‘The Queen of Black Magic,’ or ‘Ratu Ilmu Hitam’ in its original language, is the new thriller from director Kimo Stamboel and writer Joko Anwar. It is a tale of revenge, blame, and trust.
The film starts off as most horrors do, introducing a happy family. In this case it’s Hanif (Ario Bayu,) his wife Nayda (Hannah Al Rashid,) and their three children. They’re on their way to the orphanage where Hanif grew up, to meet up with his childhood friends Anton (Tanta Ginting) and Jefri (Miller Khan.) The three men are going to visit old Mr. Bandi, the old caretaker who raised them, on what is probably his deathbed. Once they arrive, they meet old friends and new additions, and of course Bandi. But a single event on the car ride over proves to be the catalyst for the film that sends everything into motion. Someone wants them dead, and they’re forced to figure out who it is before it costs them their lives.
It takes a while for the film to pick up speed; you know something is coming, and yet every minute that passes where nothing happens feels like it’ll lead to a ‘gotcha’ moment that never arrives. Once the action begins however, it doesn’t stop. The problem is, each of the characters seems to have their own thing going on. With everything happening at once, it’s hard to keep your focus on one character or another. You never know when the creepy backstory is supposed to apply, or when it’s something new. As a result, it never feels like any character gets any real closure with the situation they are faced with.
The film’s salvation is really its performers. Despite all that happens, you’re still inclined to root for them. Each character represents a piece of a puzzle. You become invested, wanting to put together the story as it plays out. Unfortunately, they seem to belong to different puzzles. It doesn’t always fit as it probably should, and priorities are sometimes completely out of whack.
Overall, this film is a good choice for a horror movie night. But ultimately, it relies too much on gore and genre tropes to really be any different than anything we’ve seen before.
Produced by Rapi Films, ‘The Queen of Black Magic’ is a reboot of the 1981 film of the same name, also produced by Rapi Films. It will be available to stream on Shudder beginning January 28th.