Film Review: Siksa Kubur (2024)

Making a film about punishment of the grave requires maturity. That’s not my opinion, but what Joko Anwar—the director—has stated. And indeed, it certainly does. (Spoiler alert) This necessitates maturity from us, the audience, as well.

Siksa Kubur (2024; English title: Grave Torture) narrates the punishment of the grave that occurs after humans are buried. The story commences with Sita (portrayed by Faradina Mufti, with young Sita played by Widuri Puteri) and her older brother (played by Reza Rahardian, with young Adil played by Muzakki Ramdhan) experiencing a childhood marred by tragedy. Following the deaths of their parents in suicide bombings, Sita develops a profound distrust of religion. Consequently, her sole life objective becomes finding the most sinful person, and upon that person’s death, entering their grave to prove that the torment of the grave is non-existent and religion is a sham.

Although marketed as a religious-horror film, upon viewing, I discerned something more nuanced. Certain scenes are not merely eerie but deeply unsettling. Some premises provoke discomfort rather than fear, leading me to consider labelling it a religious-psychological-horror film.

The background music significantly contributes to establishing an unsettling atmosphere throughout the film. I observed that music is frequently present, if not constant. While this enhances the film’s auditory experience, it diminishes its scariness in areas where silence may have been more effective.

Regarding pacing, the film initially feels slow-paced, gradually building towards a more engaging rhythm. This contrasts with Joko’s previous horror film, Pengabdi Setan 2: Communion, which maintains a relentless pace, and won’t let you catch some breath. However, this difference does not denote inferior quality; it simply reflects the storytelling approach employed in Siksa Kubur.

The film tactfully navigates religious themes without delving into too sensitive territories. It sheds light on contemporary (and nowadays) societal issues surrounding religion, illustrating how religion is often exploited by individuals. For mature viewers, Sita’s actions throughout the film can be interpreted as a condemnation of those who misuse religion, rather than a rejection of religion itself.

Siksa Kubur (2024) (Credit: Come and See Pictures / Rapi Films)
Siksa Kubur (2024) (Credit: Come and See Pictures / Rapi Films)

Siksa Kubur may not elicit feelings of repentance in its viewers. It revels in ambiguity, particularly in its conclusion, eschewing a straightforward moral message. Instead, it presents the journey of a young girl (and her older brother) who evolves into a woman still harbouring resentment towards those who trivialise religion, as she grapples with her trauma.

This film may not appeal to everyone, including fans of horror films. There are many things that are left unexplained. But it makes Siksa Kubur possesses a theatrical quality that is best experienced in a cinema setting, appealing to those who resonate with its unique vibe. “If we vibe, we vibe”.

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