may the devil take you review

Timo Tjahjanto’s May The Devil Take You has been – and will continue to be–- comparatively crowned Indonesia’s closest Evil Dead reimagining. Possessions, sub-level imprisonment, a house where pure malevolence resides and characters remain trapped. Tjahjanto wears his swankiest on-set suit and Sam Raimi mask, which at times can be quite convincing (a bit more Drag Me To Hell, even). Although, sequences can also remind of Joko Anwar’s Satan’s Slaves – which hits the streaming service Shudder on October 4 – despite Tjahjanto’s banshee scream lacking tonal subtlety. Anwar is to James Wan as Tjahjanto is to Raimi. Anwar a little more accomplished in his mission, but that doesn’t mean Tjahjanto fails to push audiences into his bloody brand of spiritual hijacking.

Chelsea Islan stars as Alfie, a daughter who discovers her estranged father has fallen ill. Lesmana, a property mogul who literally sold his soul for success years earlier, lays sick in a hospital bed surrounded by Alfie and her step-siblings. El Diablo comes to collect on Lesmana’s pact while the boil-covered businessman lays corpse-like, and in-turn follows Alfie to her father’s estate. Onlookers pray Lesmana’s remaining assets can stave off bankruptcy, but what they instead find is something ultimately darker. When the Devil comes calling, someone has to answer. Enter Alfie, Maya (Pevita Pearce), Ruben (Samo Rafael), their younger sister and Maya’s mother.

While foreign cinema seems to nurture lengthier runtimes with more tender, well-plotted motivations, May The Devil Take You challenges limitations at 110 minutes. Tjahjanto’s desire to throttle top-speed intensity causes Alfie’s investigation to suffer frequent diversions despite being somewhat straightforward. As per Lesmana’s opening encounter with ritualistic fate trading – floating goat head included – there’s no question as to what nefariousness exists. Demons snarl, voodoo dolls are tortured, slithery tongues wiggle, but sometimes it’s a bit difficult to comprehend where storytelling has brought us. A dead end or ungroomed outlet? Another jump-scare via fanged Evil Ed face? Spooks abound, but continuity sometimes finds itself buried under remnants-and-fossils muck.

Splatter cinema fans should find Tjahjanto’s commitment to gross-out dismemberment quite enjoyable, more aligned to Fede Alvarez’s Evil Dead remake than Raimi’s original(s). Just as Netflix’s The Night Comes For Us, also directed by Tjahjanto, pulpifies the action genre in ways modern producers rarely attempt, May The Devil Take Us draws infinitely more blood than supernatural ghostland lullabies. Characters project thick, sludgy liquids all over unsuspecting parties, limbs snap like brittle twigs, heads detach – Tjahjanto’s SFXs burst and gush and are slick to the touch. Maybe a bit style over substance when it comes down to thrusting Alfie into another revolting face-off with death, but certainly within Tjahjanto’s butcher’s block wheelhouse.

May The Devil Take You is a brand of housebound horror that’s all about sliding down the Devil’s throat. Lucifer wishes to torment, and with that thematic presence of mind, Tjahjanto employs tactics some might basely describe as “jump scares.” My opinion is that May The Devil Take You is a tad better at expected shocks than garden-variety indies. Nothing especially tricky – child peeks under her bed, catches nothing, Batara Goempar Siagian’s cinematographer follows the turned head back upwards, “Satan Lady” waits within Siagian’s frame – but certainly effective. “Not Deadites” crabwalk backward up walls, hands outreach from darkened doorways, and the Devil’s grasp always feels inches away.

May The Devil Take You might not rewrite the Necronomicon, but frankly, Timo Tjahjanto doesn’t have to. His brand of possession thriller takes a life of its own through heavy-handed occult violence mixed with stellar performances and veiny, pulsating eyes peering between ill-fitting floorboards. You’ll need rainboots to traverse visceral undead slop. Tjahjanto knows his way around darkhorse material. Basement encounters, bedside rushes of gnashing teeth, and a third act that saves a meandering midsection serve up a fleshy, delicious meal. My kind of midnight snack.

/Film Review: 7 out of 10

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About the Author

Matt is an NYC internet scribe who spends his post-work hours geeking about cinema instead of sleeping like a normal human. He seems like a pretty cool guy, but don't feed him after midnight just to be safe (beers are allowed/encouraged).