Mystics in Bali takes us into the wonderful world of 1980s Indonesian exploitation flm-making. And a delightfully crazy world it is.
A young American woman named Cathy Keen has gone to Bali to learn about black magic. Her Balinese toyboy Mahendra offers to introduce her to the greatest master of leák magic. Oddly enough although Mahendra knows that leák magic is the blackest of Balinese black magics and is horribly dangerous he’s still happy to get his girlfriend involved.
The master of black magic turns out to be a woman, and she is happy to take on Cathy as a pupil. Although Cathy fancies herself to be a bit of an expert on magic, having studied voodoo and other magical systems, she’s a little bit on the naïve side. It doesn’t occur to her to wonder if the leák queen is really doing all this out of the goodness of her heart or if there will be a Price To Be Paid.
She probably should have started to worry when the leák queen told her she might need to borrow her head for a while. Actually I’d have started worrying earlier than that, when I discovered that my magic teacher liked to consume large quantities of fresh blood before the beginning of the lesson.
Cathy on the other hand has no suspicions at all until it’s too late. And although Mahendra is a nice enough guy he’s not the sharpest knife in the drawer. When he finally tells his uncle what’s going on his uncle tells him how foolish he’s been. Luckily his uncle is a kind of village elder and a bit of a magic practitioner himself and he has some mantras which he assures Mahendra will protect Cathy from the black magic queen. Unfortunately by this time the relatively harmless old queen has become an incredibly powerful sexy evil young queen, so Mahendra’s uncle has to call in his own uncle who has much greater magical powers. Uncle’s uncle is an old enemy of the queen’s and the stage is set for a magical showdown.
Meanwhile Cathy’s head has been committing murders for the leák queen and it may be too late to save Cathy from the evilness she has unleashed.
The acting is pretty dire but you don’t watch an Indonesian horror movie for the acting. You watch for the outrageousness, the amazing special effects and the general craziness. Mystics in Bali ticks all those boxes. There’s the maniacal laughing of the leák queen, there’s the ever-present mist, there’s the sheer dumbness of the hero and heroine, there’s the over-the-top evil witch queen make-up.
And most of all there are the special effects. All done on a shoestring without access to fancy studio tricks but crude as they are they work. The effects work through their sheer bravado and the obvious enthusiasm of the film-makers. The disembodied flying head with attached entrails has to be seen to be believed. Once you’ve seen it you still won’t believe they actually did it but you won’t forget it. And then there’s the birthing/baby-eating scene. Nothing succeeds like excess is obviously the motto here.
There’s nothing subtle about director H. Tjut Djalil’s approach. He just piles on the outrageousness as quickly as possible.
Mondo Macabro once again delivers the cult movie goods with a great widescreen DVD transfer of one of the wildest and most bizarre movies you’ll ever see. Lady Terminator will always have a special place in my heart since it was my introduction to Indonesian schlock horror but Mystics in Bali is a true classic.