DEATH WHISPER (FILM REVIEW)

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Well, someone’s a big fan of the Korean Whispering Corridors.

From the rotating Hangeul characters during the opening credits to the gift of the actual film DVD to a student on campus, DEATH WHISPER makes no qualms about where it takes inspiration from.

This remake by Awi Suryadi bears many references to the original in terms of settings and vibes, but chooses to tackle the topic of school bullying instead rather than the former’s tale on authoritarianism gone wrong. It’s a more hot-button issue and the relevance hits home and gives us a more effective film.

With the help of Agasyah Karim on screenplay, Suryadi manages to craft a very decent script as compared to his earlier horror outings such as DANUR and DANUR 2. With a focus on storytelling, the scares work their way in with a punch, and a steady pacing keeps the mood build-up nurtured without dragginess.

Angga Yunanda is a likeable-enough lead as Alex, the son of a famous psychic who starts his first year in college. There, he quickly develops a crush on fellow schoolmate Maggie (Amanda Rawles) and tries to spend more time with her.

But this topschool with its illustrious alumni has a bit of an unhealthy tradition. While third years are treated as Royalty, second years are just labelled as a Commoners. The freshmen? They are known as Slaves. This means no use of the toilets, canteen or library, along with other debasing rules that strip the dignity of the first years. All this in a bid to inculcate a warped discipline.

Leading this charge are the tight trio of Fahri (Teuku Ryzki), Andre (Arya Vasco) and Erika (Naomi Paulinda), and Alex’s supernatural lineage piques the interest of Fahri who’s somewhat of a geek on the spooky.

The three believe Alex can help summon the spirits of three girls who died in the school from bullying, and forces him to do so… but we know that’s never a good idea. One by one, the spirits manifest themselves in terrifying ways to torment Alex and his seniors, and soon the body count begins.

While DEATH WHISPER may not have reinvented the wheel, the subject matter remains compelling and lends itself to the horrific turn of events in a very relatable way. Suryadi’s team has created a superior movie compared to many recent Indonesian titles because the focus is on the story – something they have picked up from K-horror very well.

There still is some maturing to do with the production – the editing is a little redundant at parts and some sets badly underlit – but with such a great showing from the cast and some great horrific moments, the film holds it own against the international market and deserves credit for being so well-rounded.

If Indonesian horror continues in this direction, we can definitely look forward to less copy-and-paste tropes from the West and embrace the terrifying talents Asia has to offer.

Rating: 4*

A very decent showing from Suryadi and the cast, with a compelling story built at a steady pacing, and littered with various forms of creepy scares that should satisfy most.

First published: www.movieXclusive.com

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