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SHACKLED (BELENGGU) (director/writer: Upi Avianto; cinematographer: I. Tanjung; editor: W. Imbomo; music: A. Suman; cast: Abimana Aryasatya (Elang), Avrilla (Senja), Imelda Therinne (Jingga), Laudya Chintya Bella (Djenar), T. Rifnu Wikana (Arturo), Arswendi Nasution (Yosef), Bella Esperance (Crazy Old Lady), Verdi Solaiman (Guntur); Runtime: 100; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Frederica Upi; PAL form for DVD/Terror-Cotta; 2013-Indonesia-Indonesian with English subtitles)
“Cerebral horror pic.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

The first thriller from Indonesian auteur-filmmaker Upi Avianto (“Red CobX”/”Chants of Lotus”/”Reality, Love and Rock ‘N’ Roll”), who wanted to make such a film for the past decade. It’s loaded with eerie visuals and a frightening claustrophobic apartment building setting–one that features a dim-lit hallway that could scare anyone. It’s a bizarre, cerebral horror pic, that won a reluctant me over despite its poor production values, plot holes and lack of cohesive character development. But its twists on reality as it travels over a familiar horror genre scarey path and its creepiness, raised its entertainment value for me above the typical so-so horror film. Belenggu smartly channels David Lynch’s Mulholland Dr. (2001) in weirdness and in funky costumes it takes its cues from the bunny garb of Donnie Darko (2001).

In the small town of Bahasa, in Indonesia, a twitchy, paranoid, laconic, loner bartender, Elang (AbimanaAryasatya), is haunted by violent dreams of someone dressed in a white rabbit suit who is brutally slaying his victims. It also happens that there’s a serial killer in town, who has everyone on edge. When a prostitute named Jingga (Therinne) is abused by a nasty customer at the bar, Elang comes to her rescue and gets fired. She stays the night in his apartment and talks the unstable loony into killing the three nasty drunks who raped and humiliated her, a crime he gets arrested for by detectives Yosef (Arswendi Nasution) and Arturo (T. Rifnu Wikana).

In the second-half, we observe that Elang is not a reliable crime witness, who goes into deep funks over his incessant dreams and of his protective attitude to a mother, Djenar (Laudya Chintya Bella) and her daughter Senja (Avrilla), seen in his recurring dreams and who supposedly live next door. They are eventually killed by the feared guy dressed in the bunny outfit.

The film is filled with fantasy sequences, and it’s up to a tuned in viewer to separate illusion from reality. The inexperienced horror film director does a nice job engaging the viewer without tawdry shock scenes and by keeping the tension up until the conclusion, but makes too many missteps in pushing through such a nightmarish psychological thriller that requires some leaps of faith to digest its disjointed narrative in total.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”