Director – Joko Anwar
Cast – Fachry Albar, Marsha Timothy, Ario Bayu, Tio Pakusodewo, Henidar Amroe, Verdi Solaiman, Putri Sukardi, Ade Firza Paloh, Atiqah Hasiholan
Release Year – 2009
Reviewed by John of the Dead
The very first time that I read about this piece I immediately sent this to the top of my “must see” list due to its awesome storyline, which thankfully was also expertly executed by Indonesian writer/director Joko Anwar. While The Forbidden Door suffered limited exposure and won no major awards (it did win Special Jury Price – Jakarta International Film Festival 2009) during its debut in 2009, this very creative and highly engaging piece is one of the best horror films I have seen in recent time, and one of the best overall from last decade.
Gambir lives a life that most would dream to live – he is a renowned sculptor, has a beautiful wife, and lives comfortably in a beautiful home – yet there is always evil lurking beneath what the eye can see. Soon enough, Gambir’s life is thrown into shambles when he begins to receive strange pleas for help from an unknown source that will soon bring to life the very horrors that surround him.
I am not overly familiar with Indonesian horror, although I hear it is much less cliche than the typical Asian horror we receive from other Asian countries, and that was definitely the case with this one. Coming in at just under two hours in length, I was unsure as to how well the film would pace and if it would suffer the long runtime woes that Asian films normally suffer from, but once again The Forbidden Door defied all odds and gave me one hell of an enjoyable experience.
The storyline is expertly crafty, blending horror and drama as Gambir rummages through what seems to be a perfect life, but is in fact one plagued with abortions and erectile dysfunction, among other less-than-favorable things (in his eyes). Of course this is worsened when he begins to receive odd messages from someone begging for help, which I found simple but well-used as they eventually built up to a game-changing development when he comes across a secret organization delving into masochistic desires, and in ugly but engaging fashion. There have been times when I have come across what society would deem “hard to watch” material, and while the scenes I am speaking of were not for children’s eyes they were not cheap nor lacking substance, just scenes that hit very close to home – especially the usage of the young boy (you’ll see). From then on out the tension builds and builds as Gambir comes closer to solving the mystery behind the organization and the people they illegally broadcast being brutalized, which then leads him (and us) to another game-changing development that raised the tension (and my interest) to supreme levels. Because of this development, we are given one of the most awesome final sequences I have ever seen in the horror genre, which takes its sweet time thanks Joko Anwar’s excellence as a filmmaker and leaves the viewer mentally and physically gasping for air – which THEN is followed by a climax that once again throws us for a loop. This was honestly one of the few times that a third act consistently messed with my head and increased the horror as well, and alone makes this story a great one.
Anwar’s direction compliments his storyline, giving us beautiful cinematography that came bright and with vibrant colors, which I found joy in and a break from the gritty and gloomy cinematography that we usually get with Asian horror – which I enjoy but was not necessary for this piece. The acting performances were solid and not over-exaggerated like those we get in other Asian horror efforts, and this played very well into the numerous different elements and tension-filled situations thrown into this piece, especially the final sequence. Anwar’s direction of the horror is superb, taking his sweet time to draw out the scenes and torture us as we view the tortured, and with excellent and heavy loads of gore at just the right times. This really could have been a thriller piece based on the story alone, but Anwar ensured us a horror effort with his spine-tingling execution, making for one of the most pleasurable horror experiences i have come across in a long time.
Overall, The Forbidden Door is a highly recommended Indonesian effort whose storyline gives us a very unique experience that comes well written and with plenty of horror to offset and in fact compliment the drama. Anwar’s direction is equally amazing, giving us a full-frontal approach to the well-executed horror sequences that set this film apart from most of what I have seen in recent time.