Categories Film Review

Pengabdi Setan, A Wickedly Thrilling Mystery

Pengabdi Setan (Satan’s Slave) is a remake from Indonesia classic movie with the same title directed by Sisworo Gautama Putra in 1980. The remake of the horror cult classic is directed by Joko Anwar (A Copy of My Mind, Kala, Janji Joni) and the movie is very detailed, also wickedly thrilling.

Pengabdi Setan tells a story of terrors from evil being to a family of five after the death of the mother. The movie is not telling its story hastily, so does in scaring the audiences. The movie doesn’t show a premature terror such as a ghost who suddenly appear in the early part of the movie. Pengabdi Setan patiently building momentum in a right pace.

Ibu Mawarni (Ayu Laksmi) is a pop singer who is lying sick in bed for the last 2 years before passes away. She left her husband, Suwono (Bront Palarae) with no savings, and their four children Rini (Tara Basro), Toni (Endy Arfian), Bondi (Nasar Annuz), and Ian (Adhiyat) who should care and protect each other.

The movie begins with characters and situation introduction, a family with financial difficulties, a dying mother, and a fragile grandma. A horror atmosphere was also build slowly since the beginning of the movie with the sound of a bell and some scenes such as where the mother recites a mysterious spell while lying in bed, and where Toni combs his mother’s hair.

After the mother passes away, the thrilling scenes are slowly getting more often and more intense. Near the end of the movie, the terror is getting into another level. There are some steps with a certain pace before the spooky atmosphere become a real life nightmare, it is like that Joko Anwar has his own math formula in creating the pace and the terrifying intensity for the movie.

The movie has a very detailed artistic. The spell, the bell, the comb, the mother’s song, and some other stuffs are not just accessories, they are key points for the story, for the intensity, and in tone making.

From another perspective, Pengabdi Setan is not just a horror movie. There is an element that usually doesn’t mix well with horror, that is the value of a family. Mother, a warm and kind-hearted figure in a family become a main threat in this movie. To avoid this threat, the children should love and protect each other.

Avoiding devil’s threat through family protection is an unusual narration in Indonesian horror movie. Usually the only thing to defeat evil is by holy prayers or the verses of scripture from a holistic and dignified cleric. But here, Joko Anwar make the cleric (Arswendy Bening) more humane, he holds grudge at one point and his faith wavered.

On the other hand, the narration of taking care of each other also comes as a double-edged sword. The narration gives more richness, depth, and emotion to the story, but at the same time also toned down some of the horror scenes. That is maybe my only concern of the movie.

The actors do really well for their respective roles, every character is important for the story development. No useless character is introduced. But the ones who steal attention are the two kids Bondi and Ian. Bondi shows fear from a child perspective, and Ian give some fresh touches to the whole story with his sign language and cheeky character.

The latest Pengabdi Setan is a creative reinterpretation by Joko Anwar. The movie is not only offer a scary make-up, or scary noises with an ordinary ending from the usual Indonesian horror movies. It has a solid story line and as each mystery is unraveled, the movie is wickedly getting more thrilling.


Our Score (8.5/10)



Title                     : Pengabdi Setan
Production         : Rapi Films in association with CJ Entertainment
Director              : Joko Anwar
Story                   : Joko Anawar based on a movie written by Sisworo Gautama Putra
Casts                   : Tara Basro, Bront Palarae, Endy Arfian, Nasar Annuz, Adhiyat, and Ayu Laksmi




Putu Radar Bahurekso
t : @puturadar | ig : putu.radar


Written By

Demon Lord (Editor-in-Chief) of Monster Journal.
Film critics, and pop-culture columnist.
A bachelor in International Relations, and Master's in Public Policy.
Working as a Consultant for Communications and Public Affairs.


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