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-[Film Reviews]-, East Asian Cinema

‘Qorin’ (2022): Anyone Can Be a Predator

Directed by: Ginanti Rona || Produced by: Susanti Dewi, Yogi S. Calam

Screenplay by: Lele Laila, Ginanti Rona || Starring: Zulfa Maharani, Omar Daniel, Aghniny Haque, Dea Annisa, Naimma Aljufri

Music by: Aria Prayogi || Cinematography: Arfian Assoy || Edited by: Wawan I. Wibowo || Country: Indonesia || Language: Indonesia

Running Time: 109 minutes

It is difficult to understate how much of an impact Gareth Evans’ The Raid (2011, 2014) had on young adult me; aside from my personal favorite movie franchises, the iconic 20th Century Fox biopunk properties that are Alien (1979, 1986, 1992) and Predator (1987, 1990, 2010), the nonstop, balls-to-the-wall action of early 2010s Indonesian cinema helped transition my adolescent cinephilia away from blockbuster fantasy (e.g. The Lord of the Rings [2001-2003]), space opera (e.g. Star Wars [1977, 1980, 1983]), and animation (e.g. Pixar) to hardcore genre cinema. The original 2011 Raid also impacted Hollywood action filmmaking in a way (e.g. the Russo Bros.’ successful Marvel Cinematic Universe [20082019] tenure; see also The Winter Soldier [2014]), and helped lay the groundwork for the true Western action filmmaking renaissance with the success of John Wick (20142023). Beyond a few likeminded action flicks made in the hyperviolent style of Evans’ films, (e.g. Headshot [2016], The Night Comes for Us [2018]), however, this “Indonesian New Wavecinema hasn’t built to anything substantial a la the sustained excellence of various crime thrillers from Korea (e.g. The Chaser [2008], I Saw the Devil [2010], The Call [2020], My Name [2021], etc.).

Horror, on the other hand, seems to have a more consistent, ongoing influence in contemporary Indonesian cinema. Timo Tjahjanto and Kimo Stamboel (also known as “The Mo Brothers“) in particular lend their authorial stamp to at least one gory, grimy scary movie every couple of years or so (e.g. Killers [2014], May the Devil Take You [2018]), though both tried their hand at action films with the aforementioned Headshot and The Night.

Top: Omar Daniel transforms from a stern voice of academic authority into the creepy, abusive monster he was underneath all along. Middle: In a nice example of costume design, newcomer Aghniny Haque (right) is clad in dark red colors, while the model student Zulfa Maharani (left) is prim and proper white. Bottom: No, stop with The Exorcist (1973) callbacks!

Enter Ginanti Rona, longtime assistant director for the Mo Bros.’ Macabre (2009), their segment on the anthology film V/H/S/2 (2013), and Killers, as well as both Raid movies. She’s directed several features as of 2023, but her most circulated work is the subject of today’s review, evidence of honing her skills at horror filmmaking mixed with sociopolitical satire (see also: Jordan Peele’s Get Out [2017], Us [2019], and Nope [2022]; Julia Ducournau’s Raw [2016] and Titane [2021]; Zach Cregger’s Barbarian [2022], etc.).

Qorin, a reference to the doppelgänger-Djinn described in Islamic scripture as Qareen, seems like a step in the right direction; the movie follows an ensemble cast at an all-female religious boarding school in rural Indonesia who are manipulated into performing demonic rituals by their charismatic yet ominous headmaster, Omar Daniel. Similar to Emerald Fennell’s Promising Young Woman (2020), Qorin describes the subtle yet traumatic consequences of sexual misconduct and abuse of power by authority figures, though in my assessment, Rona is subtler in this regard and executes her social commentary better through a well constructed genre format. Main castmembers Zulfa Maharani (the model student and protagonist), Aghniny Haque (the “damaged” girl and outsider point-of-view), and Naimma Aljufri (the everygirl best friend) serve as our collective audience surrogates, and it’s fun to watch them piece together the supernatural mystery at the center of the narrative.

The first couple acts of Qorin are strong and well paced, showcasing creative yet subtle scares that revolve around blocking, mirror special FX, and extensive medium focal-length compositions that emphasize foreground to background progression. How this direction revolves around the viewer’s understanding of Daniel’s abusive relationship with his students invests us in his victims’ perspective; as the supernatural elements of Qorin creep deeper into the narrative, our understanding of Daniel’s portrayal changes while the young adult female cast’s performances grow more desperate.

Most of my problems with Qorin’s execution have to do with its third and final act. Once the Djinn spirits are unleashed in full, the extent of their powers and exactly how they operate is never clarified, which confuses the viewer as much as anything. I’m not a fan of exposition in film in most instances, but here, a more detailed explanation of how our main characters overcome their demonic tormenters would be justified. To that end, the final act lacks clear narrative cause and effect (this happens, then that happens, and then this goes down, etc.) and the aforementioned Djinn doppelgängers give over-the-top, maniacal performances that read more comedic than creepy to me.

Qorin drops the ball too much at the end for me to recommend it to general audiences, and many viewers might consider its first two acts too slow to entertain them, yet I’d argue co-writer-director Ginanti Rona shows promise in her acting direction, scene composition, and subtle use of spooky imagery to establish an identifiable horror tone. The film’s memorable backdrop of a religious boarding school in the Javanese wilderness adds to its unique feel despite its altogether traditional supernatural plot mechanics; when you combine that with the memorable female-dominated cast — who embody their adolescent characters instead of feeling like 20-30-something actresses — I’d argue Qorin previews better Indonesian horror filmmaking in Rona’s future.


SUMMARY & RECOMMENDATION: Though I remain disappointed by the lack of growth in Indonesian action filmmaking since The Raid, Indonesian horror appears in good hands if Qorin constitutes the average scary movie from that film industry. Its story runs out of gas by the 90-minute mark and it can’t quite transcend its Exorcist influences for its own good, but there’s plenty of visual subtlety and well composed cinematography to accent a memorable cast.

—> ON THE FENCE; horror fans will find enough to enjoy here, though viewers unaccustomed to patient, slow-burn filmmaking won’t be convinced, particularly if they have no connection to the Indonesian diaspora.

? Are Djinn more or less the equivalent of demons in Islam?

About The Celtic Predator

I love movies, music, video games, and big, scary creatures.

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