Valentine: The Dark Avenger (2017)

Valentine: The Dark Avenger (2017)

The cover to Umbrella’s release of Valentine: the Dark Avenger

Film: Look out Marvel and DC, a new challenger approaches!

Valentine: the Dark Avenger is a creation from Skylar Comics, an Indonesian film company who in addition to Valentine, also produce comics called Volt (who looks like an electricity based hero) and Jawara, which means Champion, and looks to be an Avengers-styled conglomeration of heroes!

It would appear this Indonesian company has taken a page out of Disney’s handbook and have Skylar Pictures as a division of their company ready to develop their own characters into films. In this case, they have taken Valentine, their female Batgirl-type who fights with handcuffs like they are brass knuckles, and can catch criminals by throwing them like a bolo, and given her the live action treatment.

Wawan and Bono

Valentine: The Dark Avenger is directed by Agus Hermansyah Mawardy, based on a script by Beby Hasibuan, based on the character and stories created by Aswin Siregar and Sarjono Sutrisno for the comics.

Bono (Matthew Settle) is a movie maker who is trying to get his idea for a new female superhero movie off the ground, but he and his hair and fashion specialist partner, Wawan (Arnie Dagienkz), are having trouble finding the right girl… that is, of course, until they see waitress, and aspiring actress, Srimaya (Estelle Linden) fight off an attack in the restaurant she works at, using her skill in savate.

Estelle Linden before the transformation into a superhero

For training for the future movie, Wawan starts filming Srimaya, now known as the superhero ‘Valentine’, stopping various small crimes in the city.

As time goes on they improve her costume, fighting skills and she even learns how to use handcuffs as a thrown weapon for taking down running crooks, and her videos on (definitely not) YouTube go viral as she inspires a nation with her heroics.

The big problem for Valentine is there is a shadow moving across her town in the form of the villain known as… well, Shadow, who is performing terrorist acts, but why, and what is the secret behind his motivation?

This movie reminded me very much of the live-action versions of Cutey Honey and Hentai Kamen, but with aspirations of being something more like Prachya Pinkaew’s Chocolate or Rashane Limtrakul’s Rising Phoenix, both which starred JeeJa Yanin, but I’m afraid that Linden just isn’t quite as charismatic, nor does she have the physicality.

I do think, however, the intention of having an inspirational female superhero is a great one, and one the big companies need to work on. Hopefully we shall see more of this sort of thing incoming (and we are, with Disney+’s Ms. Marvel series which airs in 2022). Tragically it just doesn’t work here, as the script is a mix-up of conspiracy and standard comic-bookish tropes with some substandard special effects and pedestrian fight choreography, which ultimately is the film’s undoing.

One other thing is the actual superhero and villain costumes. cosplay has come so far that one should expect a better look for a movie with superheroes in it, but these unfortunately look like they were bashed together in someone’s garage.

I have to say it’s awesome to see a small Indonesian company with the courage to take on the superhero genre, when you consider the forces of Disney and Warner Bros are the ones behind those, but their product has become such a juggernaut, it’s nigh impossible. Smaller comic ideas based on non-superhero stuff, like Zwigoff’s Ghost World or Dominic Sena’s Whiteout are probably a better idea at this point because those blockbusters aren’t going anywhere in a hurry. If you do choose to watch this, stick around for the end credits as there is a preview of another superhero from this universe.

The film does wear its influences on its sleeve too, as there is a whole ‘no capes’ sequences clearly inspired by Pixar’s The Incredibles, and one of the villains must be a pop culture nut as she wears outfits inspired by Batman and the Minions from Despicable Me!

I think if this film was released pre-Marvel blockbuster events it would have been a cult film that was in some peoples hearts, but those big blockbusters are not necessarily what cult fans want to see in their collections. Also, there are high-bars set in superhero films for the mainstream crowd, and it just doesn’t leap them in a single bound.

The Shadow!

Score: *

Extras: Blimey, there’s not even a menu screen!

Score: 0

WISIA: No.

The Shadow’s minions… one dressed as a minion!

This DVD was provided for review by Umbrella Entertainment

The Queen of Black Magic (1979)

One from the to watch pile…
The Queen of Black Magic aka Ratu Ilmu Hitam (1979)

The cover to Mondo Macabro’s release of The Queen of Black Magic


Film: I don’t know much about the Indonesian film industry outside of the documentaries Machete Maidens Unleashed and The Search for Weng Weng, but what I do know is the film Mystics in Bali is a freaking gem, and one of my favourite movies. Of what I have seen , though, I have to say the thing I enjoy the most about Indonesian horror, and for that matter, all international horror, particular Asian, is the totally foreign ideas and myths that I may have not been exposed to before. 

This film was directed by Liliek Sudjio, and features stars of Indonesian cinema Suzzanah and W. D. Mochtar (whose wife Sofia W.D. Is also in this film).

The Queen of Black Magic tells the story of a young woman, Murni, who is not only spurned by her lover, Kohar, so he can marry another, more reputable woman of the town, Buda. He accuses her of being a practitioner of Black Magic after his wife starts seeing things and the men of the town catch her and throw her off a cliff…

The Queen of Black Magic: Suzzanah as Murni


…into the hands of a mystic who teaches her the ways of Black Magic so she can get her revenge on the townspeople. She resists at first, but once they kill her mother, the evil gloves come off, and the carnage begins!

So straight up the effects are, at times, hokey and the strings for some of the effects are quite clear. I am one who generally am more forgiving of practical effects than CGI ones, and when you see the doco about El Badrun in the extras, you’ll see that it low-tech cause the conditions of the industry are the same.

The story is a simple tale of revenge, but it’s told with such a sense of fun, which may or may not be deliberate, that one can’t help but enjoy the proceedings. The dubbing is also amusing, almost like a cartoon in its very deliberate delivery. Both of these elements make the film feel quite quaint, and childlike, even though the subjects of Black Magic, religion, and a Muslim hero may seem quite controversial in today’s world.

The Queen of Black Magic: someone’s got worms!


It’s a fun film and an entertaining 90 minutes, though you won’t come away from it with your life changed.

Note: The Mondo Macabro disc lists this film as being a 1979 release, and IMDb note it as 1983. I have deferred to the Mondo Macabro disc for my review.

Score: **1/2

The Queen of Black Magic DVD menu


Format: The reviewed copy of this film was the US, Mondo Macabro release on a region free DVD which runs for approximately 90 minutes. The image is presented in a clear 2.35:1 image with a mono soundtrack, which is decent but nothing special.

Score: ***

Extras

 About the Film is a text piece by Pete Tombs and tells of the history of the films production company, and a bit about the Indonesian film industry. It’s quite an interesting read and will probably spur you on to more research into Indonesian horror.

The trailer is what you would expect it to be: the trailer!

Indonesian Light & Magic: A Tour around the studio of SFX Maestro El Badrun is a look through the bamboo walled special effects studio of El Badrun. Like a lot of young special effects artists, he learnt from reading books and giving it a go, and this is a pretty cool piece showing his make-shift ways of doing SFX.

More from Mondo Macabro DVD is a series of trailers including Snake Sisters, Mystics in Bali, The Blood Rose, The Bollywood Horror Collection,Snake Dancer, The Devil’s Sword, Lifespan, Don’t Deliver Us From Evil, Satan’s Blood, Virgins From Hell, For Your Height Only, French Sex Murders, The Deathless Devil, Living Doll, Satanico Pandemonium, Panic Beats, Clonus, The Killer Must Kill Again, The Mansion of Madness, Alucarda, The Diabolical Dr. Z, Aswang, The Living Corpse, Blood of the Virgins, Seven Woman for Satan, Lady Terminator, Crazy Love, Mill of the Stone Women, Dangerous Seductress and Girl Slaves of Morgana Le Fay. Actually it’s more one big trailer with segments of all those other trailers edited together.

Score: ***

WISIA: It is OK, but it’s no Mystics in Bali, so I might watch it again, but it won’t hover at the top of the Re-watch pile.

The Queen of Black Magic: evil rituals by moonlight!