Directed by Rizal Mantovani [Other horror films: Jelangkung (2001), Kuntilanak 2 (2007), Kuntilanak 3 (2008), Kesurupan (2008), Mati suri (2009), Air Terjun Pengantin (2009), Taring (2010), Jenglot Pantai Selatan (2011), Air Terjun Pengantin Phuket (2013), Wewe (2015), Firegate (2016), Jailangkung (2017), Bayi Gaib: Bayi Tumbal Bayi Mati (2018), Kuntilanak (2018), Jailangkung 2 (2018), Tembang Lingsir (2019), Kuntilanak 2 (2019), Rumah Kentang: The Beginning (2019), Rasuk 2 (2020), Asih 2 (2020), Kuntilanak 3 (2022)]
Known in English as The Chanting, Kuntilanak has the distinction of being the first Indonesian horror film I’ve seen thus far. How does it hold up? It’s a mixed bag, but overall, while below average, it’s okay.
Now, some of my perceived shortcomings come not from the film itself, but from the quality of the upload I happened to view. The audio had an echoey feel to it, the English subtitles weren’t the best, and the video quality was on the grainy side. As best as possible, I will not let these technical aspects hamper my review.
Julie Estelle plays our main character, and as she moves into a boarding house near a cemetery, the young woman becomes the medium to a pontianak, or kuntilanak, and hell follows with. The beginning and middle portions of the film are a bit dull, as far as I was concerned. The setting was on par with what I’d hope to expect; a spooky boarding house near a cemetery is just what the doctor called for. And our main actress, Estelle, is a very attractive young woman. But it takes 45 minutes or so for the movie to really pick up. And when it does, it’s not exactly amazing.
For every cool, if not dated, jump scene the movie presents, it also brings with them elements I wasn’t fond of, such as the fact our main character herself has (rudimentary) control of the aforementioned kuntilanak. Also, there’s a Satanist element thrown in also, which, even with the ending sequence, didn’t do much for me.
Lastly, as far as negatives go, the last split second of the film was a jump scare, which has always annoyed me. Still, it’s not all bad. Many of the scenes with the kuntilanak were suspenseful, and there were plenty of frightening sequences to keep you happy (past the first 45 minutes, that is). The ending was a decent one, though not wholly unsurprising. Kuntilanak wasn’t an overly spectacular film, but it held up well given its deficits.
If most Indonesian horror films came out like this, even with my rating not being amazing, it’d still indeed be something to applaud. On a quick side note, there are two sequels to this film, 2007 and 2008 respectively, and while I don’t know how they compare to this one, I do know that Estelle appears in those also. As for this one, though, it’s not a great movie, but a decent one, somewhere around average.