Pengabdi Setan 2: Communion (Satan’s Slaves: Communion) (2022) Review

How do you top an enormously popular horror movie that became the genre’s highest-grossing Indonesian movie ever made? Well, returning writer-director Joko Anwar, follows the tried-and-true formula that most sequels would do. And that is by making it bigger, as evidently seen from the first movie’s haunted-house setting to a larger canvas set in a 14-storey low-cost flat.

In Pengabdi Setan 2: Communion, we learn that the Suwono family is now residing in the aforementioned flat. Rini’s (Tara Basro) dad (Bront Palarae) believes that living in a flat is safer since they are at least many other residents available in case of emergency. But one stormy night, the ghost of their past somehow returns to haunt them again. With no place to go due to the severe thunderstorm and the ground floor all submerged in floodwater, Rini and her family (including brothers Endy Arfian’s Toni and Nasar Anuz’s Bondi) are once again forced to survive another terrifying ordeal.

The sequel begins promisingly with an eerie 1950s-set prologue and it just gets better from there. Joko Anwar’s deliberate build-up establishes his movie’s subsequent 1980s setting, notably the overall geography and environment of its 1980s-set flat location as he successfully lays the groundwork for what to expect later in the movie. Earlier in the movie, I love the way he creates the dread-inducing atmosphere, where Rini passes by a dimly-lit corridor to throw the rubbish in a garbage chute.

A scene from "Pengabdi Setan 2: Communion" (2022)

Then comes the elaborate set-piece leading to a gruesome elevator incident. It was easily the best scene in this sequel, which also showcased Joko Anwar’s masterstroke in escalating tension and suspense. Joko doesn’t just content in making Pengabdi Setan 2: Communion an all-out supernatural horror movie and here, he manages to slip in some lighthearted moments without going overboard. A case in point is the false alarm of a jump scare (you just have to see it for yourself) that has many viewers in the cinema hall laughing the most.

Speaking of jump scares, you can expect plenty of them in this sequel, complete with Joko’s lingering camerawork that again utilises a lot of long takes. He also made good use of the silence and darkness. The latter is particularly evident in the movie’s second act onwards, where the entire flat suffers from a power outage, resulting in every surviving resident being forced to navigate their way around the place using a flashlight or a match.

Apart from the comedy elements, Joko also diversify the horror genre with a mystery angle, where Rini and her brothers and some of the participating neighbours do their own sleuthing. It was a refreshing change of pace that I wish Joko would embrace more of this.

(L-R) Bondi (Nasar Anuz), Rini (Tara Basro) and Toni (Endy Arfian) in "Pengabdi Setan 2: Communion" (2022)

However, not everything works in Pengabdi Setan 2: Communion. Some of the jump scares tend to feel random and surprisingly cheap — something that the first movie manages to avoid most of them by giving us well-timed frights instead. They are even predictable at times, with one of them involving a rehash of the throwing-the-white-sheet moment.

The otherwise ramp-up second act of the movie does feel like an extended filler that takes too long to get to the point. This is especially true with Joko’s decision of diverting the main attention from the Suwono family’s point of view in favour of focusing on a few side characters (among them including home-alone Tari played by Ratu Felisha and a little girl named Wina (Nazifa Fatia Rani). This, in turn, drags the movie unnecessarily when Joko could have spent more time exploring the further angle surrounding the Suwono family and the reason behind all the haunting going-ons.

Overall, I still prefer the first movie compared to this one. But viewing the sequel as a standalone effort, Pengabdi Setan 2: Communion does have its fair share of worthwhile moments. A word of warning, though, as the sequel contains an extended scene of flash photography that may trigger some viewers who are prone to photosensitive epilepsy.

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