James Lee is no stranger to making horror films with the likes of Histeria (2008) and Two Sisters (2019), to name a few. In Rasuk, the story follows ustaz Nazmi (Alif Satar), who returns to work during a school break following a tragedy. When one of the students (Abbas Mahmood’s Wari) comes across a mysterious bottle while taking photos and opened it — a result that subsequently caused him to fall ill.
It doesn’t take long before Wari gets possessed back in the dormitory and affects some of the students, leaving his fellow classmates — Adli (Ikmal Amry), Mee Segera Boy (Isyraf Danish), Nik (Atiq Azman), Kecik (Ayie Floor 88) and Sam (Syazwan Razak) — working together alongside Nazmi as well as Alia (Elisya Sandha), Fiza (Alicia Amin) and the school’s security guard, Farid (Taufiq Hanafi) to survive the night.
Lee — working from a script by Muhamad Adib based on Laili Noordin’s original story — mixes familiar zombie and demonic possession subgenres, even though the story does offer a refreshing change of pace from the usual zombie elements due to the virus outbreak. But it’s pretty much all the same as Rasuk spends most of its length showing the characters hiding and running to avoid getting bitten by the possessed zombies. And it gets repetitive too after a while, making the otherwise compact 95-minute running time feels longer than it should.
Lee tries his best to keep things engaging with some worthwhile tense moments, even though he tends to rely on obligatory jump scares. His frequent uses of darkness and dimly-lit environment (the movie happens to take place mostly during a power outage) with the characters navigating their ways around holding flashlights. It even reminded me of the recent Pengabdi Setan 2: Communion, albeit the latter did a better job in creating consistently ominous dread.
The biggest problem lies in Adib’s perfunctory screenplay that barely scratches the surface, which in turn, is a wasted opportunity to explore deeper into the cause of the possessed zombies. Even if the movie chooses to streamline the story as minimal as possible in favour of a thrill-a-minute zombie movie that focuses more on survival, Rasuk remains as disappointingly generic as it gets. Besides, zombie movies have been done to death, where a fresh or unusual perspective would be nice to offset the oft-told, yet well-worn genre.
Having seen one of James Lee’s best directorial efforts in 2019’s subversive action-thriller Kill-Fist earlier this month on Netflix, I was actually looking forward to his latest movie in Rasuk. It may have tread on familiar grounds but it’s worth mentioning Lee’s thought-provoking viewpoints on the cruel twist of fate and nihilism. The latter is a bleak morality tale about human nature and sacrifice effectively incorporated into the otherwise straightforward zombie movie. But such moments only occur few and far between, suggesting that the movie deserves a better storytelling treatment than what we get right here. Rasuk also benefits from overall decent performances led by Alif Satar while the added comic relief is thankfully kept to a minimum.