You might not be familiar with the term 'Z-Movie,' but if you grew up in the 90's, chances are you've seen one. They're the beyond-low-budget monstrosities that teased you from the walls of the mom-and-pop video store. Usually, the films themselves could never live up to the pictures on the videotape boxes (because this was way before your fancy 'Digital Video Discs' and 'Blu-Rays') but occasionally you'd find something truly unique. 'WEIRDO FLICKS' will clue you into some movies which 'unique' doesn't even begin to describe...
'Mystics in Bali' - 1981, Directed by H. Tjut Djalil
I wasn't sure if it was just me, but apparently this film IS very hard to describe, as every review I've read seems to have trouble pinning it down.
Yes, it's a low-budget Indonesian film with terrible acting and a silly plot, but it is also incredibly creepy at parts. The special effects are horrible, but the music is very evocative. It features a whole lot of Indonesian myths and just kind of throws you into the story, but according to IMDB, it is the first Indonesian horror film aimed SPECIFICALLY at western audiences.
So, it's kind of a convoluted mess. That's alright with me, though, as long as it's entertaining. And 'Mystics in Bali' is very, very entertaining.
The story centers on an American woman named Catherine who has come to Bali to research black magic for a book she is writing. She has already written at length on Voodoo, but wants to cover other styles of magic. A young man named Mahendra is helping her to meet a 'Leak master' (Leak being, apparently, a very strong form of black magic). It is not clear whether they know each other from somewhere else, or if this is the first time the two have met. Whatever the case, Mahendra and Catherine seem to be in a relationship, but probably the very early stages of one.
He takes her to a bizarre witch who lives in the woods, and who (surprise, surprise) won't teach Catherine about Leak magic without messing up her mind a little. Catherine is soon being used to commit ritualistic murders in order to make the witch young again. This, coupled with some of the sets, give the film an almost fairytale quality at points.
Other parts, like when Catherine's head pops off her body (with organs attached to spinal cord) are very much NOT like a fairytale.
And, there is quite a bit of cheesy romance melodrama between Catherine and Mahendra between all the magic and murdering.
I would really need to watch this a few more times before I know whether or not I even like it, but it's certainly attention-grabbing. The witch's laugh is EXTREMELY annoying, however, and the cheesiness almost outweighs the neat ideas on display here.
Still, it is very strange, and any fan of cult movies could do a lot worse than checking this one out.
VHS photo by Toby Hudson.