MYSTICS IN BALI may be the craziest and weirdest shit upon which you will ever lay eyes. Filmed in Indonesia in 1981 it tells the story of an American girl named Kathy, portrayed by German tourist Ilona Agathe Bastian, who studies the black magics of different cultures in order to write a book. Having explored the Voudou of Haiti she is ready to seek out the most primitive and most evil of these ancient rites: the Leyak of Bali.
Her local boyfriend, Mahendra (Yos Santo), is able to introduce Kathy to the local Leyak master who turns out to actually be the most powerful Leyak Queen (Sofia W.D.). The Queen chooses to take Kathy on as her disciple for a later undisclosed payment. If you think that payment is something as benign as cash you must not watch many horror movies. The Leyak Queen is a nightmare of nails, torn robes, long tangled hair, raspy voice, and decaying visage. She states that her face will never remain the same and will change with each encounter. The way to identify her is by her horrifying and unending laughter. The hobbling handshake with which she dismisses Kathy is horrifying to behold. When she speaks she sounds like Aughra from THE DARK CRYSTAL.
Kathy eagerly goes to her lessons and learns magic that enables
her to transform into a pig and a reticulated python and soon finds herself in the thrall of the Queen. The Queen has little use for her body but puts her to work sucking babies from young mothers’ wombs as a flying head with entrails. Don’t bother to reread it, you read it right. Kathy becomes a possessed flying head that drags along her heart, lungs, stomach, liver, and intestines and consumes fetuses directly from the womb by mouth.
Mahendra’s uncles are mystics as well and they help fight the evil Queen. One of the features indicates that they would be Buddhist though the English language track repeatedly refers to “almighty God” though the meditations and rituals bear no semblance to any Islamic Judeo-Christian practices. The same feature, “MYSTICS IN BALI and the Indonesian Exploitation Movie” by Pete Tombs also indicates that for most Indonesian horror films the hero will be an Islamic cleric or scholar. In order to defeat the Queen they must prevent Kathy’s head from ever rejoining her body.
Directed by H. Tjut Djalil who would later direct LADY TERMINATOR
(1988). MYSTICS IN BALI is an attempt to package a movie firmly rooted in Eastern legend and market it for a Western audience. Sadly it did not succeed in 1981. It has since gained notoriety and has become a cult classic or as Mondo Macabro declares on its cover “The Holy Grail of Asian Cult Cinema.” They could in fact be right with that bit of hyperbole because this thing has to be seen to be believed. Despite the lack of technical ability and the sheer ridiculousness of the effects they work. Part of it must be attributed to the film’s lack of levity and commitment to the gravity and darkness of the subject matter. It doesn’t get any darker and less humorous than full term babies being eaten from the mother’s womb.
Not only does the film serve as a horror story but it also shares some of Indonesia’s culture although it be done so for exploitive purposes. Leyaks were often attributed to be the cause of disease, death or even just bad luck. Practitioners were evil and also behaved in a cannibalistic fashion. In the Balinese folklore the Leyak is actually the flying head with entrails. And you thought the boogeyman was bad, that’s some grisly shit there.
The settings are rural and take place in the jungle. Djalil does
nothing to hide the fact the film is shot in Indonesia and he emphasizes it by showing sites that he thought would attract the Western audience. From the jungle to a traditional cemetery that has a sign with a multi-language warning, “It is prohibited to destroy the cemetery.” Kathy is a researcher in a foreign land hoping to learn the darkest of practices. MYSTICS IN BALI is filmed on Java because they did not want to inflame the locals by being insensitive while making a horror movie based on their beliefs.
The main thrust of this film is to entice and horrify and it succeeds in doing its simple goal. It’s theme of an outsider-or more specifically a Westerner-encroaching on indigenous tradition is strong as well. There is no sugarcoating and no hedging, MYSTICS shreds the envelope and doesn’t bother pushing it. The ending is shocking, grueling and abrupt. It rips your head off with the entrails attached. Check this freaky shit out.
The Mondo Macabro DVD is presented in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen.
“MYSTICS IN BALI and the Indonesian Exploitation Movie”
H. Tjut Djalil Filmography
“How to Become a Leak”
A reel of Mondo Macabro releases