May the Devil Take You unleashes gory possession.
May the Devil Take You or Sebelum Iblis Menjemput is an Indonesian supernatural occult horror film that resembles The Evil Dead (1981). With a setting in an old dilapidated villa, surrounded by a forest and people getting possessed by a sinister entity, but with a background story about greed and a disturbed family this film has a very familiar feel. With a lot of gore, black goo, and gruesome violence, it doesn’t add something new or fresh to these horror tropes. But it surely offers a great horror time with a cathartic ending and Indonesian-style possessions, gory gruesome kills and some great creepy scares in an atmospheric background.
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The film starts with a man Lesmana, who has summoned a witch who works for the devil to give him fortune. But his fortune comes with a price. His wife dies, after he left her and his daughter Alfie and marries Laksmi an actress who has two children Ruben and Maya and together they have another daughter Nara. Years later when Alfie is an adult and getting by, by pickpocketing people, she gets a call that her father is in the hospital in a coma. Alfie is to inherent his old villa and travels there to take a look. But Laksmi and her children have also gone to the villa to take everything they can because they are in desperate need of money. Maybe the locked basement hides valuable papers and documents. But when they open it, they release an evil that has been imprisoned there and who wants to take them all.
Why you should watch it
May the Devil Take you is a film with many familiar tropes, possession, a lot of gore, gruesome kills, that takes place in an isolated setting within a dilapidated house. Although it does resemble Evil Dead it does have an Indonesian touch. The folkore behind it, the design of the possessed mother with her big tongue sticking out of her mouth and the ghostly witch’s sharp teeth does give it an Asian voice. With a simple premiss that holds up the storyline and acts as a firm structure this film follows the possession road towards a redeeming ending.
Due to the family’s background story, with Laksmi as the evil stepmother and Maya as the evil vindictive stepsister, they blame Alfie for their financial status. And in fact when Alfie finds out what her father did, there might be a sinister truth to that. This tension, especially between the three women adds a bit more depth to the story, making it more than just about evil possession and gore. While Ruben is far more kinder towards Alfie and Nara is just a kid and probably Alfie’s halfsister.
Being locked up inside a house and being cut off from the world needs cell phones to die or without a signal, or a vast forest with no help nearby to create a believable claustrophobic feel, but the tension between the characters and their insecurity adds to that atmosphere.
The possession has an Asian vibe, completed with the hair and the black goo, while making the possession also more beastly instead of unnerving. The focus is more on the gory parts than on the creepy atmosphere, jumping right into the possession horror with the evil entity haunting and attacking them. There’s few scary tension buildup, but when the film does make use of it, it results always in action and gore, not leaving the audience with a creepy atmosphere that keeps them on the edge of their seat.
Alfie’s background story and what exactly happend to her mother and why she has those scars on her arm are all explained and fit into the the whole affair that has been once set in motion by Lesmana. It turns out that the sins of the father are passed on to the children but Alfie can set herself free in a great finale that also reckons with her past.
My favorite part
I liked the scene when Nara lies in bed and is called by the ghosty witch. It’s one of the few scenes with great atmospheric tension and when she first opens her closet, we get a nice surprise. To eventually end in a ghostly scary attack. Also the end when Alfie has to fight the witch all by herself is a good scene that reckons with her past and leaves the film in full circle. I thought it was a fun horror with some original scary parts, although it wasn’t an exceptional film.
Gore factor: ★★★★☆
Scare factor: ★★★☆☆
Gruesome factor: ★★★★☆
Entertainment factor: ★★★★☆
Cast and crew
May the Devil Take You is directed and written by Timo Tjahjanto. It stars Chelsea Islan (Alfie), Pevita Pearce (Maya), Samo Rafael (Ruben), Hadijah Shahab (Nara), Karina Suwandhi (Laksmi), Ray Sahetapy (Lesmana) and Ruth Marini (The Priestess).
Duration: 110 minutes. Music: Fajar Yuskemal. Cinematography: Batara Goempar. Edited by: Teguh Raharjo. Production companies: Screenplay Production, Legacy Pictures. Distributed by: Ideate Media, Netflix.