Friday, July 12, 2013

Look Back and Play Again: Modus Anomali (2013)

Modus Anomali (AKA Ritual) (Indonesia, 2013)
Ratings: ***1/2
Starring: Rio Dewanto, Hannah Al Rashid, Aridh Tritama

An Indonesian effort, Modus Anomali takes on the backwoods slasher/thriller with a lot of genre influences into its otherwise relatively thin plot.

An amnesiac man emerges from a shallow grave in the woods and stumbles into a cabin, littered with what appears to be its occupants' belongings and a dead woman. A tape was left in the scene, which recorded a masked killer stabbing said woman, and it is here when the man begins to realize that the woman might be his wife and he has two kids out in the woods, hunted down by the same masked man. It isn't long before the assailant does return to kill him off, forcing the man to try outrun and outwit the killer, all the while hoping to save his children from this nightmare.

We follow this run for a good hour or so before the second half of the movie gets thrown at us, revealing some pretty clever twists that actually made the movie a worthwhile viewing. In the meantime, Modus Anomali acts out like an average slasher/thriller in the vein of The Strangers (2008), wherein the killers would rather keep their distance and mess with their victims before actually attacking them up close. After a few good deaths, it all leads to a rather strange curveball that took some cues from movies like Michael Haneke's Funny Games and that time-travel thriller film Timecrimes (2007). (Don't worry though, it's nothing that complicated),

The twist is the film's bigger sell so I'm not gonna dwell too much on that to prevent any slip-ups, so let's move to the other things that made this film an interesting watch; Director Joko Anwar made a good catch by having its lead an amnesiac as it quickly builds up our anticipation to whether he should be trusted or not. True, he did woke up buried underneath loose soil during the first few minutes, but what exactly did he do to end up in such a predicament? We don't know and so does he, so we're hooked to go through the same confusion he's having, trying to put up the pieces together while attempting to survive a mad killer.

Rio Dewanto plays the lead and, though I know very little of Indonesian actors, he did a good job portraying a frightened unsure man who eventually evolves to something more. Sadly, I can't say the same for the rest of the casts as the characters they're playing were either on the run, on the hunt, or was just there for a few minutes before being killed off. Then there's the accent, which I find kinda distracting seeing the entire film is in English, but I rather not let that ruin an otherwise good movie.

All throughout, Modus Anomali's delivers a bit of momentum in terms of mystery and tension thanks to its direction and a lot of beautiful camera work; it does pace itself considerately, but the slow burn does the job right as it brought out quite an effective impact on the twist, making it a surprise necessity for the story. (Although, a few editing might have been good for the first half. Just a little off the top~) Plus the forest setting actually works here given its very looming presence and atmosphere is felt all the way through the night, especially if we have armed masked figures looking right back at your lead so eerily from afar.

Indonesia seems to show an effort when it comes to entertaining genre flicks; A few years back, we have films like the Hitchcockian The Forbidden Door (2009) (Also directed by Anwar, which I really recommend), the slasher film tribute Macabre (2010) (AKA Darah) and, just two years ago, the ridiculously entertaining action thriller The Raid: Redemption (2011) coming out of this country. Guess we have another recommended watch here, though just be warned, you have to be really, really patient with this Modus Anomali.

1 pregnant female stabbed on the womb with a sword
1 female impaled through sharpened bamboo
1 male had his neck hacked with a machete
1 male found murdered
1 male bludgeoned to death with a baseball bat
1 female stabbed on the neck with a hunting knife
Total: 6

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