Length: 94 minutes
Director: Hadrah Daeng Ratu
Writers: Aviv Elham (screenplay) and Arumi E. (original story)
Cast: Natasha Wilona, Ria Ricis, Al Ghazali, Fitria Rasyidi, Ryma Karimah, Sonia Alexa
Score: 4 out of 5 stars
While it's billed as an Indonesian horror movie, Aku Tahu Kapan Kamu Mati is really a story of friendship among four boarding school girls. There are some supernatural elements tossed into the mix, and the occasional ghost or two, but it certainly feels more like a teen comedy than a full-blown horror film. Fortunately, the core female quartet has strong chemistry, which makes for some entertaining scenes when the four are together.
The movie begins as the main character, Siena (Natasha Wilona), returns to life after being pronounced dead, only to find that her new lease on life has also gifted her with the power to see ghosts. As she grapples with her abilities, she finds out that her loved ones are also in danger — and fights against fate to protect them. Ultimately, if Siena is to come to terms with her new life, she must figure out how she will accept her destiny. The film is based on the novel of the same name.
What's amazing about Aku Tahu is that its genesis lies in a Wattpad short story that eventually blossomed into the novel that the film is based on. While the plot certainly feels like it came from a young adult novel, it's also an inspiration for aspiring fiction writers to know that one's self-published fiction may one day be on the silver screen. It also speaks to the growing popularity of user-generated content, and how quickly it can pick up steam.
The film itself beautifully captures the interaction between innocent high school girls, with the many displays of camaraderie, friendship, and love between them. It's certainly a nostalgic trip back to one's teen years, and the four girls — Siena, Flo (Ria Ricis), Neni (Fitria Rasyidi), and Vina (Ryma Karimah) are wonderful together onscreen. It's this joy they experience that makes the inevitable tragedy even worse, because you see firsthand how their innocence is tainted.
Being a horror film, deaths are a foregone conclusion. However, the horror element feels like an afterthought rather than a central part of the plot. Audiences who are expecting a roller coaster ride of scares may be slightly disappointed when they find out that it's really more of a teen comedy than anything else. There are some ghosts, but they're relegated to jump scares or blatantly obvious and predictable scenes that you can see coming from a mile away.
Production quality wise, it's very clear that the film was made on a tight budget. Despite the constraints, the director makes do with what's been provided, maximising the school sets to evoke the nostalgic innocence mentioned earlier. Nevertheless, there is a distinctive television quality to its treatment, which makes it a little awkward given that the film is meant to be a cinematic experience.
The movie's resolution is also rather unsatisfying, given that there's a huge dangling plot thread that doesn't seem to be resolved at the end, preventing audiences from getting their expected catharsis. However, the way the film concludes is also thematically consistent with its messages about fate and destiny, so it's not entirely unwarranted. But you'll leave the cinema feeling that at least one character didn't get what was deserved.
A special mention goes out to Ryma Karimah, who plays the most entertaining character in the movie. She's absolute gold as the comic relief in the film, and has no qualms about making fun of herself for comedy. Of all the cast members, she's definitely the one to look out for as a future star comedian.
Aku Tahu Kapan Kamu Mati is not the horror film you'd expect. But as a show about school life and how a tight-knit group of friends manage to overcome adversity (and some supernatural bits), it's quite delightful. Go in with expectations of a light-hearted comedy, and you won't be disappointed.
Release date: 17 September 2020 (Singapore)
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