Queen of Black Magic (AKA Black Magic Terror, apparently.) ~ 1983, Liliek Sudjio
In the 1970’s and 80’s, Asia kicked it up a notch and hit us, the people of Planet Earth, with nigh countless bad ass genre films in a variety of enjoyable and distinct subgenres. One such subgenre was the magic/superstition/horror movie, which produced a number of rock solid genre classics, like Black Magic, Seeing of a Ghost, and Eternal Evil of Asia. Queen of Black Magic is an Indonesian contribution to this rich horror lexicon, and while it’s clearly a less technically sophisticated production than many of it’s Chinese predecessors, damn if it’s not impressive and entertaining all the same. Queen of Black Magic in particular has earned a reputation over the decades for it’s special effects, which are both gruesome, and impressive, given the film’s low budget, and scant resources.
Honestly, all of these movies are at least a little bit entertaining, because they draw on such a rich and fascinating folk tradition, which most Westerners are totally unfamiliar with. And there are hundreds of them! Probably most American horror fans have never even dipped their toe in the Asian Magic Horror Film well, and that well is deeper than you could ever imagine. Time to dive in.
THE PLOT~ Times are tough for Murni. Some time ago, Kohar, local lady-killer extraordinaire, charmed his way into her Jungle Pants, and she was powerless to resist his advances, because he is Kohar. Actually, let’s get to know this guy a little bit before we proceed.
GETTING TO KNOW KOHAR: UNDISPUTED STUD-MUFFIN OF SOUTHEAST ASIA
No woman can resist Kohar. Here are some of his finer points.
These qualities speak for themselves, Kohar is manhood incarnate, and a force to be reckoned with. The sad truth, though, is that he’s also a total dick. Having successfully executed Operation: “Bang Murni,” Kohar decides to temporarily pacify his deeply upset female conquest with the promise that everything was totally okay, because he was for sure gonna mary her real soon, Scount’s honor. Well, looks like the only Merit-Badges Kohar ever earned were in seducing ladies, Dope-Ass Back-Daggers, and being a fucking liar, because here we are, present day, and he’s marrying some other girl, while Murni is stuck sitting around like chopped liver. Totally uncool!
I can’t tell if she’s crying because she’s sad, or if it’s because of that giant onion she’s caressing.
She’s pretty broken up about it, obviously, but Murni needn’t be too jealous for very long. You see, unbeknownst to anyone in the village, this here wedding is about to get kyboshed super hard, black magic style, because some unknown third party has decided to place a gnarly curse on Kohar’s blushing bride to be, thereby disrupting these nuptials but good. Enraged, Kohar decides he wants to bring justice to whoever the hell just ruined his big day; but, sadly, he has no idea who that person could be. “I’ll just blame Murni,” he thinks. “I probably haven’t ruined enough of her life yet, anyway.” Using his raw animal charisma and remarkable gift for public speaking, Kohar convinces a good chunk of his fellow villagers that there is at least a 15% chance that Murni totally did this, and is definitley a witch. Instantly, a mob is formed, and Kohar leads his fellow villagers through the balmy jungles of Indonesia on a quest to brutally murder an innocent girl who he had personally de-virginized only weeks prior. Long story short, neither Murni, or her mother, whom she lives with, end up having a very nice evening. Murni is drug out, beaten, and tossed off a cliff. When her mother pleads with the group to have mercy on Murni, Kohar slaps her unconscious and burns her house down. He’s a friggin’ dick.
So, Murni tumbles down the cliff, shattering every bone in her body on the countless branches and stone outcroppings that she strikes on the way down, but thank goodness, some weird jungle hermit somehow catches her and takes her back to his secluded hell-cave, which just so happens to be littered with spooky black magic paraphernalia. No big deal! This Satanic Samaritan kindly nurses Murni back to health, before he hits her with some hardline, Darth Sidious style manipulation. “Listen, yo,” he says. “Them fools tried to kill you. You gotta get your revenge- black magic style! And I’ll train you in the ways of the dark side, so you can totally do it. You have to kill all of those people, or else.” Murni isn’t exactly elated with this proposal, but manipulative douche bags seem to have a way with her, and she agrees. Soon, Murni returns to the village to get her vengeance, which, and I can’t stress this enough, is really awesome. Highlights include a man who grows giant, disgusting blood blisters all over his face and arms, and of course, the demise of Kohar, who is actually forced to yank his own head off.
Just… Just so, so awesome.
But the movie isn’t over. Next, a pious stranger from the city arrives in town, eager to pray at the local mosque, which the superstitious locals have long since abandoned. When he learns of the many black magic related issues the village has been dealing with in days of late, this wandering holy man decides that all they really need to turn it all around is some good ol’ fashioned churchin’ up. He takes it upon himself to lead this wayward flock back into the light, which actually kinda works, and that just pisses off Murni’s reclusive jungle mentor like you can’t believe. It’s clear that this town ain’t big enough for the two of them. Can these two opposing forces embrace one another and learn to coexist, or will the bad guy literally explode at the end of the movie?!?
So, Queen of Black Magic is a story about redemption, but it’s also about resisting temptation. Murni’s problems all stem from how easily swayed she is, first by Kohar, and next by her black magic mentor man… Which, admittedly, murdering people with the powers of hell is a lot worse than banging some skeezeball, but it’s the same basic principles. In the end, the moral also stresses the importance of owning up to the wrongs you have committed, and accepting the punishments associated with them. Also, Murni almost marries her brother, but incest doesn’t really seem like a problem in this film’s self contained universe. Listen, just go watch this movie, it’s awesome.
As I mentioned above, the special effects in Queen of Black Magic really stand out as being pretty excellent for a low budget film of this caliber. They’re bloody, imaginative, and fantastically well executed, meaning that amateur films being made today have absolutely no excuse for shitty CG effects. You’re all lazy, do better.