• Satan’s Slave (Severin Films) Blu-ray Review

    Released by: Severin Films
    Released on: June 16th, 2020.
    Director: Sisworo Gautama Putra
    Cast: Ruth Pelupessi, W.D. Mochtar, Fachrul Rozy, Simon Cader, Siska Widowati
    Year: 1980
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    Satan’s Slave – Movie Review:

    Known as
    Setan in its Indonesian homeland, Sisworo Gautama Putra’s 1980 film Satan’s Slave opens at a funeral being held for teenaged Tomi (Fachrul Rozy)’s mother. He’s there with his father, Mr. Munarto (W.D. Mochtar), and his sister, Rita (Siska Widowati), while a strange woman stares on from the small crowd gathered near the grave.

    A short time later, Tomi’s friend tells him that when he lost a family member some time ago, a fortune teller helped him out, and so Tomi’s goes to that fortune teller who advises him to protect himself with black magic. And so he does! He hits up the local book store and grabs himself a few books on black magic as well as a copy of the latest Hammer’s Halls Of Horror comic magazine (issue #21, from the looks of things, the one with that rad Villagran painted Christopher Lee/Dracula cover) and he gets down to studying. He also grabs himself some sweet rubber masks that look like they were ordered from Don Post out of the back of an issue of Famous Monsters or something. At any rate, it seems like mom might not be entirely dead, as her corpse starts peering into Tomi’s window at night. Rita sees her too!

    Soon after, Rita goes disco-dancing with Herman (Simon Cader), her boyfriend, and they have a grand old time. Anyway, as Tomi gets more into his black magic stuff, weird stuff starts to happen. Their groundskeeper, Karto (H.I.M. Damsyik), seems unable to control his asthma and tells his boss that he wants to die and Herman passes away, tragically, in a motorcycle accident. Around the same time, dad realizes he needs some help and he calls an agency to have a new housekeeper sent over. Soon enough, and oddly fairly late at night, Darminah (Ruth Pelupessi), shows up on their doorstep. That’s when things start to get a little freaky…

    Satan’s Slave is pretty great. It’s a seriously interesting mix of eastern religion and culture with western horror stylings, at times seemingly influenced by Hammer Horror and continental European scare films yet always distinctly Indonesian. It plays quite heavily with Islamic philosophy and teachings, characters chastised more than once for going out and goofing around rather than staying home and praying for their mother – and then ending really leaves nothing up for debate in terms of its pro-Islam stance. But then, given that this is a movie made in a predominately Muslim nation, that shouldn’t really be that surprising, given the way that a lot of classic vampire films and exorcism films deal with Christian religious iconography and tropes in much the same way.

    The movie isn’t particularly gory but it does have a bit of bloodshed here and there. It does feature some really great makeup work in the last half hour or so when the dead become the undead and start running about the Munarto estate. The movie doesn’t lack in atmosphere and while it might be a little slow in the middle stretch, the big finish is big enough to more than make up for that. Production values are quite decent. The movie is well-shot and well-lit, with some nice camerawork and a good score helping to boost the film’s already considerable atmospherics. As to the performances, the three that play the Munrato family members are fine but it’s Ruth Pelupessi who really steals the show. According to one of the interviews in the extras, she’d had plastic surgery before making this film, which explains why her face looks as… odd as it does in this movie. But it works in the benefit of her character, her bizarre presence creating the most memorable living character in the film.

    Great stuff!

    Satan’s Slave – Blu-ray Review:

    Severin Films brings Satan’s Slave to Blu-ray in an AVC encoded 1080p high definition transfer framed at 2.35.1 widescreen “scanned from the original negative.” Taking up just over 20GBs of space on the 25GB disc, this transfer is a MASSIVE improvement over the old DVD release that came out as part of the BCI Eclipse/Deimos Entertainment Eastern Horror collection years ago. Some shots look a bit softer than others, but that’s likely due to the original cinematography. Overall, the picture quality looks pretty nice, actually. Three appears to be some light to moderate DNR here, as skin can look somewhat waxy at times, but it doesn’t obliterate all of the fine detail like it does on some transfers even if it might eat up some of it. Colors are reproduced nicely enough and black levels aren’t bad, if not quite reference quality. The image is virtually pristine, showing pretty much no print damage a tall, and there are no noticeable problems with compression artifacts or edge enhancement.

    The only audio option is a 16-bit DTS-HD 2.0 Mono track in the film’s original Indonesian language. While this isn’t the most robust track you’re ever going to hear, it sounds fine. The levels are balanced, the score sounds pretty solid and there are no problems to note with any hiss or distortion. Optional subtitles are provided in English only.

    Extra features start off with a ten-minute featurette entitled Satan's Box Office which is an interesting interview with Producer Gope T. Samtani who speaks about the origins of Rapi Films and how they got their start importing pictures before then producing their own. He talks about the popularity of Satan’s Slave as well as making films for the international market like the pictures he made with Cynthia Rothrock and Sam Firstenberg. Clips from other Rapi Films productions are included in here too (Primitives – a.k.a. Savage Terror - being a fine example), making you wonder – and hope – that Severin has a few more titles like this in the works?

    Indonesian Atmosphere is an amusing nine-minute interview with screenwriter Imam Tantowi, who speaks here about where some of the ideas for the film came from, how he doesn’t particularly care for horror himself, how his son got freaked out typing out the script and what it was like working with the film’s late director Sisworo Gautama Putra.

    Satan's Slave Obsession is an audio interview with filmmaker Joko Anwar, the man who helmed the remake of the film in 2017, entitled Satan’s Slaves. He talks about the Indonesian film scene, his thoughts on the original and why he wanted to remake it. Severin has also included two of his short films here, the eleven-minute Jenny (which is a genuinely creepy little short well-worth your time) and the one-minute Don’t Blink (which is more of a commercial than a short film but still interesting enough to watch once).

    Menus and chapter selection are also provided and this release comes packaged with some nice reversible cover sleeve artwork.

    Satan’s Slave – The Final Word:

    Satan’s Slave is a seriously cool slice oddball horror, a film that is at times as creepy as it is campy and which wears its Indonesian roots plainly on its sleeve. Severin Films has done a really nice job bringing this one to Blu-ray with an impressive transfer, fine audio and a few decent extra features as well. Recommended!

    Click on the images below for full sized Satan’s Slave Blu-ray screen caps!

    Comments 3 Comments
    1. Jack J's Avatar
      Jack J -
      "Known as Pengarboi Setan" – Pengabdi, not Pengarboi.

      Good review, Ian. I can't wait for my copy. I own the old Brentwood bootleg dvd (which they sourced from a Japanese VHS) and it's going to be pretty fucking awesome to finally be able to watch this film in a proper picture quality.
    1. David H's Avatar
      David H -
      I watched this on Shudder last week and had fun with it. I'm assuming Shudder is using the same scan as the Severin disc.
    1. Jack J's Avatar
      Jack J -
      Quote Originally Posted by David H View Post
      I watched this on Shudder last week and had fun with it. I'm assuming Shudder is using the same scan as the Severin disc.
      Probably. The only previous releases of the film are a Japanese vhs, a US bootleg off said tape, and a couple of video-cd's from Malaysia/Indonesia. None of them have fantastic picture quality.