Bill’s Bizarre Bijou
William D. Carl
This Week’s Feature Presentation:
MYSTICS IN BALI (1981)
Welcome to Bill’s Bizarre Bijou, where you’ll discover the strangest films ever made. If there are alien women with too much eye-shadow and miniskirts, if papier-mâché monsters are involved, if your local drive-in insisted this be the last show in their dusk-till-dawn extravaganza, or if it’s just plain unclassifiable – then I’ve seen it and probably loved it. Now, I’m here to share these little gems with you so you too can stare in disbelief at your television with your mouth dangling open. Trust me, with these flicks, you won’t believe your eyes.
In the early 1980s, the Indonesian film market was trying to distance itself from its Bollywood cousin. They refuted the song-and-dance numbers and the boy-meets-girl happy endings in favor of emulating the exploitation cinema of the West. Full of crazy amounts of violence, nudity and unfamiliar mythology, grindhouse cinema patrons were graced with such delightfully nutty movies as JUNGLE VIRGIN FORCE (1982), SATAN’S SLAVE (1980), and the don’t-miss-it exploitation classic LADY TERMINATOR (1988). We also got the wild and whacked-out MYSTICS IN BALI (1981), certainly one of the oddest horror films ever produced.
Our story begins in (where else) Bali, where Catherine Kean, a student from the U.S. and her Indonesian boyfriend Mahendra (who proudly sports a ‘Property of Notre Dame’ T-shirt) discuss the book she wants to write about Leak (pronounced Lee-ack), a Balinese black magic. He knows a guy who knows a guy who can take them to meet the Queen of Leak. Within five minutes, they are watching a strange ceremony, obviously a real one shot documentary-style, which features tons of loud screaming and even louder percussion. The following night, they follow the friend’s instructions and do, indeed, find the Queen, a hag with hair covering her face and ten-inch rubber fingernails. She refuses to stop laughing, a high screech that sounds a lot like Witchypoo from H.R. PUFNSTUF of “Seventies Saturday Morning” fame. She cuts off her hand and says to come on back now, ya’ hear, and disappears. The following night, the pair of lovebirds do go back in the spooky forest, where the head Leak demon hides behind a bush, its tongue emerging to snatch jewels and drink blood. Then, it brands Catherine’s leg with its long tongue so she can gain power. Yeah, sure, go ahead and disfigure me with a ten foot tongue. Catherine and Mahendra take it all in stride. The next evening, Catherine returns wearing a traditional undergarment (!) and holding a cloth of spells. In the background, we can hear the wolves (werewolves?) of Bali howling in the night. Wait a minute! Are wolves indigenous to Bali? Not unless it’s the soccer team, the Tangerang Wolves.
Catherine returns alone to find a hysterically laughing pig-woman, who even resembles Witchypoo. They both laugh for what seems like ten minutes, and I had to laugh along with them. It’s just infectious! Then, they dance like hula dancers with Parkinson’s Disease, and in a moment of so-called “special effects”, the two women transforms into pigs. But, in the morning, Catherine seems fine, not bothered at all by her swinely state. Luckily, Mahendra’s uncle is a holy man, who recites holy Buddhist mantras. What a stroke of luck!
Even though she feels ill, Catherine goes back to the park to learn the final lesson of the Leak (I’m at a loss to explain anything she’s learned except how to become a pig). After a long laughing match, Catherine’s head rises right off her body, pulling out most of her internal organs — heart, lungs, intestines—which dangle from her neck. The Leak sends her head, trailing her guts, flying out after nourishment. This leads to one of the sickest scenes ever to (dis)grace a movie screen. A pregnant woman is having trouble birthing her baby. The head, now sporting fangs, flies to between her open legs, and sucks out the unborn child! The woman’s stomach slowly deflates as Catherine’s possessed head slurps away. After this, the Leak apparently has complete control over Catherine, screeching and laughing, “I’ll never let you get away!” Plus, the Leak seems able to transform itself into a worm Leak, a fish face Leak, a beautiful woman, a snake, all with the aid of helpful time-lapse photography. She also becomes a pair of laughing, bouncing balls of fire. Meanwhile, Catherine gets sicker and sicker, even vomiting blood after being kissed by her boyfriend, which should be a turn-off, but Mehandra doesn’t seem to mind very much. Although, his hair does continue to get bigger, making him look more and more like Tony Orlando.
More insane laughing. More heads flying through the night. More babies are devoured, sadly off-screen. Finally, a bunch of local holy men and magicians decide to stop talking and take action. It’s up to Mehandra’s uncle to stop the floating head zombie chick before she kills again, giving eternal life to the forest witch Leak! It’s not as exciting as it sounds, but it does involve villagers with torches trying bat the head like a psychotic piñata and stabbing incense sticks into the headless body. This is followed a laser show that almost demands Pink Floyd playing in the background, instead of the cheesy electronic music we get. Then, the ultimate in dues ex machina excuses for the final battle. Yes, a god comes down and fights the evil pig woman in a not-so-royal rumble.
The director of this hilarious trashy wonder is H. Tjut Djalil, who should be recognized and lauded as Indonesia’s greatest exploitation director. Not only did he give us the fabulous beyond words LADY TERMINATOR (1988), but also SATAN’S BED (1983), THE WHITE ALLIGATOR QUEEN (1988), and DANGEROUS SEDUCTRESS (1995). MYSTICS IN BALI was one of his earliest flicks, and it’s obviously low-budget, but it contains fun, rubbery special effects, laughable acting, atrocious dubbing, a very loud percussion and electronic score, way too much blue eye shadow, neat locations in temples and parks, and a totally new kind of villain. It never reaches the ludicrous highs (lows?) of LADY TERMINATOR, but it certainly comes close.
With its flying heads, floating monks, hysterical laughter, snakes, fireballs, sub-par optical effects and witches, there’s never a dull moment in MYSTICS IN BALI. If you’re looking for something different—and I mean really different —this is the movie for you! It’s available on a great looking DVD from Mondo Macabro Video, that includes a terrific essay about Indonesian exploitation.
I give it three and a half Witchypoos out of four.
© Copyright 2011 by William D. Carl