In 1955, bodies are dug up from a graveyard, brought to a nearby observatory and positioned like dolls, lying prostrate in front of a woman draped in white. Almost 30 years later, an apartment building stands on the site of that old graveyard, the same building where siblings Rini, Toni and Bondi have just moved into along with their mysterious father. After the events of the first film, which saw the family haunted by their dead mother, Rini and the others decide that it would be safer to live in an apartment building instead of a house. With so many neighbours, surely someone would come running if they heard any trouble. Ordinarily, yes, but this is a horror movie.
Even setting aside the grisly past of the land below, this building has its own set of problems. One is the location. The area is prone to heavy flooding, and since everyone else had the good sense not to build on it, the apartment block is completely isolated from the rest of the city. There’s also the dodgy elevator, the main artery of the building that gets clogged more often than not. In one of the film’s most memorably over-the-top scenes, the elevator breaks down completely and plummets to the bottom of the shaft causing over a dozen deaths and soaking a little girl in a wave of blood. The bodies are kept in the building overnight while Muslim clerics perform funeral rituals.
Things deteriorate further when a storm hits, causing the power to go out and the bottom levels of the building become completely flooded. With the electricity gone, no way out, and most of the other tenants suddenly disappearing, the apartment becomes less of the safe haven it was supposed to be and more of a prison. And that’s before the ghostly apparitions return to haunt Rini’s family once again.
Already a huge hit in its native Indonesia, Satan’s Slave 2: Communion is very much a product of its genre. That means a lot of slow walking towards an ominous sound/object/figure that leads to a jump scare and a shrill musical sting. Anyone with affection for the Conjuring films will settle into this like a warm bath.
But while Communion doesn’t reinvent the wheel, it does steer in interesting directions. To Western viewers numb to the Christian approach of dealing with supernatural threats (crosses, holy water, rookie priests etc.), it’s refreshing to see the Muslim approach to exorcising your demons. And while the apartment building setting does seem like the classic “more is more” sequel approach (compared to the house in the original), the excellent cinematography succeeds in making the building feel more claustrophobic than a 14-storey building has any right to be. The result is a slick haunted house film, one with enough smarts and craft to ensure it’s not for genre fans only.