Maya (Tara Basro, Killers) and Dini (Mariss Anita) are toll booth collectors in the city and struggle to get by financially. Things are relatively normal until a strange man attacks Maya with a machete, opens a scar on her thigh with his blade, and says he just wants to give back what her family gave to him before getting shot in the head by the police.

Some time passes and Maya and Dini own a clothing shop that makes no money. Maya’s wound is still fresh. She pulls a rolled up piece of paper out of it featuring unusual written text.

The man that attacked her mentioned Harjosari Village and called her Rahayu. Maya retrieves a photo of herself as a child with her parents in front of a large house. Maya and Dini head to Harjosari Village in hopes of Maya receiving a big inheritance, but the villagers have something more sinister in mind.

Indonesian horror can be pretty crazy and writer and director Joko Anwar doesn’t disappoint with his horror film Impetigore.

The film capitalizes on an unsettling atmosphere beginning with the tight corridors where the ladies’ clothing shop is located. The house that Maya and Dini are searching for is also littered with creepiness with no lighting other than gas lanterns.

The villagers also typically rely on torches to light their surroundings. This allows shadows to dance in Impetigore as the darkness nearly swallows the light at every opportunity.

Impetigore begins as this young, 20-something woman digging into her past in hopes of finally making some money, but things are off-putting at Harjosari Village from the start. The town has daily funerals; somebody literally dies every day.

The villagers also give off a freaky kind of vibe. Remember the Spanish village from Resident Evil 4? Harjosari Village screams that same kind of unsettling horror.

The film plunges itself into darker territory once one of the ladies is knocked out only to wake up upside down. It turns out the Harjosari Village is cursed; all of their children have been born without skin for the past 20 years.

The town leader, Ki Saptadi (Ario Bayu, Headshot), is an expert at shadow puppetry. The villagers believe that if they kill Rahayu, skin her, and use her skin as leather for the puppets then their curse will be lifted.

Impetigore is nothing less than bonkers in its second half. At one point, a little girl appears in the passenger seat in a moving car only to rip off the flesh from her face and cause the driver to crash the car.

Everybody cuts throats like it’s no big deal in Impetigore. No matter if it’s their own or somebody else’s; these throats are getting cut no matter what.

The epilogue isn’t necessarily out of nowhere, but it’s certainly unexpected. Ki Saptadi is influenced by his mother, Nyi Misni (Christine Hakim, Merantau) and she is essentially this evil witch that you love to hate. That factors in to the epilogue, but doesn’t make it any less insane.

This film treats freshly born babies and even ones still in the womb about as well as they did in the 2007 French horror film Inside, but not quite as stomach-turning as they did in A Serbian Film.

Doing unspeakable acts to untainted babies in film is a gutsy move in itself. It’s an attack on innocence and purity. It is killing the symbol of a loving bond between two individuals.

Overall, it’s the destruction of hope and a promising future. This town has been doing it for two decades and has become numb to this unspeakable act in the process.

Impetigore is a bit ridiculous at times. The throat cutting thing is pretty outrageous and the little girl ripping her face off is so out of nowhere that it makes you laugh.

While watching the film, it doesn’t seem like there’s that many women in Harjosari Village. And yet, there are enough women to go into labor on a nightly basis. The procreating calendar for this place must be crazy, well thought out, and immensely thorough.

The Verdict

It doesn’t seem like Joko Anwar set out to make a perfect film, but he certainly made a thrilling and entertaining one despite its flaws. Impetigore can be silly, but that’s what makes it so fun. The nastiness and the gore are just the right amount to trigger anxiousness. Maya’s journey is a lot like Sally’s in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre just with more fleshless babies.  Impetigore is a disturbing and unsettling thriller with faceless children, no remorse for neck wounds, and upside torture that will have horror fans squealing with delight.

Impetigore is now playing on Shudder.

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Impetigore Review: How to Drown a Skinless Baby
Pros
  • Indonesian horror at its finest.
  • An insane (in a good way) second half.
  • Feels fresh in comparison to American horror.
Cons
  • Is unabashedly absurd.
  • Massacres freshly born babies.
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