Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Tales from the Snark Side: TAKUT (2008)

Prolific producer/director Brian Yuzna is as erratic as they come. The stuff he produces tend to be reasonably slick and can occasionally be on a creative plateau far above his competition. The stuff he directs, well, that tends to be slickly produced, but painful to watch. There are exceptions to the rule of course, which makes his movies a total crapshoot, sometimes literally. This risk/reward factor is why I always have to give him the benefit of the doubt. If his name pops up on something good, it can pretty damn exciting.

Taking a break from his poorly received Spanish-produced Fear Factory films, Yuzna headed out to his native neighbor, Indonesia, to make two movies for local consumption. The second one, AMPHIBIOUS (2009), was co-written by S.P. Somtow, shot in 3D (which immediately makes it more watchable than the mega-buck fake 3D crap) and in spite of its tiny budget and risible premise (a giant scorpion is attacking a fishing platform run by child-slave labor), turned out to be better than your average Asylum or SyFy outing. Though it did get a run on the SyFy network where viewers seemed to be upset that it was a low-budget movie with a not-true-to-life monster. Uhhhh... yeah. And this is different from the rest of the SyFy line-up, how?

Ah, the old "scary cellphone light" trick.
TAKUT was the first of Yuzna's Indonesian efforts and it's an anthology of sorts with a title that is the Indonesian word for "frightened facial expression". Released on the international circuit with the title TAKUT: FACES OF FEAR, the title now translates to FEAR FACE: FACES OF FEAR. Less of an anthology and more of a collection of Indonesian short films spackled together with some of the worst CG graphic animation this side of a '90s porn site, the films run about 15 minutes long and varies widely in production vales and themes. The one thing five of the six films have in common is disappointment. Is there an Indonesian word for the expression my face made when they pull the old "scared in the dark with a cellphone" ploy?

The first tale is SHOW UNIT, an SOV in black and white with color accents (for no reason whatsoever) and tells a tale of a guy who accidentally stabs his stepdaughter. Instead of calling an ambulance, he decides to stab her father who comes looking for her. When a neighbor tries to blackmail him, this jackass tries to make it look like a kidnapping attempt, but the wife finds the girl's body in the house. The end. Yeah, spoilers, sorry. Why is is called SHOW UNIT? Because the last scene is of the neighbor's wife (who is a real estate agent) trying to sell the house. Uhhh... yeah. Irritating and amateurish, SHOW UNIT gets this collection out on the wrong side of the bed.

There are six stories, two of which (INCARNATION OF NAYA and PEEPER) are about Indonesian superstitions that spend 14 minutes setting everything up and one minute delivering the conclusion, which is completely obvious in spite of my knowing nothing about the rituals/superstitions involved. For instance in one a girl makes a big deal out of not believing in demonic possession. I'll give you one guess as to what happens. Though it should be pointed out that demonic possession here just makes you dance slowly while everyone watches you. Nicely shot though. THE LIST is about a crazy ex-girlfriend who has a local shaman cast curses on a hapless schmuck who just wants to watch BRIDE OF RE-ANIMATOR in the comfort of his own home. This one feels like Yuzna, even though he had nothing to do with it, paying homage to the old Hong Kong curse films like CENTIPEDE HORROR (1984). Whisper thin plot and lots of creepy-crawlies. It actually could have made for a fun full-length film, instead it feels like you walked into the room just as the final scenes are playing out.

Of course we have to have an obligatory zombie entry. Sorry, "infected", I meant. THE RESCUE feels like a proof-of-concept demo reel, as it basically sets up the scenario, has two quick zombie vs. military action scenes that we've seen a million times before and then it ends with a gotcha that is far more cliched than interesting. An Indonesian reviewer claimed that TAKUT was fun as it was big budget compared to other Indonesian-produced horror films. I can see that if you are Indonesian, it might be fun, since it was made for the Indonesian market. If you are not Indonesian, the only thing you will take away from this is the final entry.

Normally I cringe at directors with cheesy DJ nicknames, but here "The Mo Brothers" (Kimo Stamboel and Timothy Tjahjanto) pull off one of the best short films I've seen in ages, titled DARA. A beautiful chef, Dara (Shareefa Daanish), feeds unwitting male suitors at her restaurant and invites them back to her home where they find out exactly what makes her food so good. No spoilers for this one, though you find out her secret right away, the filmmakers do a superb job in the telling. From cinematography to sets, these guys know exactly what they want from every scene. Daanish completely steals this film with a wonderfully creepy china-doll performance that puts similar efforts to shame. So good is she, in fact, that the Mo Brother's first feature film is the 2009 remake of sorts titled RUMAH DARA (DARA'S HOME aka MACABRE on the international market). This 26 minute short has been playing festivals, so if you have a chance to see it, don't even worry about the other shorts in TAKUT. This is a must see and showcasing it is probably the entire reason TAKUT was put together in the first place.

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