Pengabdi setan (1982) Poster

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A Notable Eastern Horror Flick
Alien_I_Creator14 December 2006
This little known cinema rarity from Indonesia offers up a real treat for western horror buffs. Claiming to be an Eastern take on Don Coscarelli's Phantasm, it transposes Christian-based horror themes to the Muslim culture. Although, it lacks a bit of luster when compared to Phantasm, those able to look past that will find a very solid and intriguing blend of zombie horror, haunted house tale, and psychological thriller.

Satan's Slave tells the story of a family who, upon the loss of the mother, alienate themselves from religion. Of course, this leaves an open door for evil to come into their lives. It first comes in the form of the mother's nightly spectral appearances (mostly centering around the two youngsters of the household). When a terrorized servant commits suicide, he too makes a return. Then, a newly appointed housekeeper seems to work black magic and have secret diabolical intentions toward the family. After suspecting witchcraft, the children persuade the father to hire a shaman. However, that makes the haunting even worse and the wrath of the evil woman increases ten fold. With more lives claimed in the name of Satan, the evil forces at work get more and more powerful. It is up to the family to band together and accept God into their lives if they want to survive.

Yes, at the heart, this film is like an Islamic morality tale. But, that does not keep it from being an all-around good horror picture. This unique venture is worth a look by any fan of horror from around the world.
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some spooky moments, and unusually Islam is used to fight evil rather than Xtianity
FieCrier9 July 2006
I've been finding Indonesian horror movies to be pretty enjoyable. This one was no exception, although it doesn't come close to Witch with Flying Head, for example.

This one involves the interplay between good and evil. The movie begins with a Muslim burial, a body in a white shroud being put on its right side facing Mecca, covered with wooden planks at an angle, then covered with dirt. A voice recites Arabic, probably verses from the Quran.

A family has suffered the death of the mother. The father, son and daughter live together with a wheezing old caretaker. The son is visited at night by a corpse-like woman with bulging white eyes lacking irises. In some respects, he thereafter acts possessed. He visits a fortuneteller for help, who says his family is in danger and he can protect them with black magic. He begins reading up on horror and other topics.

The fortuneteller shows up at the house as the new live-in maid, saying nothing of her fortunetelling. The son continues to act odd and see the woman in white, who his sister glimpses as well. The caretaker urges them to pray. The daughter visits an outdoor disco and has a friend who urges her to try a shaman.

There are additional deaths, and a mysterious man whose attempts to speak to the father at his work and at home are rudely put off.

As the DVD box states, the movie "use(s) Islamic beliefs in dealing with the subject of the undead." This makes it somewhat novel, although really one could substitute in a Christian and nothing would have changed much.

The DVD box also calls this "an Indonesian version of the cult horror film PHANTASM." This is a bit hard to figure. They're both low-budget horror movies. However, the most characteristic properties of Phantasm were the tall man, the dwarfs, and the spheres. There's nothing like that here, or the portal or embalming fluid. Some broken glass flies around, there's a scene with a motorbike in a cemetery, and there is an old hearse with relatively short men (but not little people) carrying a casket. Beyond that, I can't figure out what connection was seen.

Regrettably, there are several points in the movie where the DVD was poorly made and the entire screen, including the letterboxing is covered with large colorful pixels (though the subtitles can still be seen).
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Forces of Satan's Storms
Ares Miseria25 November 2012
Warning: Spoilers
This is a film that signifies the horror cinema of Indonesia; it's cheap, it's cliché, it's scary, great fun.

A lot of people don't understand how his mother is resurrected in a form of ghost; in the opening scene where a funeral is held, you see the main antagonist standing amongst the mourning crowd. Therefore it is implied that she is the one responsible for bringing Tommy's mother back to life. Of course she does.

The slightly affluent family is shown to have lost touch with their religious beliefs, especially the father who arrogantly dismisses the advice from an ustaz. Their caretaker Pak Karto tries to remind them to pray constantly and read the Al Quran. This too is ignored. It doesn't help with the fact that Tommy begins to delve in black magic after he is influenced by a fortune teller (yes, Darmina). Karto discovers an altar of madness in Darmina's room and he is then killed off screen, apparently by Darmina satanic forces (some believe Karto committed suicide). Tommy's sister Rina is hopeful that her boyfriend Herman will hire a witchdoctor to get rid of demonic entities that are haunting their house. Herman later dies from a freak accident. Somehow, the zombified Herman now returns to give Rina another visit from beyond, which scares the daylight out of her. She asks her father to seek help from a shaman to perform a ritual cleansing of the house. The witchdoctor doesn't seem to survive the encounter. After witnessing his mother rise from the grave, Tommy tries to convince his father and Rina that Darmina is evil. After the family comes under siege by the zombie trinity, they eventually realised that it's their fault for not being Muslims enough. An ustaz and his followers immediately come to the rescue (strange though; how do they know what's happening inside the house?). Eventually, Darmina is set ablaze and the family is now born again Muslims.

If one is to observe the storyline from an Islamic perspective, it actually has some good message behind it. For long Indonesian films have been using elements of Hinduism and Christianity to exemplify the battle between good and evil. This goes on to show Indonesia's multi religious community and that evil does not restrict itself to one belief system. Verses recited by the ustaz are of course taken from the Quran, both in the original Arabic language and Bahasa Indonesia; a reminder for us to not follow in the footsteps of syaitan (also called Iblis) for he is the arch enemy of humanity. Sisworo cleverly depicts the family as neglecting their religious duties, such as Rina's going to discotheque just days after her mother's death. Darmina also musingly explains that we (Satan and demons) are ubiquitous as long as Islam is not actually practiced.

Perhaps one of the scariest moments in this film, for me, is always the first scene where Mawarti pays her son a visit at night. This makes classic Indonesian horror film a winner compare to any other cinema in the region. There is only one movie from Malaysia that can rival all the Indonesian horror titles; it is called 'Dendam Perawan Bunting' (Revenge of the Pregnant Virgin). The latter is no longer in print and nobody seems to have a physical copy of it, let alone watched the whole film when it first came out in 1989.

Back to Pengabdi Setan, it's hard to ignore Mawarti (the mother) ghostly whispering voices calling for Tommy; that alone is enough to send shivers down the spine. Whereas the zombie Herman and Karto are somewhat worthy of praise; they are also managed to maintain the devilish expression throughout the entire time which is a plus. It's just that I find it absolutely hilarious when fanged Herman first appears on screen; he looks ridiculous, as if he was sticking out two pieces of Twisties from his mouth. Talking about gore, I think this film has none, other than exposed bones and rotten meat. If you're looking for something gory, check out Bisikan Arwah (Whisper of the Dead), another Indonesian cult horror from 1988. That is, if you can actually get a copy of it.

In short, this is a mildly scary flick with average but praiseworthy acting, good makeup and, some laughable moments with overall positive message. At least this film doesn't rely on cheap-Brazzers-wannabe-sex-scene to get the audience attention, like what most nowadays titles. A good flavoured film I must say. Easy to understand (if you know Malay or Bahasa Indonesia). I'll probably be watching this again while eating spaghetti. A memorable classic!
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Scary Movie Back Then...
empatmk14 April 2017
Despite of the makeup that too ordinary for a horror film, the story plot was frightening enough until now. Perhaps if we watch this movie in the recent time, I'm sure it's nothing compare to any modern horror film. But when you watched this movie back in the 80s, inside the theater, it could gave you a nightmare.
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An eerie and interesting Indonesian supernatural horror shocker
Woodyanders3 June 2007
Warning: Spoilers
Poor teenager Tommy isn't having a good time of it. His mother just passed away at a tragically young age. Tommy starts seeing a ghostly white apparition of her unrestful spirit. He also experiences scary nightmares of an evil devil cult. Plus a couple of close friends of the family meet brutal untimely ends. Could it be mysterious new housekeeper Darminah who's behind the freaky and troubling events that have befallen Tommy and his family? Director Sisworo Gautama Putra does an expert job of ably creating and sustaining a powerfully eerie and unnerving otherworldly atmosphere. Moreover, Putra does a totally convincing job of evoking a thoroughly believable mundane everyday reality that's ripped asunder by bizarre and inexplicable supernatural phenomenon. Better still, Putra keeps the pace slow, yet steady throughout, uses violence in a shocking, but restrained manner and gradually builds up a tremendous amount of harrowing tension before pulling out all the stops with a genuinely terrifying conclusion in which all hell quite literally breaks lose. This film even offers a rich, colorful and illuminating depiction of a fascinatingly different culture and its strongly held religious beliefs. An extremely solid and satisfying foreign fright feature.
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Quite scary, if you're a Muslim-Indonesian living in late 80s - early 90s
jep_zak25 December 2017
Warning: Spoilers
First, the good stuff. The cultural background of the audience play huge role in creating the eerie atmosphere. For instance, in the first scene where people are mourning and gives their prayers, most Muslim-Indonesian would find it eerie, but for the other audiences this eeriness of the scene is lost in translation. However the shots of the house, particularly in night scenes, manage to give an universal horror-scary atmosphere regardless your cultural background.

Second, the bad stuffs. The plot is irritatingly slow, and there is lack of causation or logic within the story, and the antagonist is evil for evil sake, there is no motivation or whatsoever, or why she would want the family dead. I know the in-universe explanation is because the family is not religious but that's not enough. Also there are no likable characters, most of the time I wish they're all dead, but lo and behold, came some Ustad (an Islamic scholar/preacher) defeat the antagonist with no sweat at all.

When I reached the ending scene, I realized that this is not a horror movie, but more like a Religious-Islamist-propaganda type of movie with a message that if you don't want to be haunted by a crazy-evil witch, you must practice Islam diligently. A message that was relevant and (still) on demand in the Indonesian market.
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Killing the audience sloooooooooooowly
udar557 September 2009
Young Tommy and his sister are dealing with the death of their mother. After Tommy visits a psychic in order to contact his mother, the psychic - who is actually a vessel for Satan - shows up at their house as their new servant and, so slowly, all hell begins to break loose. This black magic flick from the director of Barry Prima vehicle THE WARRIOR is often described as an "Indonesian version of PHANTASM." Well, don't get your hopes up - it is only similar to PHANTASM in that it steals a few plots points. No Indonesian Tall Man or flying orbs so hopes are easily squashed. It also rips off SALEM'S LOT and the Langella Dracula. Unfortunately, nothing happens for the first hour. And I mean nothing! When the dead finally do rise, it is during the last half hour and, despite their cool looking design, it still sucks. If anything, this might be the only film you see where the devil is beaten down by guys chanting, "Allah akbar!" (or perhaps they were chanting for RETURN OF THE JEDI's Admiral Ackbar?) Man, I would hate to be the guy who I saw pay over $80 for the Japanese VHS on eBay for this.
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All reviews are agreeing...Amazing
chet1928 January 2014
Normally these IMDb reviews are all different, and the various reviewers criticize other reviews, etc. But not the case for Satan's Slave here. First of all, we all agree that the movie isn't much like Phantasm at all. Except for a scene or two of a teenager on a motorcycle and him visiting a fortune teller (neither of which affect the plot), there aren't many similarities. However, we all also agree that this is an enjoyable horror film. The house scenes at night were shot well and look pretty creepy. The evil maid was spooky. The story of finding God to help overcome the devil is not original, but it's done well in this film. All in all, it's worth renting or finding it for free on youtube.
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A real stinker in slow motion
rwagn22 June 2010
Warning: Spoilers
I paid $5 for this DVD (which contains two movies -see Corpse Master) and still feel ripped off. The story has nothing to even remotely connect it to Phantasm. You can read the previous reviews for content and picture/print quality, I won't belay their point. But be aware that this is a real test of patience. The supernatural elements in this movie would fit in a good 3 minute trailer. The Islamic bend to the story is no great shakes. I did think it was funny when the caretaker stumbles across a huge incense spewing shrine to the devil in the governess' bedroom. He doesn't realize it is a shrine to evil until he notices a skull and a crucifix(!) hidden under the shrine table. Nothing more terrifying than the most holy symbol of the INFIDELS! Pass on this turkey-the companion Chinese movie, Corpse Master, is an even bigger piece of crap.
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