MAY 11 ― As we enter the month of May, things are finally starting to heat up in local cinemas with more and more exciting new titles opening, from Hollywood blockbusters to even local ones like the all-conquering Sheriff, which has already become the third highest grossing Malaysian film ever in local cinemas.

I had heaps of fun watching Hollywood stuff like Godzilla x Kong, The First Omen and The Fall Guy in the last few weeks, and I’m looking forward to watching Kingdom Of The Planet Of The Apes which has just opened this week.

A YouTube screenshot of a scene from ‘Late Night With The Devil’.
A YouTube screenshot of a scene from ‘Late Night With The Devil’.

I still found time to catch up with some of the more highly anticipated or well-received titles from the land of horror, mostly on streaming/VOD platforms but with one particular title, Abigail, in a local cinema (but it has now arrived on VOD also), so here’s a short guide on whether they’re worthy of your precious time or not.

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Late Night With The Devil

There really is something in the water when it comes to Australian horror right now with Talk To Me making a big splash internationally last year and with other excellent offerings like Godless: The Eastfield Exorcism and You’ll Never Find Me getting attention in the international horror community, the latest arrival from that scene from Down Under, Late Night With The Devil, will confirm everyone’s suspicions that something exciting is cooking over there.

Part Ghostwatch and part WNUF Halloween Special, Late Night With The Devil is a found footage film that purports to be assembled from a "live" broadcast of the Halloween special of a 1970s TV show called Night Owls and some behind the scenes footage caught by the studio’s many cameras.

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Facing cancellation, the show’s host Jack Delroy (a note-perfect David Dastmalchian) and his producer go all-out with the Halloween theme, calling a psychic, a cynic, a parapsychologist and a demonically-possessed young girl in as guests.

What transpires is a scary and funny send-up of 70s network talk shows, and will leave you excited for whatever comes next from Aussie writer-directors Cameron and Colin Cairnes.

Abigail

After witnessing their standout segment in the horror anthology V/H/S back in 2012, I always look forward to any new film from the Radio Silence filmmaking gang.

Their last two films, the latest instalments in the Scream franchise, might divide opinion (but I enjoyed them), but I think everyone can agree that Ready Or Not was one of the best genre films of 2019.

Despite apparently bombing at the box-office with a reported worldwide collection of US$35 million (RM165 million), on a budget of US$28 million, Abigail was another critical hit and is every bit as good and entertaining as Ready Or Not.

A reverse kidnap movie, in which the gang of kidnappers turn out to have kidnapped a child vampire, and are trapped in the house where they’re supposed to hold the child until the ransom is received,

Abigail is an exuberant, funny, nicely gory, sometimes scary and even touching mashup of hard-boiled crime films and vampire flicks. Just don’t take it too seriously and enjoy the ride.

Immaculate

I wonder what it says about the current climate of the world that 2024 has already seen two films about a young nun/novitiate who gets pregnant without having any sexual relations with a man, and with a demonic conspiracy involving the church hovering in the shadows.

Immaculate actually opened almost a month earlier than The First Omen in the US, and has only recently arrived in Malaysian cinemas (and is now out on VOD), which means that The First Omen beat it to the punch for Malaysian audiences.

While it is definitely nowhere near as good as The First Omen, this tip of the hat to 1970s Italian horror, giallo and nunsploitation films is often very stylish and has more than enough jump scares and suspense to quench the thirst of genre film nerds out there.

And of course, it has Hollywood’s current darling Sydney Sweeney making a very convincing case to become America’s next scream queen in the central role as the young nun.

Siksa Neraka

Initially planned to be released in Malaysian cinemas late last year but ultimately banned by local censors because of its subject matter and its depictions of torture in what it imagines to be Hell, which understandably is in conflict with Islamic teachings here, Siksa Neraka (which roughly translates as Hell Torture) is very comfortably the worst film on this list, but it has recently arrived on Netflix, so why not give it a watch anyway, right?

In fact, so many aspects of the film are so laughable and challenges the norms of logic, good storytelling and good taste, that one can even make a case for Siksa Neraka to be one of those “so bad it’s good” films that one can put on at a party and laugh at with friends.

Based on the quite popular Siksa Neraka comics (which I kind of remember sighting back when I was a kid in the 80s), this Indonesian film plays more like a religious sermon, in which characters who now find themselves in Hell get tortured (quite graphically, I must say, but with very bad CGI) and then the film flashes back to the sins they committed that led to the various tortures, like repeatedly cutting off tongues, hands and getting melted with molten lava, with this pattern repeated ad nauseum.

Clearly not the best of films, whatever the genre may be, but if you’ve read the comics, this might bring back some memories. And definitely don’t confuse this with the upcoming Siksa Kubur, which is Joko Anwar’s latest film!

* This is the personal opinion of the columnist.