The Queen of Black Magic
January is an infamous time for horror movies. From poor Paranormal Activity sequels to inadequate Insidious instalments, it’s considered a dump month in the film industry, meaning a period in which distributors can push out mediocrity and expect profits, as consumers seek cheap entertainment following the Christmas spending boom. These genre flicks are inexpensive to produce, plus they offer alternate entertainment to the prestige dramas that typically dominate the winter season.
With cinemas closed, horror fans must turn to the digital space, and the specialist streaming service Shudder has a pleasantly nasty surprise with this Indonesian chiller. The directing duo known as the Mo Brothers, Timo Tjahjanto and Kimo Stamboel, are renowned within the genre sphere for their brutally violent work within action and terror, such as within the films Killers and Headshot. Separately making films now, Stamboel has further leaned into scares and may have perfected his craft with this gnarly feature. The Queen of Black Magic – written by Joko Anwar, a screenwriter acclaimed for his terrifying revenge narratives – centres on a group of family friends who travel to an orphanage to pay tribute to the dying old man who raised them.
The institution is haunted by evil in various forms – most prominently as a crippled woman who holds the titular distinction – and the husbands, wives and children vary in their knowledge of the place’s history. Frankly, the filmmakers aren’t fussed about lore, taking easy way outs to account for the paranoia that pervades their characters as they cope with trauma in disturbing ways. One can criticise The Queen of Black Magic for being a series of narrative events that don’t strongly connect to one another. The flimsy plot twists are merely an excuse to string together grisly sequences of the group being terrorised by devilry.
However, the director is less concerned about thematic resonance or the narrative ins and outs and is instead focused on advancing his fluency in the visual language of horror cinema. It’s a goal he achieves in a gruesome fashion, setting the bar for 2021. Interested audiences can expect an overly familiar haunted house plotline, but are advised to simply sit back and relish the ghastly images, which range from a possessed self-mutilating woman to a man stapling his own mouth to the Ring-esque sight of a female emerging from a television set. It’s a completely twisted picture, but that’s exactly what spectators want from a Shudder original.
The Queen of Black Magic is released digitally on demand on 28th January 2021.
Watch the official trailer for The Queen of Black Magic here: