After probably 2 years of waiting, Susuk finally makes its way to our cinemas. At first I thought it'd already met with the same horrible fate that befell Dukun. But lucky for us, it's finally here! I've pretty high hopes for this film, since I'm quite fond of Amir Muhammad's debut film, Lips To Lips, and his docus like The Big Durian and Lelaki Komunis Terakhir.
One thing I must commend the film for is the slick visual style, and the script's very clever structure. No, make that especially the structure! It's very rare (in my case, it might even be the first time) to encounter a Malaysian film with that big "twist ending" ala The Crying Game, The Sixth Sense, The Game (just to name a few films). If you've been paying attention to the happenings in the story (and believe me, they do give you plenty of clues!), then it's even more enjoyable viewing, just to see the pieces fall into place. So I won't really try to provide a synopsis since it's one of those "don't reveal the ending" films.
What lets the film down though, is the shocking/scaring you part. Yes, it's very bloody and gory, and you do see some Dario Argento influence in the art direction and lighting (as pointed out by a lot of reviewers), but let's be honest here, when has ANY film by Dario Argento ever been scary? To me, the marvel in watching Argento's films is in watching the technique, the over the top colours in the art direction, the fancy camera movements and angles, and the hilariously horrible music used as cues to shock us. The acting and script in all the Argento films have always been serviceable at best, the acting even worse. And there's usually no suspense whatsoever, just shocks/surprise. Like Hitchcock once said: "A bomb explodes - that's surprise. Knowing that there's a bomb that may or may not explode - that's suspense." And for much of Susuk, what you always get are shocks/surprises, never suspense. And to me, what really makes a great horror film is the suspense. The shocks/surprises just make me laugh...
Another letdown is that I get really confused trying to figure out what Susuk wants to be. At times, you KNOW that it's sort of a satire on our celebrity obsessed culture, and things we do to even get close to fame. At other times, it seems more like the filmmakers are playing it absolutely straight and actually do want to make a straight horror film, and scare the bejeezuz out of us. By the end of the film, the impression I did make was that it was sort of a mess.
On one part the structure's quite brilliant, the acting mostly solid, with the exception of the boyfriend (sorry Gambit, still a bit kayu!), and the 2 divas played by Sofea Jane and Aleeza Kassim (but I forgive Aleeza already, for that priceless swimming pool scene, and the blink-and-you'll-miss-it verbal reference to her character's sexuality! Hehehe). Even Ida Nerina's kinda suspect behaviour/acting during the early to middle part of the film ultimately made sense by the time the film ends, such is the attention to detail about the film's structure. And don't even get me started about how kickass the scene transitions are in the film! Really, really well thought out in advance!
But it's the believability of the whole thing that bogs the film down. For all the talk about how great a diva Suzana and the 2 other divas are, the songs they sing are just plain bad, even for mainstream Malay music standards. One might try to make a case by saying that the badness of the songs is part of the satire, but if you ask me, that's just plain cheating. Even the Josie And The Pussycats movie have hilarious but absolutely believable and strong songs for the parodied boyband in the film. Let's not even get started about how great the 'satirical' or 'parody' songs are on films like A Mighty Wind, Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story, and of course This Is Spinal Tap. Unless, and this is a big unless, the bad songs here serve to show us the power of the susuk, that is that people will be fixated with you anyway, even if your songs are bad and your singing sucks. But I seriously don't get that impression when I was watching the film.
And so we get another half-half Malaysian film. Half of it's already well done, and close to brilliant, but the other half, by second-guessing themselves, or maybe even not thinking things up fully, end up making it a weaker film than it should've been. It could've been a real scorcher, a sort of brilliant kick up the ass of the Malaysian film industry like "Perempuan, Isteri dan ..." did back in the 90s, but I guess it's never meant to be...