Facets’ College Corner: A Visit to Fright School, Part 2

Editor’s note: As one of their assignments in Introduction to Film at Oakton Community College, students were asked to attend a film at an alternative venue and write about the value of the experience. J’mal Riley attended The Mystics of Bali, an exploitation film from Indonesia, introduced by Facets staff member Katie Rife on October 9.

I attended the midnight movie series [called Fright School] at Facets on October 9, partaking in the viewing of a film by the name of Mystics in Bali, an Indonesian horror film. The film was preceded by a brief lecture by Katherine Rife. In the lecture, she explained the important aspects of what is deemed frightening in Indonesian folklore, which was crucial to the understanding of the film. The central theme of much horror in Indonesian folklore, as explained, seemed to be a fear of the power of the female reproductive process. I couldn’t help but notice that this same fear seems to be central to the folklore of many other cultures and religions, including those of Judeo-Christian origins.

The film itself was incredibly badly done, at least according to American standards. The editing seemed to have been performed by an arthritic geriatric wielding a meat clever, and some of the visual effects may have been rendered in crayon. Though the film followed a linear narrative, the story was a little hard to follow, due to the aforementioned choppy editing and badly dubbed English. Many parts felt as if a few frames, or even entire scenes, were left on the cutting room floor. Despite its storytelling deficiencies, the film’s exploration of Indonesian folklore was interesting and certainly different from anything I’ve ever seen before.
Attending a film in this venue, versus the modern ubiquitous cineplex, did enhance the experience. Instead of being surrounded by patrons who showed up simply for a diversion from everyday life, i.e. as many explosions as can be packed into 90 minutes, or the all-too-predictable romantic comedy, I experienced the film with a smaller crowd that I presume understands that films are not just produced for entertainment. These people may have been fellow students, instructors, or just fans of the art form, but one thing that we all had in common was the realization that film is just that—an art form, just as valid and important as literature, sculpture, and painting. It is a medium that is used to enlighten, entertain, and carry on the traditions of the world culture, and that is where Mystics in Bali succeeds. Despite laughably bad special effects, a disjointed story, and acting about as believable as a Paris Hilton dissertation on quantum physics, the film gave an American audience a glimpse into a culture about which we are largely ignorant.
The midnight movie series at Facets offers a welcome alternative to the deluge of mindless waste that continues to spew forth from Hollywood. I enjoy a good American action movie or comedy as much as the next person, but in the last few years, it appears as if the creative well has been exhausted in Hollywood. Nothing has made this more obvious than the current trend of remaking films and television series from the not-too-distant past. Did the A-team truly need to be adapted to the big screen? Is there nothing more worthwhile that the millions spent on that movie could have gone into? That film is only the more recent example of the problem. Also adapted have been Marmaduke, Garfield, The Flintstones, Alvin and the Chipmunks, The Honeymooners, Ocean’s Eleven, King Kong, etc. While some of these films are indeed good, a few even superior to the originals, the fact that Hollywood seems to be following this trend to the point of oversaturation indicates a collective creative rut.
We are now in a cultural era in which venues such as Facets become necessary. These small art houses provide an escape from escapism. Instead of films being thrown onto the screen in order to give us something bright to gaze at and distract us from the fact that we just got mugged at the concession stand, Facets and the other venues like to invite us to study films with which we may not be familiar. Some of the work may be challenging indeed (the black magic queen in Mystics in Bali had a laugh that made me want to attack my eardrums with sharp needles, and the film should have come with a map in order to follow the story), but there is nothing wrong with that.

If one wants to think of films terms of food, then these days, attending a Hollywood film is akin to gorging on McDonald’s and chocolates. It’s definitely pleasing and is absolutely fine in moderation, but regular usage is probably not good for you. In contrast, venues like Facets are like foreign eateries. Certain menu items may not be to your taste, but in the end you’ll find some things you like that you would have never discovered otherwise. While viewing this film, I had a chance to discover what is deemed frightening in Indonesian culture, and in doing so, I also gained a bit of insight into the culture itself.

–J’mal Riley

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2 thoughts on “Facets’ College Corner: A Visit to Fright School, Part 2

  1. I have to agree with you – the Facets experience sound wonderfully good compared to what we're getting in general on the big screen. I just watched a DVD last night – won't even mention the film name for fear others will rent it – but I walked away saying, "Why was this film even made in the first place?" High production standards, but trash. Thanks for the excellent overview

  2. J&#39;mal:<br /><br />A very well-written piece. I have not seen The Mystics Of Bali and trust your guidance that I probably don&#39;t have to. But I am glad you found value in a venue like Facets and experience of exploring something beyond the typical Hollywood offerings. <br /><br />Believe me, there are many so-called &quot;quality films&quot; that I find tedious to sit through; not all are

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