The Mo Brothers (Headshot), Indonesian directors Kimo Stamboel and Timo Tjahjanto, are all over the inaugural Nightstream Film Festival with solo films. And damn, do they hate orphanages. Kimo checked in with dark horror The Queen of Black Magic. Not to be outdone, here comes Timo with May the Devil Take You, Too. The sequel to his 2018 demonic horror film, this time out he drops more Evil Dead-inspired craziness; he goes full Raimi and it freaking rules.
Two years after successfully fending off sinister forces, Alfie (Chelsea Islan) still finds herself tormented. Then a group of similarly traumatized folks kidnap her and her sister, Nara (Hadijah Shahab), and take them to the remote ruins of the orphanage where the group grew up to put Alfie’s particular set of skills to use. Which all goes about as well as one might imagine.
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Outside of the kidnapping, the setup is fairly standard stuff: There are nefarious forces at work in this creepy, desolate place; the group of orphans share a deep, troubling secret; and related beats. All the usual spooky elements are in play, like charred dolls, dank basements with poor lighting, no cell phone service, upside down spider-walking creatures, and all manner of sinister imagery. It’s fairly common cabin-in-the-woods stuff, though solidly executed by someone with an obvious flair and passion for horror.
But before long, May the Devil Take You, Too starts winging furniture all over the place, drenching characters in blood vomit, peeling faces, and all kinds of gooey genre goodness. And the story adds enough twists and turns and unique flourishes that it never plays stale. It’s eerie and unsettling, but also energetic and wild, all topped with Chelsea Islan Bruce Campbell-ing her way from one demonic encounter to the next. There are times when she practically channels the greatest chin in cinema and it’s a blast.
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Alfie and Nara have the most to do, and their bond forms the primary emotional core. The rest of the group tends to blend together into an amorphous blob. Each one gets a personality trait—there’s the nerd, the drunk, the skeptic, the reluctant leader, and others—but there’s not much to differentiate them besides that lone embellishment. Then again, most of them are devil-fodder, so they function well enough, and die in entertaining enough fashion, that it’s not a major distraction that they’re not particularly nuanced or developed.
The mind behind insane action banger The Night Comes For Us, Tjahjanto’s action chops are also on display. He employs a number of his various trademark visual touches, swooping the camera around as chairs and sawblades fly through the air, inventively staging horror set pieces like brutal fistfights, placing the audience right there. There’s a propulsive momentum, which serves the film well. There are moments where you definitely feel hour-and-49-minute runtime, but the rest is so energetic it’s easy to skim over the down beats.
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With May the Devil Take You, Too, Timo Tjahjanto delivers an effective and thrilling, if a tad familiar, genre party packed with all the horror goodies anyone could want. There are ghosts, demons, witchcraft, vengeful spirits, childhood trauma filtered through a genre lens, jump scares, creeping atmospheric dread, and so, so much gnarly gore. Definitely one to check out, this hits Shudder soon. [Grade: B+]
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