Netflix released Indonesian horror homage, May The Devil Take You (Sebelum Iblis Menjemput) this past Friday. Timo Tjahjanto served as writer and director on this Sam Raimi-esque story about Faustian deals and family curses. Previously, Tjahjanto contributed to the recent anthology movies, V/H/S 2 and ABC’s of Death. With May the Devil Take You, Tjahjanto continues to impress with some wildly inventive talent behind the camera.
Years earlier Lesmana made a deal with a dark witch for fortune. Shortly thereafter, Lesmana’s wife dies tragically and he strikes it rich and re-marries to a beautiful actress. But his success is fleeting, and Lesmana soon loses his wealth and slips into a mysterious coma. Now his estranged daughter, Alfie, reunites with her step-siblings at the family’s abandoned cabin to uncover the secret of her father’s mysterious illness.
May The Devil Take You Crafts a Loving Homage To Sam Raimi and The Evil Dead
Writer and director Timo Tjahjanto clearly holds Sam Raimi and his Evil Dead franchise in high regard. Raimi’s DNA is all over this slick Indonesian horror effort. Much of May The Devil Take You’s premise and early set-up lovingly references The Evil Dead. From the abandoned cabin to the demonic make-up effects, May The Devil Take You elicits all the right notes for die-hard horror fans. Particularly astute audiences may catch some other horror reference here and there. Tjahjanto, for instance, re-creates a classic ’80’s horror moment from the original Poltergeist.
May the Devil Take You is informed by movies like The Evil Dead, but stands on its own two feet by the ending credits.
Where May The Devil Take You succeeds is in its ability to build upon its homages and carve out its own story. Tjahjanto never allows his nods to Raimi or other horror greats to dominate his own movie. There’s a genuine love for horror in May The Devil Take You that propels it towards its own creative niche. As the story progresses, Tjahjanto creates a unique horror experience. It never feels like recycled bits stitched together. Instead May The Devil Takes You is influenced by movies like The Evil Dead, but stands on its own two feet by the ending credits.
May The Devil Take You Is Damn Scary
Earlier this year, Netflix released Spanish horror flick, Veronica, with the claim that it was the scariest movie of the year. Veronica was good, but not that good. May The Devil Take You isn’t the scariest movie of 2018, but it’s still pretty damn scary. Tjahjanto keeps the scares coming fast and furious from start to finish. Though there’s some occasional leaning on jump scares, May The Devil Take You immerses itself in a creepy atmosphere. Few horror movies in recent memory can boast the same ability to elicit as many scares.
There’s plenty of gore and icky effects to go around. All of it is rendered with confident and convincing direction.
As a filmmaker, Tjahjanto also shows quite a lot of flair in crafting these scares. May The Devil Take You was probably restricted by a lower budget, but it rarely shows in what’s committed to the screen. Demonic figures slink backwards up along walls or slowly envelope the screen from behind characters. There’s plenty of gore and icky effects to go around. All of it is rendered with confident and convincing direction.
Worst Family Reunion Ever
One of the more pleasantly surprising elements of May The Devil Take you is its attention to its characters. The dysfunctional dynamics at the core enhance the movie and elevate it above standard horror fare. The estranged Alfie’s relationship with both her father and step-siblings, Reuben and Maya, lends realism to the characters even as the supernatural increasingly invades. Moreover, Tjahjanto gives each of his characters the screen-time necessary to ensure they exist as believable people.
Tjahjanto’s family dynamic also adds a bit of a welcome wrinkle to what could have been conventional horror storytelling. That is, the tensions between Alfie and her step-siblings introduces a few doubts about where the story may turn. It’s also a part of the story that may disappoint when things inevitably take the expected direction. Arguably it’s the one direction that feels unexplored. But this is a minor complaint.
May The Devil Take You Is Rare Example of How to Do A Homage Right
Though Netflix kicked off 2018 with a patch of duds that included The Open House and The Cloverfield Paradox, it’s ending the year on a high note. Apostle was a winner and now Netflix can add May The Devil Take You to the list. This is the rare example of a homage to classic films that simultaneously stakes out its own ground. It’s also another calling card for writer and director Timo Tjahjanto.
THE PROFESSOR’S FINAL GRADE: A