MYSTICS IN BALI
Those wanting craziness will
be amply rewarded by this Indonesian import centered on Eastern mysticism, in
particular the mythology-based figure of a
malevolent flying head with dangling
entrails. Yep, it’s that kind of movie!
horror/exploitation cinema experienced a boom period during the 1970’s and 80’s,
and director H. Tjut Djalil/Jalil Jackson was at the forefront. MYSTICS IN BALI
(or LEAK), which appeared in 1981, was the first-ever horror movie from this
20-year filmmaking veteran, but he took to the genre like a natural, and would
go on to direct the mind-blowing
LADY TERMINATOR and DANGEROUS SEDUCTRESS.
MYSTICS IN BALI is probably Djalil’s best all-around film. Like the others
mentioned above, it was geared toward the American market, but didn’t ultimately
make it to the US until 2007, with Mondo Macabro’s long-overdue DVD Release.
BTW, the critter at the center of this film is a real figure of Indonesian
mythology called a Lee-ak, meaning a flying head trailing innards
(similar to and often confused with the Malaysian Penanggalan, which
means Head with Dancing Intestines, and the Thai Krasue). Similar
monsters showed up in 1977’s WITCH WITH FLYING HEAD from Hong Kong and 2002’s KRASUE from Thailand.
Catherine is a young American woman on vacation in Bali. Together with her
native boyfriend Mahendra Catherine travels to a secluded island, where an
obscure cult called the Leyak resides, in an effort to learn about the “most
powerful magic that exists today.” Once the sun sets she and Mahendra meet a
sinister old woman who happens to be a full-fledged Leyak witch, and who, noting
something promising about Catherine, brands her with a long forked tongue.
Catherine returns to the island the following night and again meets up with the
witch. The hag formally initiates Catherine into the Leyak by hypnotizing her
and causing them both to briefly metamorphose into ravenous pigs.
Understandably concerned for his girlfriend’s welfare, Mahendra consults
his sorcerer uncle, who gives him a spell to counteract the Leyak’s evil. It’s
to no avail, though, as that night Catherine once again visits the witch, who
this time takes over Catherine’s body--or at least her head, causing it to fly
through the air, entrails attached, and enter the home of a pregnant woman whose
fetus it promptly devours. After this ordeal Catherine, head back in place,
informs her witch mentor that she’s had enough. The latter, however, will have
none of this. She turns them both into snakes, in which guise Catherine gobbles
several mice which she, back in human form, pukes up the next morning.
But she’s back on the island the next night for another bout of bodily
possession and head floating. The witch is using Catherine to supply herself
with human blood, which causes the old coot to grow younger--and, after killing
three people, immortal! Now the trick for Mahendra and his uncle is to keep
Catherine’s head from returning to her body, because if it does than the evil
Leyak will be unstoppable.
In the tradition of most Indonesian horror/exploitation films, MYSTICS IN
BALI is tacky, unpolished and extremely poorly dubbed into English...but still
an irresistible viewing experience. The special effects may be primitive, but
director H. Tjut Djalil’s bizarre visuals are arresting, imparting a wealth of
wild and often downright psychedelic imagery. The film is rooted in arcane
folklore incomprehensible to most Western viewers, who will likely find MYSTICS
IN BALI a cockeyed exercise in
Jodorowskian insanity. But as such it’s fairly
well-made: the sentimentality is kept to a minimum, and the film, at an economic
80 minutes, moves fast and sustains itself nicely.
Truthfully, the sight of a woman’s flying head with dangling innards was
already seen (and arguably done better) in 1977’s WITCH WITH FLYING HEAD, but
Tjut Djalil has an audacious, go-for-broke spirit, ensuring that at the very
least the viewer is never bored. While it doesn’t really work as the
atmospheric Western-style horror-fest the filmmakers intended, MYSTICS IN BALI’S
sheer outrageousness makes it a must-see.
MYSTICS IN BALI (a.k.a.
Pusat Perusahaan Film
Director: H. Tjut Djalil
Producers: Sri Gunawan, Hendry Katili, Abdul Muis Sufian
Screenplay: Jimmy Atmaja
(Based on a novel by Putra Mada)
Editing: Djuki Paimin
Cast: Ilona Agethe Bastian, Yos Santo, W.D. Mochtar, Debbie Cinthia Dewi, Itje
Trisnawati, Ketut Suwita, Drs I Gusti Ngurah Lanang Jagat Karana, Teddy Riady, I
Gusti Ngurah Oka Aryajimbaran, Drs I Gusti Lanang Agung Iswara