Dissecting Danur, The Highest Grossing Indonesia’s Horror Movie to Date
2017 sees some promising good movies from Indonesia and one of the many that catch the attention of the audience is “Danur : I Can See Ghosts”. The movie is the adaptation of a best selling novel created by Risa Saraswati titled “Gerbang Dialog Danur”. The news of the adaptation had many fans waiting with excitement since last year, and starting from March this year we finally see the final product directed by Awi Suryadi. “Danur” tells about real-life story and experience from Risa Saraswati who could see ghosts since she was a child. She then befriended ghosts who were Dutch descents that she found on her grandma’s house. The movie adaptation sees Prilly Latuconsina reprise the role of the adult version of Risa. She was known for her role in a TV series “Ganteng-Ganteng Serigala” as a typical Indonesian teenager, but now she is challenged to act mature and superstitious. The movie has some differences from the novel and the most drastic change is the number of the ghosts. Risa Saraswati befriended five little ghosts in real life named Peter, William, Hans, Hendrick, and Janshen. On the big screen, only Peter, William and Janshen appear.
The novel is just like the foundation of much bigger and more exciting story that will be told on the movie. The novel chronicles Risa’s relationship with these forms from other dimension. It tells about the dynamics of the friendship, consisting of its ups and downs. As a comparison, to make the movie more appealing, the scriptwriter creates an antagonist character and make Risa’s ghost friends as the heroes. The decision to do so was without any reason because Risa’s ghost friends apparently did not want to be portrayed as pitiful creatures. Young Risa in the age of 8 played well with her ghost friends, up to the point that she was encouraged to do suicide to be forever with them. After an attempt to jump from the balcony to kill herself was prevented by her parent, she was finally shown the true form of her friends which were full of scars, blood, and the smell of rotting flesh called ‘Danur’. She became afraid and then decided not to pay attention to anything related to ghost while growing up. The three ghost friends also disappeared along the way.
When she has grown up into adulthood, a mean ghost named Asih played by Shareefa Danish appear as a baby sitter with an evil plan to take her sister, Riri to the other side. In her desperate state, she then calls her ghost friends for help and then they are reunited in a mission to rescue Risa’s younger sister. The movie could capture the essence of a haunted old Javanese house with its wooden interior, statues and decoration. The side actors of this movie play their characters well, especially Riri who acts pretty natural for her age without being too staged like what we usually see from Indonesia’s child actors. Prilly on the other hand could ditch her whiny, pampered, rich girl persona she got from “GGS” and acts more mature. However, the highest prop must go to Shareefa Danish who plays her role exceptionally well. She could send you a shiver just by giving a blank stare even without her scary make up. The plot is pretty predictable, but some scenes seemed to be cut off so the audience could not follow the story well. Some characters are gone in some scenes then return without us noticing or knowing what happened to them. This is the biggest killjoy in the film so far, such a sad thing to see when the atmosphere and the surprising parts of horror movies are already there.
Some scenes which are meant to be scary also turn out to be not-so-scary or even comical, and we also hear the rise of laughter from the audience on the cinema, so clearly we are not alone in this. So, what is the verdict? Is it a good movie? Well, it is an okay movie, not that scary that will leave you sleepless at night. The scariest horror movie in Indonesia still goes to “Tusuk Jelangkung”. But does “Danur” deserve its over a million audience and becomes the top of Indonesian box office? Well yes, because first off whoever markets this movie is a genius that deserves an award. Before the movie is out, media outlets reported some scary occasions on set including Prilly whose sixth sense has been awakened and the real ghost friends of Risa who intervened the production process. There was also a ritual done on its first screening in which 5 seats on the cinema were left empty so Risa’s real ghost friends could sit there. Whether it’s true or a made up marketing ploy, it is intriguing and piques the curiosity of our citizens who still love any things superstitious. The casting of Prilly who got a huge fanbase and is also a media darling, is one of the defining factor on why this movie is a hit as well. Story wise, if you’re a true horror movie fan, you could find another film to watch.