A modern retelling of the original Indonesian thriller “Ratu Ilmu Hitam”, Queen of Black Magic follows Hanif (Ario Bayu), his wife Nadya (Hannah Al Rashid) and their three children as they travel to the orphanage where Hanif was raised, to say goodbye to the dying patriarch. Upon arrival there, they’re greeted by other orphans raised within the walls of the looming old orphanage, and their families. What starts out to be a gentle and somber goodbye turns into a horror show like nothing any of them has ever seen.
A tale of revenge, generational trauma, and the secrets that we keep, Queen of Black Magic takes horror to extreme ends. Indonesian horror always has a visceral, disturbing quality that is difficult to describe in words and instead, often, has to just be experienced. Body horror meets black magic in an intensely frightening onslaught of terror. Moment to moment, the absolute deluge of terror never lightens up. It’s almost as if the first fifteen or so minutes of the movie are the climb up to the first big drop of a roller coaster – and once you take that drop, there’s no turning back.
Queen of Black Magic masterfully blends practical special effects, camera trickery, and digital effects to create a truly horrifying visual feast. Some sequences were so grotesque that even I, a seasoned horror vet, had to avert my eyes. Much of the horror of Queen of Black Magic is telegraphed from moments beforehand, with suspenseful music cues letting you know that what you’re hoping isn’t about to happen is, in fact, about to happen. While this removes some of the shock-value of the scare itself, it does not – and could not – detract from the horrific visuals on screen, no matter how much you anticipate them.
Reminiscent of horror greats, from Haunting of Hill House to Legend of Hell House, there’s a distinct air of “something in the house” from the first breaths of this film. The walls, the floors, the furniture all ooze trauma, horror, and grisly truths. The unraveling of the truth is the beating heart of this film, and the surprises just keep coming. Intricate writing unfortunately runs slam-bang into a cluster of horror tropes – almost as if they threw everything at the wall to see what would stick, but the walls were made of superglue. At a certain point, sensory overload begins to take over, and the unexpected becomes all too expected. It’s unfortunate, because up to that point, it’s a wild ride, with shocks and surprises around every corner. I suppose, too much of any good thing is simply too much.
Overall, Queen of Black Magic gets a resounding “Yes” from me but be prepared for over the top scares that sadly give way to tired and overused tropes before the film runs out.
7 out of 10