Currently one of the hottest directors working in Asia, director Timo Tjahjanto has offered a slew of explosive and engaging efforts that are placing him at the forefront of international success. Not only has the man broken away being part of ‘The Mo Brothers’ with Kimo Stamboel, Timo followed up his previous action highlight ‘The Night Comes For Us’ with his standout horror film ‘Sebelum Iblis Menjemput,’ or streaming on Netflix under the title ‘May the Devil Take You.’
Fearing for her father, Alfie (Chelsea Islan, from “Headshot”) arrives at the hospital to meet him only to find her stepsiblings Maya (Pevita Pearce, from “The Sinking of Van Der Wijck), Ruben (Samo Rafael), Nara, (Hadijah Shahab) and their mother Laksmi (Karina Suwandhi, from “My Generation”) there as well. As they engage in their usual bickering, the group is forced by circumstances beyond their control to investigate his house in order to find out what happened to him. Almost immediately, they realize that their father awakened a great evil in order to achieve tremendous personal wealth by calling forth a demonic entity to grant his wishes and has now come to claim part of the bargain. Realizing that means they’re now trapped in the house with the ravenous, bloodthirsty being, the slowly-dwindling group must find a way of stopping its advances before they’re all killed.
Right from the beginning, “May the Devil’ works itself over rather nicely. Most of the film’s positive elements come from the stellar incorporation of the supernatural into the story devised by director Tjahjanto. The film starts this immediately, from the opening ceremony to the terrifying encounters in the hospital, leading the way for some creepy encounters. Later scenes at the house where the group is looking over the house which is filled with occult paraphernalia which follows up these sequences with a feverish intensity. The antics of the possessed family member is a wild highlight sequence that notably raises the stakes of the film considerably showing the true nature of what their father was involved with.
The second half of the film builds on these early scenes very nicely. By showing everything taking place during the driving rainstorm, Tjahjanto creates a stellar atmosphere that’s only enhanced with the action around the house. Showing the possessed member chasing them around or the incredibly eerie encounter in the woods accomplishes this fully. Later on, the scene of her crying out from the darkness trying to tempt members of the family, changing into demonic-tinged yelling in order to sell their plight, gives way to a chilling abduction attempt pulls double-duty in ‘May the Devil Take You.’ Not only does this sequence provide a strong scare-factor for the film, but it also gives further insight into Alfie’s backstory with the revelation of an earlier encounter with the demon that was responsible for a childhood trauma.
The final half expectantly pulls out all the stops as ‘May the Devil Take You’ really lets loose. Writer Tjahjanto saves the best scares for the last part of the film, running through the earlier tactics of demonic voices and laughter or popping up unexpectedly to torment the group but bringing about new ideas as well. This section features the villain with the ability to control the objects in the room around them or using a mystical object to break them apart. Some of these moments are straight up terrifying to see play out, especially once you realize it’s done in the presence of a child. In conjunction, the fine return with the mysticism and occult rituals that are in place in order to finally resolve this allows for a truly engrossing and brutal if slightly overlong payoff which is perhaps the only real flaw in the film. This all could’ve been resolved slightly easier and quicker but is nonetheless still a factor here.
While ‘May the Devil Take You’ may tend to wander a tad too much in the later half, the rest of the film is a stellar, top-notch over-the-top ride with continuous confrontations, plenty of strong horror sequences and a frenetic atmosphere. Readily dive into this one if you’re at the least curious, a fan of the director’s other work or enjoy this kind of Asian horror, while those that don’t enjoy it should heed caution.