The Queen of Black Magic (2019) Film Review

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In The Queen of Black Magic horrible secrets emerge when the previous residents of an orphanage return when they learn the owner has fallen ill. What begins as a well-intentioned visit to pay respects, soon turns into a fight for survival when strange, horrific incidents start occurring.

I’ve not seen the original 1981 film so am unable to offer comparisons, but I know a good horror film when I see one. In Shudder’s latest horror offering things get truly nasty and I’m happy to say that the final hour of this film delivers some truly eye-watering frights. With one half of the Mo Brothers – Kimo Stamboel – at the helm, I shouldn’t have been surprised to see that The Queen of Black Magic pulls no punches and, honestly, had me peering through my fingers on more than one occasion.

I’m not sure if I’ve become more affected by scary movies in my old age – I’m nearing 30 eek! – or if the combination of lockdown and a worldwide pandemic has me feeling things a hell of a lot more, but this is one visceral and frightening outpouring of horror. Nonetheless, I must give credit where credit’s due: The Queen of Black Magic is a masterclass in fear. It’s a film that sees Fede Alvarez’s Evil Dead remake and matches it in terms horrific imagination and steady scares. There are scenes here that are uncomfortable and eye-wateringly vicious, leaving the viewer feeling on edge and willing it all to be all over. ­­­Depending on how you like your horror, you’re either going to love The Queen of Black Magic’s desire to pull its audience out of its comfort zone or hate how relentlessly brutal it becomes.

Despite being an almost non-stop nightmare, The Queen of Black Magic’s fantastical moments of visceral terror perhaps pale in comparison to the film’s more realistic moments of horror. The secrets that are buried within the walls of the orphanage are ones that will ring familiar to many, I’m sure. The film’s ultimate unveiling is horrific, but mainly because it is grounded in heart-breaking realism.

It can be said that The Queen of Black Magic relies too heavily on its successful horror moments and ramps up the terror to disguise its weak storyline. The first 40 minutes are a bit slow and there are dialogue-heavy scenes that feel like filler, but I’d argue that the build-up is worth it for what later ensues. 10 minutes being left on the cutting room floor would have given the film a greater energy, complimenting the horror, rather than contrasting it. This doesn’t take away from the film’s overall ambitious and creative core; one that is more concerned with scaring its audience than anything else. And, what’s wrong with that?

Director: Kimo Stamboel
Stars: Ario Bayu, Hannah Al Rashid, Adhisty Zara
Runtime: 99 minutes
Country: Indonesia

Film Rating: ★★★★☆

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