Mystics in Bali (1981)

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aka Mistik,
aka Leyak
aka Leák
aka Balinese Mystic

Cathy, a young American author, has traveled to Bali to do research on the Leák, a cult of black magic practitioners feared by the locals. Her Balinese boyfriend, Mahendra, manages to secure her an introduction with the Leák Queen, and Cathy is taken on as the woman’s apprentice in the dark arts. This involves transfiguration, a suspicious amount of laughing and an inexplicable need to walk like an Egyptian.

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I know the Bangles were popular in the 80s but….

Of course, everything is not happy in Leák land, for the Leák queen is not benevolent. In order to secure her own immortality, the Leák queen turns Cathy into a Penanggalan, a vampiric demon whose head and internal organs detach from it’s body and flies around to feed off the blood of innocents. It’s up to Mahendra and a bunch of shamans to put an end to the evil of the Leák queen before any more lives are taken.

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We must destroy the evil!…Just let me finish this cigarette first.

Mystics in Bali is a horror film made in Indonesia in the very early 1980’s and it shows. The whole thing was clearly done on a very tight budget. The acting is subpar at best, the editing is janky, the story is unpolished and the special effects….do not stand up to the test of time.

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They are amusing to look at, though.

So what does the movie have going for it? Imagery. Despite its obvious technical limitations, the movie manages to have some pretty decent practical effects, especially when you consider the rest of the film. Most of the transformation scenes are impressive, even if what they ultimately turn into ends up looking absolutely ridiculous. The visual of the Penanggalan is just creepy in general, despite the obvious early green screen contrast going on, as is the scene where it feeds off the pregnant woman. And of course the Bali masks are just unsettling in general.

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Taken out of context, this could be from a very different movie

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These things help smooth out some of the films rougher edges, but don’t make up for them completely. For every truly creepy moment, there are three strikes on the other side of the board. As previously stated, the editing is a bit choppy, making it hard to gauge the passage of time or where the hell you are when the scene suddenly changes.

The face of the Leák queen is creepy enough, but during her first appearance she cackles for nearly a solid minute before speaking. Don’t get me wrong, whoever dubbed her cackle did a fine job, they cackled for all they were worth, but having it go on so long pushes it over the edge from creepy to cheesy pretty quickly.

There are also some questionable story decisions. Like, of all the creatures of the world to choose to turn into to fight your ancient rival, why the hell would the Leák Queen choose a humanoid, bipedal pig with massive sagging boobies?

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How…How does this help you win? Did you hit your head on a rock? What’s going on?

Then there’s Mahendra. Mahendra ends up being a pretty useless character, the type you could cut out of a film and not loose anything involving the story. Not only is he boring, but he also plays no vital role in the ‘epic’ showdown at the end, despite being present for it. He’s just sort of there, like he is in the rest of the movie.

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His constant state of being

Thank goodness he has an uncle who know what the heck he’s doing…. But then the uncle dies and the film commits the cardinal sin of introducing a savior type character in the last five minutes of the movie, after not even bothering to even mention him in any of the previous 120 minutes. He quite literally pops up out of nowhere to finish off the evil, making Mahendra look even more useless in the process.

Oh, and he also ends up being one of Mahendra’s uncles.

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WTF? Who the hell are you?

And then, after the final battle, the film abruptly ends. We don’t really know what happened with Cathy. We get no back-story on Surprise Uncle. The film just goes, “whelp we’re done!” It happened so fast I thought the streaming service had bugged out on me. And thus my time with Mystics in Bali ended. It’s a quirky little film with a lot of drawbacks, but also one with a lot of very interesting visuals that have garnered it some cult status. Despite all of it’s issues, I still found it enjoyable. Most of its issues pushed it over into the ‘so bad it’s good’ category for me, but others may not think so. If nothing else, it’s probably worth a viewing for horror fans just for the unique imagery alone.

Mystics in Bali is listed on Amazon, but is currently unavailable.

It is also available on DVD.

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Michi

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