Director Rocky Soraya is back with chapter two of his Mata Batin film series, and for those that enjoyed his first outing, you’ll find more of the same in this episode.

This means big sets, big houses, and big acting, along with a crazy soundtrack that refuses to die. You can probably already tell I’m not the biggest fan.

In the first movie, Alia (Jessica Mila) opens her third eye to help her sister Abel (Bianca Hello) combat a malevolent spirit in their new house, and the story ends happily enough, even if a few sacrifices were made.

We return to the sisters in MATA BATIN 2 at their peaceful home, until the ghost of Mirah (Jelita Callebaut) returns to haunt the pair again. The elder sister has now clearly become adept at dealing with ghostly sightings and missions, and even produces a book and starts reading off rituals like a seasoned witch doctor. But while all that is very useful, the hunt leads to the unfortunate demise of the younger Abel, with Mirah shrieking herself into oblivion at the crime site, looking mighty guilty. Mrs Windu (Citra Prima) counsels the distraught Alia away from obsessing over the unmotivated murder, and the surviving sibling manages to find some solace in her new role as an orphanage caretaker.

There she meets owners Mrs. Laksmi (Sophia Latjuba) and Mr. Fadli (Jeremy Thomas), but most shockingly, the mansion that she keeps seeing in her visions. She also quickly recognises the odd behaviour of orphan Nadia (Nabilah Ratna Ayu Azalia) as someone with the third eye, and she calms the girl by teaching her more about her powers. They soon join forces and investigate into a possible haunting within the orphanage itself. Just as this inevitably leads to more trouble, the script also begins to spiral out of control from here on out.

In all honesty, nothing is going to surprise you here if you are a regular horror movie watcher. The basic toolbox of tropes from western franchises like INSIDIOUS, CONJURING and multiple other possession titles will make their appearances here – ad nauseum.

There’s a rinse-and-repeat formula here for sure. Someone has a paranormal activity and screams; Alia runs to the scene. There’s an awful lot of the same tension tricks here too – namely the slow pulling back of some object or the timely creeping hands of the spirit. It gets old really fast. Don’t even get me started on that eye-zoom effect as the girls teleport between realms.

And while all this may still be acceptable if the story moves itself towards some sort of a conclusion, Soraya maybe had a compulsion to throw on more ritualistic obstacles to ante up his first film, and unwittingly creates a neverending morality tale that grates. The message of forgiveness isn’t a new one, and when you demonise flat characters and get the heavenly dead to return and preach, it’s all very detached and cheesy.

Probably the two most unforgivable sin is the awful makeup that child actor Darmah (Hadijah Shahab) has to contend with, that looks especially cakey and bad in brighter scenes, and the inclusion of Rayya (Nicole Rossi) and Malika (Yasmine Mahya) as flat characters introduced purely to extend the haunting. Actually make it three, Jeremy Thomas is hopeless in his performance here.

If Soraya had spent less energy on stringing gimmicky scenes awkwardly together and more time on crafting a meaningful script without throwing beds around the set, MATA BATIN 2 would have been a great Indonesian piece. There’s some magical lore that can really unnerve, and the camerawork is quite good when it’s not shaking away for a desperate effect.

Rating: 2.5*

More of the same, sadly. It’s time to close that pineal gland girls.

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