Released Nov. 15, 2018
Unrated (equal to rated R for graphic violence, gore, and imagery) – 1hr 50min
Directed by Timo Tjahjanto
Starring Chelsea Islan, Pevita Pearce, Ray Sahetapy
When failing tycoon Lesmana (Sahetapy) is hospitalized with a mysterious terminal illness, his broken family are forced to his original decaying and dilapidated estate in seach of assets to liquidate in order to reconcile his debts. Instead, they find a sinister force likewise seeking to reconcile Lesmana’s debts, but in payment of blood and souls.
Indonesian Evil Dead, albeit with a more elaborate setup. May the Devil Take You delivers plenty of gory demonic goings-on, but with numerous dramatic interludes into the dynamics of this very dysfunctional family unit and the tragic backstory of main heroine Alfie (Islan).
May the Devil Take You is indeed a well-made demonic romp of the variety that made a famous filmmaker of Sam Raimi, but therein lies its most glaring issue – it’s too much like the movies from which it draws its inspiration, and it’s more than just Raimi’s Evil Dead series and Drag Me to Hell that get, let’s say, ‘generous homages’ throughout. There’s substantial callbacks to Lamberto Bava’s Demons, Tobe Hooper’s Poltergeist, and the films of James Wan included as well – sometimes to the extent that moments are near-identical copies of imagery from those films.
That’s a damn shame too, because most everything else about May the Devil Take You ranges between satisfactory and awesome. The cinematography is crisp and looks really good. The acting is on the flat side, but at least passable – although Pevita Pearce stands out as Alfie’s duplicitous step-sister Maya. The score is, at times, exceptional, especially when it resembles a menacing 70s-era Goblin-esque tone (there’s never a bad time to showcase this legendary gem), but it also stands as a built-in metaphor for the movie’s aforementioned flaws – it’s a sampler platter of other established pieces with little identity of its own. There are, however, glimpses of what might have been when the film has the courage to do its own thing. For instance, there’s a rather intense face-splitting scene that invokes something out of John Carpenter’s The Thing, but in the kind of subtle, soft-influence manner that was desperately needed along the film’s 110-minute runtime.
Speaking of, this movie is easily 20 minutes too long. There’s not really much mystery here to explore in May the Devil Take You, as Lesmana’s deal with the devil in exchange for riches is the very focus of the prologue and opening title sequence. Yet, we get some significant time devoted to the characters investigating and coming to the conclusions that are of no revelation to the audience. We get a subplot involving the step-brother’s fiancée that goes pretty much nowhere. There are numerous flashbacks to Alfie’s tumultuous past that are sometimes effective, but ultimately overused. A tighter narrative would have worked wonders for the pace, as the movie seemingly wants to be a manic and splattery funhouse ride, but takes way too many detours to Dysfunctional Family Dramatown to sustain that type of momentum.
To someone less familiar with the genre, the egregious instances of near copy-and-paste homage may not even register, leaving May the Devil Take You to appear like a minor masterpiece, but to fans, the game of ‘Haven’t I Seen This Before?’ will grow ever more frustrating as the overlong film progresses. With some positive attributes, it’s not a total loss, but not much to recommend either. I’d give it a better score to reflect the overall experience, but it simply accomplishes too much on the backs of other films.
May the Devil Take You gets a rating of
[EDIT: This rating was modified from a lower score. I was a bit too harsh on it – when it is good, it’s really good. There just wasn’t quite enough of that. (12/4/18)]