Sunday, August 17, 2008

Susuk Review

 *Not that magical* *By ALLAN KOAY* *Susuk*

 The most interesting thing about *Susuk* is not that it's co-directed by independent filmmaker Amir Muhammad, nor the fact that it is the first local film to deal with the subject of susuk (mystical implants). No, it is the extraordinariness of Adlin Aman Ramlee's character, Dukun Dewangga, that is most noteworthy. Why? Because he is a lot like Batman. Dukun Dewangga has the habit of appearing seemingly out of thin air, like Batman frequently does. Also, he has the habit of rescuing people in the dark night and can knock the wind out of bad guys with just his bare hands. Just like Bats. The only difference is that Dukun Dewangga doesn't wear a rubber costume and cape. Actually, he is also a lot like Robert De Niro's Louis Cypher from
*Angel Heart*. Cypher is well-dressed, impeccably clean-looking, and has a strange menace about him, like Dukun Dewangga. And like Cypher, our mysterious man walks around with a stylish cane and exert an unhealthy control over the central character of the story they are in. The only difference is, Dukun Dewangga doesn't have sharp, black fingernails. And he isn't the Devil. But *Susuk* and *Angel Heart* have a lot in common. Both are about black  magic, both deal with events of the past and present, and both feature a character whose big secret is revealed in a big twist towards the end. And  in both movies, there are blood and chickens. But while *Angel Heart* is a  truly sinister exploration of a trapped soul, *Susuk*'s somewhat similar story suffers from a lack of dramatic tension and purpose. *Susuk* follows the lives of two women, Soraya (Diana Rafar) and Suzana (Ida Nerina). Soraya is a nurse harbouring big, Malaysian Idol-type dreams. Suzana is popular diva, whose secret to success goes far beyond just having a soulful voice. You see, she's a hot mama not because she endorses popular cosmetics like Sammi Cheng or Halle Berry but because of the super-scary black art of susuk, which entails pins and other metallic objects being inserted under the skin to enhance a person's charisma. Suzana is shadowed by Dukun Dewangga, who is like the greatest PA and image consultant an artiste could wish for. He appears out of thin air just at the exact moment you need him, and he knows how to improve your image with a lil ol' black magic. And I don't even think he took any secretarial courses. Suzana uses a highly potent form of susuk called susuk keramat. When she wants to return to her village for a loved one's funeral, Dukun Dewangga warns her that she must never cross a body of water. But Suzana goes ahead anyway, and once she crosses the village bridge, she turns into ... Marilyn Manson. Does the movie rock or what? Meanwhile, Soraya leads a seemingly more serene life, with a nice, TV commercial-friendly guy for a boyfriend. Attending a show by popular singers Mona (Sofea Jane) and Rozana (Aleeza Kassim), Soraya becomes friendly with  them and learns that both singers use susuk to advance their singing careers. The celebrity-wannabe then decides to try this black magic herself. Happily, it gives her killer eyelashes and a distractingly bountiful physique.
Then one night, when she gets into trouble with her evil brother-in-law Farish (Hairie Othman), Dukun Dewangga appears out of thin air (told you he does that a lot) to rescue her. From this moment on, you just know Soraya's and Suzana's paths are going to cross. And they do, in a big surprise ending. But it's a very long and rather tedious journey getting to that
surprise ending, for there is almost nothing to drive the story along, except a few jump moments involving chickens (oh, those tasty harbingers of doom!) and a monster in black that goes around killing susuk users. There's so much to complain about here: Ida's overacting, Jalaluddin Hassan's bad acting, the overdone sensuality, the kitschy backdrops, the
distracting cameos, the TV-drama mannerisms. However, given that *Susuk* is *really a satire about the local entertainment industry*, it all becomes rather appropriate. Anyone who has ever sat through an episode of *Melodi*on TV3 would be able to see that. Jalaluddin's character, in trying toseduce Soraya, even utters that famous line from his game show stint: "Adakah anda pasti?" The real horror of *Susuk* is not the black-clad, ghost-faced killer, nor the cannibalistic Grand Guignol, but *the campy, self-serving, real-life Malaysian entertainment industry *magnified a hundred times to focus on its more septic aspects — the miasma of oneupmanship, vanity, pretentiousness, ego, greed and lust. Ultimately, it's not the surprise ending that's unique about*Susuk*. It's the fact that it is probably the first local movie *about the entertainment  industr*y that is so self-aware. One may to look at *Susuk* as a wicked satire, or as a conventional horror movie. But either way, one
cannot help  thinking that the movie would have been so much better had it not been so aimlessly plodding.

1 comment:

fadz said...

actually, this is the best review ive read about Susuk