Running Time: 100 minutes
Reviewer: David Gillespie – HCF Official Artist
The arrival of winter can only mean one thing and that is the choice of the best movies of the year. With the exception of Nicolas Winding Refn’s Drive, my favourite of 2011, I usually find my nominations appearing come the December to January period. Shackled is my favourite horror film of the year and a triumph for Indonesian cinema. A bold statement but it is unlikely that there is going to be anything that will top it in the next few weeks leading to the hell on earth that is known as Christmas.
So why can this stand high amongst the rest of the offerings this year? Probably because it dares to be that little bit different and has a heartbeat amongst the carnage and depravity. Ignore the comparisons to Dave Lynch’s Inland Empire and Richard Kelly’s Donnie Darko (yes, it does feature a giant rabbit) and marvel at the lush visuals and ingenious twists and turns of Upi’s clever plot.
The story is narrated by the main protagonist, Elang (Abimana Aryasatya), a nervous and shy young bartender. Plagued by nightmares of a murderous giant rabbit and besotted with a mysterious, femme fatale called Jingga (Imelda Therrine), Elang explains that there are killings taking place within his small town. The killer appears to favour females as his targets. He fears for his pretty, neighbour Djenar (Laudya Cynthia Bella) and a fatherly devotion to her sweet daughter (Avrilla). When Jingga asks Elang to help her gain retribution against a bunch of gambling drunkards who assaulted her, the bartender unleashes merry hell on them. He is lifted by an elderly policeman called Josef (Arswendi Nasution) and his volatile deputy Arturo (T. Rifnu Wikana). They believe Elang to be the murderer to all the killings but don’t realise what a can of worms they have just opened.
Upi who has previously directed teen dramas and rom-com’s, makes a total genre backflip with her latest offering. The structure of her thriller is full of glorious swerves, tricks and shocks also. Perhaps the first half of the narrative focussing on the mundane and miserable life of the tortured Elang might seem a little slow for some. My arguement to this would be the wonderful production values, visuals and sound effects that the viewer is blessed with in this first hour. However the film literally soars in the final 40 minutes when Elang is arrested by the police. Then you just don’t want things to stop. We get a drama, psycho thriller, mystery and slasher rolled into one clever yarn.
The murderous white rabbit is extremely chilling but is sparingly used which only enhances its impact in some of the killings in the final third. His one full out assault on a family is stylishly filmed and truly devastating.
The director has gathered together a fine ensemble to star in her project. Nasution is spot on as the cunning veteran detective and Therinne is perfect as the beautiful but deadly Jingga. The violence is shocking and bloody but never excessive. There is also a feeling of dread and sorrow throughout the running time. One scene involving Elang and his neighbour’s young daughter in the final moments is truly heartfelt in its simplicity.
This is unlikely to be available in the retail shelves for long so my advice is to get yourself a copy while it’s still around. Shackled is a beautifully made and powerful thriller with excellent performances from the whole cast