MysticsInBaliThose wanting craziness will be amply rewarded by this Indonesian import centered on Eastern mysticism, in particular the mythology-based figure of a malevolent flying head with dangling entrails.  Yes, it’s that kind of movie! 

Indonesian horror/exploitation cinema experienced a boom period during the 1970’s and 80’s, and director H. Tjut Djalil/Jalil Jackson was at the forefront.  MYSTICS IN BALI (or LEAK), which appeared in 1981, was the first-ever horror movie from this 20-year filmmaking veteran, but he took to the genre like a natural, and would go on to direct the mind-blowing LADY TERMINATOR and DANGEROUS SEDUCTRESS.  MYSTICS IN BALI is probably Djalil’s best all-around film.  Like the others mentioned above, it was geared toward the American market, but didn’t ultimately make it to the US until 2007, with Mondo Macabro’s long-overdue DVD Release.

BTW, the critter at the center of this film is a real figure of Indonesian mythology called a Lee-ak, meaning a flying head trailing innards (similar to and often confused with the Malaysian Penanggalan, which means Head with Dancing Intestines, and the Thai Krasue).  Similar monsters showed up in 1977’s WITCH WITH FLYING HEAD from Hong Kong and 2002’s KRASUE from Thailand.

Catherine is a young American woman on vacation in Bali.  Together with her native boyfriend Mahendra Catherine travels to a secluded island, where an obscure cult called the Leyak resides, in an effort to learn about the “most powerful magic that exists today.”  Once the sun sets she and Mahendra meet a sinister old woman who happens to be a full-fledged Leyak witch, and who, noting something promising about Catherine, brands her with a long forked tongue.  Catherine returns to the island the following night and again meets up with the witch.  The hag formally initiates Catherine into the Leyak by hypnotizing her and causing them both to briefly metamorphose into ravenous pigs.

Understandably concerned for his girlfriend’s welfare, Mahendra consults his sorcerer uncle, who gives him a spell to counteract the Leyak’s evil.  It’s to no avail, though, as that night Catherine once again visits the witch, who this time takes over Catherine’s body—or at least her head, causing it to fly through the air, entrails attached, and enter the home of a pregnant woman whose fetus it promptly devours.  After this ordeal Catherine, head back in place, informs her witch mentor that she’s had enough.  The latter, however, will have none of this.  She turns them both into snakes, in which guise Catherine gobbles several mice which she, back in human form, pukes up the next morning.

But she’s back on the island the next night for another bout of bodily possession and head floating.  The witch is using Catherine to supply herself with human blood, which causes the old coot to grow younger–and, after killing three people, immortal!  Now the trick for Mahendra and his uncle is to keep Catherine’s head from returning to her body, because if it does than the evil Leyak will be unstoppable.

In the tradition of most Indonesian horror/exploitation films, MYSTICS IN BALI is tacky, unpolished and extremely poorly dubbed into English…but still an irresistible viewing experience.  The special effects may be primitive, but director H. Tjut Djalil’s bizarre visuals are arresting, imparting a wealth of wild and often downright psychedelic imagery.  The film is rooted in arcane folklore incomprehensible to most Western viewers, who will likely find MYSTICS IN BALI a cockeyed exercise in Jodorowskian insanity.  But as such it’s fairly well-made: the sentimentality is kept to a minimum, and the film, at an economic 80 minutes, moves fast and sustains itself nicely.

Truthfully, the sight of a woman’s flying head with dangling innards was already seen (and arguably done better) in 1977’s WITCH WITH FLYING HEAD, but Tjut Djalil has an audacious, go-for-broke spirit, ensuring that at the very least the viewer is never bored.  While it doesn’t really work as the atmospheric Western-style horror-fest the filmmakers intended, MYSTICS IN BALI’S sheer outrageousness makes it a must-see.

Vital Statistics 

Pusat Perusahaan Film

Director: H. Tjut Djalil
Producers: Sri Gunawan, Hendry Katili, Abdul Muis Sufian
Screenplay: Jimmy Atmaja
(Based on a novel by Putra Mada)
Cinematography: Kasdullah
Editing: Djuki Paimin
Cast: Ilona Agethe Bastian, Yos Santo, W.D. Mochtar, Debbie Cinthia Dewi, Itje Trisnawati, Ketut Suwita, Drs I Gusti Ngurah Lanang Jagat Karana, Teddy Riady, I Gusti Ngurah Oka Aryajimbaran, Drs I Gusti Lanang Agung Iswara