Long search for creepy house in Satan's Slaves

Satan's Slaves (top), Joko Anwar's (above) remake of the 1980 Indonesian classic of the same name, was the country's highest-grossing domestically produced movie last year.
Satan's Slaves (above), Joko Anwar's remake of the 1980 Indonesian classic of the same name, was the country's highest-grossing domestically produced movie last year.PHOTO: MM2 ENTERTAINMENT
Satan's Slaves (top), Joko Anwar's (above) remake of the 1980 Indonesian classic of the same name, was the country's highest-grossing domestically produced movie last year.
Satan's Slaves, Joko Anwar's (above) remake of the 1980 Indonesian classic of the same name, was the country's highest-grossing domestically produced movie last year.PHOTO: LIANHE ZAOBAO

Satan's Slaves director Joko Anwar made sure to ground the film in a real location - a dilapidated house his team found after a long search

The horror movie Satan's Slaves (PG13, 105 minutes) features a strong eldest sister, Rini, protecting her family from evil forces intent on claiming her brothers. It is a remake of a 1980 Indonesian classic of the same name.

In case anyone thought that heroines are a recent phenomenon, the film's director, Joko Anwar, would like to set the record straight.

"In the 1980s, most Indonesian action films had a female protagonist," says the 42-year-old to The Straits Times at a press conference in Singapore earlier this month.

Satan's Slaves is now showing in cinemas.

But there is a difference between his heroine and the ones from exploitation movies featuring scantily clad women in lurid situations.

One example he cites is Jungle Virgin Force (1988), about women held as sex slaves in a jungle camp.

"In those days, the women were put under the male point of view. They were sex objects. It's different from today," says Joko.

Rini, played by actress Tara Basro, is left to defend her family after her mother dies and her father leaves for another town for work.

The film was a commercial hit in Indonesia, becoming the country's highest-grossing domestically produced movie last year.

The horror genre "has a special place in the hearts of Indonesians", says Joko, and in the 1980s, films were seen as a powerful influence. That caught the attention of the government and affected the stories that film-makers told, he adds.

"Back in 1980, the government suggested it wasn't a 'must-do' that studios show that good always triumphs over evil," he says.

In his film, the forces of good, represented by a religious teacher, succumb to the evil forces.

"He is just another human being," says Joko.

His film struck a chord in his home country because "it takes horror seriously", he adds.

He states that cramming in ghosts and scares is not enough - the emphasis must be on strong characters that audiences care about.

Also, he avoided computer graphics trickery, preferring to use prosthetics, shadows and music to make audiences jump. He also made sure to ground the film in a real location.

After a long search, his team found the perfect creepy two-storey house seven hours west of Jakarta. It was dilapidated, but the crew repaired it just enough to make it look good, without destroying its old-world feel.

They also dug an indoor well, which takes centre stage in some of the film's scariest scenes.

Because of the success of the film, the old house is now a popular tourist site, he says.

Tara, 28, who was also in Singapore with Joko, says people she knows told her that watching the scary movie actually put them in a good mood.

"They told me that after coming out from the cinema, they had a feeling of euphoria. It's like going on a roller-coaster ride."

• Satan's Slaves is now showing in cinemas.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 22, 2018, with the headline 'Finding the perfect creepy house'. Print Edition | Subscribe