Mystics in Bali (1981)

In the late 1970’s and early 1980’s, the Indonesian government apparently discovered that films could be a lucrative source of foreign revenue, so a number of B-movies were produced, and then exported them to the West. One of these films was Mystics in Bali, a B-movie that is somewhat notable for its focus on black magic and Balinese mythology, particularly the leyak, a vampiric creature that takes the form of a flying head with hanging entrails. This is one of those low budget horror films that seems to playfully embrace its unbelievable premise to gory effect, and this sort of thing made it a hit among fans of cult horror films, and somehow, this film is in the public domain.

The plot centres on a woman named Cathy Kean, a foreign woman (depending on the dub, she is either American or Australian) who visits Bali in order to write a book on black magic, and therefore sets out to learn Leák magic, which she first heard of through her Balinese lover Mahendra. She takes lessons in black magic from the Queen of the Leák, who takes her in as her disciple and teaches her some powerful black magic, but at the price of turning her into a Leyak that must feast on the blood of newborns in order to give her master power, and it is left to the local holy men of the village to stop the forces of evil from gaining too much power.

I would call it standard horror stuff but it isn’t. The premise is very original, but the writing isn’t very good. It’s very obvious that the writers weren’t taking the film very seriously, and this is shown by the cheesy way in which the witch acts. Another flaw is that you have characters that appear from out of nowhere, and are given little screen time, so when they do appear, you’re wondering “when did they come in?”, which isn’t exactly good writing.

The acting isn’t terrible, but it’s cheesy. In fact, the English dub actually plays into the silliness of the film, which I guess is not the worst thing in the world for something like this. Here’s a fun fact though. Apparently Ilona Agathe Bastian, the actress playing the lead role, never actually acted before this film, and was a German tourist who was chosen at random by the wife of one of the film’s producers to play Cathy. That explains a fair bit.

Given that this is a low budget horror film, except a lot of cheesy special effects, and you’ll notice that the film itself looks drastically more computerised when some of the magical transformation effects happen. It’s not the cheesiest you can get out of special effects, but it can get pretty comical from here. The film isn’t terribly gory, but if you have a weak stomach, I wouldn’t recommend it.

I don’t think there’s much more I can say about this particular film. Other than its unique premise, it’s not very special, but it does have its moments.

  • Score: 57%
  • Grade: D
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