigore
MPAA Rating: NR
Director: Joko Anwar
Starring: Tara Basro, Ario Bayu, Marissa Anita
Runtime: 1hrs 46 mins

What It Is: In Indonesia, Maya and her best friend decide to go out and start their own clothing store. When a terrifying incident involving a stalker causes Maya to question her biological family’s origins in a small, creepy village, the two women travel out to the remote community too quickly find themselves in the thralls of a dangerous group of people.

What We Think: A bit off-topic, lemme just mention that the poster heavily reminds me of One Missed Call’s. That’s all. I thought that was just interesting.

This horror (inevitably of the supernatural sort) unfortunately hits every single one of the three C’s: contrivance, convenience, and cliche (watch me trademark that). Not to say movies can’t get away with the triple-C’s, but considering it’s a relatively forgettable scary movie that hits all the beats of many of its contemporaries, this bogs down the massive potential it commenced with. The parts of the plot and imagery that aren’t goofy and nonsensical are then somewhat familiar; I feel washed-away nods or even recreations of much better scenes from much more narratively competent films. And yet–there were still some major points of interest that I would still give some credit too.

While much of the story, villains, character arcs, and overall mechanisms were absolutely predictable, it started off so incredibly strong. The beginning scene is intense–hell–even scary of a sort. I was enthralled: the creepiness, the realism of the situation the protagonist suddenly found herself in. It was immediately promising… until the score and the titles heaved up onto the screen. I may sound nit-picky, but often do the beginning credits indicate the nature of the film itself–and like a large neon sign saying “WARNING”, the cheesy-looking titles whip into existence with the aid of an incredibly and consistently obnoxious score. Really. I hated the score. It’s a five-dollar CD you’d find during the Halloween season at a Walmart, with all the “boo’s” and “ooo’s” and trigger-happy strings sounds like it’s competing with the movie itself for attention. Just so obnoxious, so toxic to the actual imagery. If you are afraid of… well, being afraid in movies, then you’re in luck, because the music is so heavy-handed you hear every little scare (many of which are fake-outs) coming from miles away. That being said, that’s the heaviest sin to bear. Otherwise, some moments could be worth watching. A little bit of gore, a little bit of character. Then again, I found all the good moments were offset by goofy special effects (exhibit 1: really obvious CGI blood), bland characters, silly villains, and stupid in-story decision-making for the sake of fitting in with all the other B-horror flicks.

Our Grade: C-, Well, what more can I say. It’s not the worst horror movie ever. Maybe they could make a sequel and improve upon everything… then again I can’t honestly state I’ll be looking forward to seeing more. This was a nicely-framed proof-of-genre concept that I feel does have a lot of talent behind it: unfortunately, that talent still feels very new and a little too indulgent when it comes to cheesy plot lines and a relatively forgettable second and third act.

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