Film Review: Jeritan Malam (2019)

Reza got a job placement in East Java. He discovered various kinds of horror events but he was not a believer. He and his three friends tried to explore the history of the dorm they lived in. But unfortunately, Reza did a ritual that should not have been done.

I came across this film while looking for a horror film on Disney+. Coming without any expectations, thinking about watching the film for only 10-15 minutes or so, then I’m done if the film wasn’t any good. Like many half-hearted made Indonesian films, you literally can judge them from the first 15 minutes or less. But don’t get me wrong, I still love Indonesian films (Only the good ones). 

Jeritan Malam – en: Night Scream (Image: Soraya Intercine Film)

For the first 15 minutes, I can say that this is not a cheaply made film looking how they shot the scenes and how they treat its colour. Also somehow I recognise the story, like I read it from somewhere. Where was it? A book? A Twitter thread? Kaskus..? With a quick browsing, Jeritan Malam is actually adapted from a thread on an online forum – Kaskus. 

The fact that I already read the story, maybe cloud my judgment on the film. Anyway I’m still not sure whether the film was adapted straight from the thread or from a book that was also adapted from the thread. Pretty confusing I know.

What is this film anyway?

Reza had just graduated from university. He was in the uni, then graduating the same time with his girlfriend – Wulan. Graduating is one thing but actually landing a job is different. It was not easy for Reza to get one. Lucky for Wulan, she had a job pretty quickly.

Not until some months before Reza got a job. But he was placed in East Java. Far away from where he lived with his parents – Bogor, West Java. It took some convincing to make his parents and girlfriend let him go there. 

Kujang. Not from the film, it’s just so we can get the idea (Image: Mariska Lubis, Steemit)

Then the day arrived. Reza’s father, mother, and girlfriend said their farewell in the train station. It was a pretty typical goodbye kind of thing until his father gave him a Kujang – traditional weapon associated with West Java. However it’s not for physical protection, the Kujang has a spirit in it to protect from spiritual attacks.

Due to a tragedy he had when he was a kid, Reza held no belief in any mystical thing. Unlike his father who was really into it. They got into an argument as Reza didn’t want the Kujang. But his father insisted on taking it and accepting it as just a gift, not a relic or some kind.

The adventure just began! Reza the man full of logic discovered various kinds of horror events. It all changed after a forbidden ritual while Reza and his three friends tried to uncover the history of the dorm they lived in. 

Slightly Changed But It’s Fine

Unfortunately the story altered here and there from the source material. Like for an example, the mysterious events should start right when Reza was still in the train on his way to the city where the job placement was. Or we went straight to the ritual arc without more conflicts in the dorm.

The alteration was quite normal as we have a limited duration for a film. Even the studio went as far as making the fim 118 minutes long (with credits). Just enough duration to actually enjoy the film. A shout-out to Soraya Intercine Film!

Then there are some other things that also changed. From my perspective, not because of the limited duration we had for a film. But maybe just a creative or business decision from the creators or the studio. It’s fine anyway.

Scarier Than I Thought

Coming with no expectation whatsoever and discovering a story adapted from an online forum. Somehow made me want to see it as scary as the thread. It turned out scarier than I thought. Having an idea that It might have failed to capture the horrifying atmosphere from the thread. Like another thread adaptation film that I watched, Keluarga Tak Kasat Mata – en: Invisible Family (2017). It was an inaccurate adaptation, unneeded songs as the film score, cheap jumpscare, etc.

Jeritan Malam doesn’t just show as many ghosts as they please. Yes they showed them. In fact, there are plenty of ghosts available! However they don’t use the ghosts cheaply or use jumpscare as a formula for making us terrified. 

My only criticism is that for so many spiritual beings in the film. No such deep understanding or background story about them. I think just a simple explanation would work. Like for two ghosts who lived in the dorm, a man in the picture and a woman in a well. We are given a good grip about them. 

Sound

As scary as it was, the sound aspect from the film is quite problematic. Let’s start from the dialogue. It is too clear. Wait.. What? Yes, the sound is too clear, to the point that I was like sent back to the 80s. When most (or all) of Indonesian films are dubbed just to make us hear the dialogue because of the technical limitation at that time.

There were scenes from Jeritan Malam that I can’t hear any noises from the surroundings. Like no sound on the train station but from the actors and actress speaking. We can hear main characters talking but nothing from other people around while eating lunch in a canteen. Even no fire sound from torches in a place that shouldn’t be any other noises than those thorches.

Why I don’t say it bad is that there were times when the sound characteristic was good. It was perfect to capture a sinister atmosphere. But it does not necessarily have to do it that way. 

Maybe more on the background music was used in the film. It would be better if they used Sundanese music to match the Kujang part or Javanese music to match the setting of the film. Take a look at the Danur universe, they use Sundanese song/music but still can make the films sinister. It doesn’t need to use seriosa or opera seria (disclaimer: I’m not sure what it’s called) to make us scared.

Let’s Wrap It Up

In the end, if you are really into horror films, then congratulations! This is a film for you. I think this is not only for Indonesian like me. Doesn’t matter who you are, this film is like for everyone. Well, due to the fact that Reza – our main character is the logical man. The quite opposite of typical people in Indonesia who held belief in superstitious things.

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