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  Mystics in Bali Head Off In That Direction
Year: 1981
Director: H. Tjut Djalil
Stars: Ilona Agathe Bastian, Yos Santo, Sofia W.D., W.D. Mochtar, Debbie Cinthya Dewi, Itje Trisnawati, Ketut Suwita, Dis I Gusti Ngurah Lanang Jugutkarana, Teddy Riady, I Gusti Ngurah Oka Ayajimbaran, Dis I Gusti Lanang Agung Iswara
Genre: Horror, WeirdoBuy from Amazon
Rating:  5 (from 1 vote)
Review: Cathy Kean (Ilona Agathe Bastian) has arrived in Bali to research her book and possibly find a cure for an illness she suffers. What she wishes to know about are the mystics there, and what witchcraft they undertake in their spells and ceremonies, but she's finding that difficult until she meets local man Mahendra (Yos Santo). He is only too happy to help out, and soon they have struck up a romance, yet what Cathy doesn't know is ever since she has begun her search, she has been watched by a mysterious figure in the trees...

A cautionary tale for all those who wish to delve into the practices of the dark arts, Mystics in Bali was originally known by the title Leyak (or Leák), a word describing exactly what Cathy is on the lookout for, meaning a sort of Indonesian witch or demon spirit. The man bringing us this was H. Tjut Djalil who would be best known to Western moviegoers, if at all, as the man who directed Lady Terminator, though this was his earlier, first attempt to woo the foreign audiences which would prove lucrative if it took off in popularity, though he hit a snag at home when this was judged to be too much for his countrymen to witness and promptly banned.

But quality will find a way, and soon Mystics in Bali was being talked about in hushed tones as one of the craziest horror movies you would ever see. If the actual process of watching it left a slight edge of disappointment that it wasn't quite as crazy as all that, with quite a dose of conventional drama to negotiate, there were selected scenes, bits and pieces which lifted this above the soap operatics and into the territory of "what did I just see?" which followers of weirdo flicks were ever craving. Cathy (played by a German tourist!) meets her witch all right, and seems to think she's getting a crash course in the ways of the Balinese mysticism, but she's strayed from the path of the righteous.

The witch, incidentally, turns out to be a deformed, plasticine-faced old woman who laughs maniacally enough to fill an entire series of The Basil Brush Show in the time she has available, artfully wiggling her claw-like fingernails and even detatching her hand when she insists Cathy shakes it, for no other reason than for Djalil to try out his cheap and cheerful video effects. But sometimes it's not so much the calibre of your effects, it's what you do with them that counts, which leads us to Cathy's unfortunate affliction. No, not the one she intermittently mentions which has no visible symptoms and the witch cures, but her tendency for her head to leave her body.

That's right, the witch is using Cathy's head to vampirise various hapless Balinese, as the noggin lifts itself off her shoulders - entrails hanging below it, presumably so she can still breathe and eat and so forth - and flies off into the night. This was apparently drawn from actual Indonesian folklore as there are a few flying head horrors to have emerged from that country, but seeing such frankly bizarre scenes as the bonce between the legs of a woman in labour whereupon it sucks out the baby for the Leyak Queen's nourishment was not something you got in many chillers, even the ones which supposedly set out to shock its viewers with outrageous sights. Naturally, with the effects the way they were here, this was more arresting in concept than it was in realisation, but it did climax in a full on energy beam-firing battle to the death much like the one at the end of Roger Corman's The Raven (a curious influence on many movies like this), and the cross-cultural romance predictably doomed. Plus! People turning into animals and throwing up mice. Music by Gatot Sudarto.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark


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