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Review Danur (2017): Not one I can recommend!

genre: horror, mystery, thriller

The film's story is adapted from a novel written by Risa Saraswati and is based on a friendship between ghosts and humans. Apparently, Danur is the highest-grossing Indonesian horror film in 2017 and has led to two sequels. This fact comes from Wikipedia and it made US$9.23 million in the box office. Normally, I don't pay that much attention to gross and profit, since all I care about is the quality of the film and what it offers me. So why do I care now?

It's one thing to have success and then capitalize on that success. But to create a whole universe around this film is extraordinary. These titles are:  Danur 2: Maddah, Danur 3: Sunyaruri, Asih (2018), Silam (2018), Asih 2 (2020) and Ivanna (2022). Well, after having watched Danur, I am at a loss. It's not super bad. But to say it's a good horror film, that would be reaching. For one thing, it's not thrilling nor scary. It lacks tension, suspense and dread. Perhaps they confused a slow story with strong build-up of atmosphere. But by the time something does happen, very likely you won't care that much. Yes, there are like 1 or 2 moments in the film that comes close to a frightening moment. Although I have to admit, that is me being generous. Almost everything about this film is off. Like for example, the little girl Risa Saraswati, is left alone by her parents. They never truly explain why this is the case. There seem to be workers there, but never really interact with her. Why not? I would assume the parents wouldn't be that careless to leave a young girl all by herself? So surely they are the ones who look after her when they are absent? Why not show this? At one point, a worker does witness little Risa playing in the garden. She clearly is talking to someone, but because he can't see the others, he comes to the conclusion she is possessed. But we can see that he sees the swing swinging up and down like someone is on there. If he were practical and not superstitious, I would have understood him being dismissive of ghosts. Yet, a few minutes later, he has no qualms about demons and exorcism. I would like to think that even if they are employees would be more caring towards little girls as if they were their own daughters. Then there is the friend of the mother, a psychologist. She sees a few chairs move on her own and without giving any sensible explanation, she says she can't help her daughter because it's not psychological. I mean, surely as a friend you would be more empathic or helpful. BTW, this moment reminded me of the one in Paranormal Activity which was intended as comic relief. I doubt that this was the intention, since the entire film is humourless.

Then it takes them almost an hour to get to the horror part. I wished I was joking. And had this first hour been giving us background on ghosts, the family members etc. that somehow tied into events displayed in the film then I would have appreciated it. But nothing of the sort. Suddenly, the evil is upon them without giving rhyme and reason for it. And to make matters worse, the ghost or demon world is ripped straight from Insidious. With this rich mythology Indonesia has, you are going to tell me that it's exactly the same as depicted the way Hollywood did? Come on, it's obviously this was ripped off. Does make you wonder why they didn't steal more from the film, as it was a masterclass of instilling dread.

Overall, Danur is not a film I can recommend. And this makes me worry about the sequels and spin-offs. Except Ivanna. That one was excellent.

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