[Movie Review] MAY THE DEVIL TAKE YOU TOO
Courtesy of Shudder

MAY THE DEVIL TAKE YOU TOO, or Sebelum Iblis Menjemput: Ayat Dua, is the sequel to writer and director Timo Tjahjanto’s 2018 May The Devil Take You. It stars Chelsea Islan (Alfie), Hadijah Shahab (Nara), Widika Sidmore (Gadis), Baskara Mahendra (Budi), and a whole lot of demon blood.

I will first say that the usual question with sequels is, “Should I watch the first movie before watching this new movie?”. For me, the answer is an unequivocal yes. I watched MAY THE DEVIL TAKE YOU TOO first and then went back and watched the first movie and my second viewing of MTDTYT was much more satisfying. The resonances and the performances worked better for me once I had that background. Can you watch the second without the first? Yes, but I don’t think that you will get as much out of it if you do.

I have mentioned this before with my review of The Old Ways, I’m pretty tired of the American style of possession/exorcism films where the nice woman catches demons and then the priest has to come around and splash her with some holy water and serve the demon with an eviction notice from the Christian god. At this point, unless we are talking about a movie at the level of the original The Exorcist or the bananapants Exorcist III, I’m done with this kind of film. I say bring on the international demons! Thus MAY THE DEVIL TAKE YOU TOO is just what I am looking for.

Still from MAY THE DEVIL TAKE YOU TOO

Alfie and Nera are the only survivors of the Devil (or was it), attempting to claim the souls of their entire family after their father, Lesmana, made a pact through a mysterious witch to become rich. After the ferocious events of the first film, Alfie still sees demonic entities in the dark. Both Alfie and Nara are suddenly kidnapped by a group who want Alfie’s help with a demon of their own. They were seven orphans abused by the man who ran their orphanage and they are afraid that the evil man has returned. They think that Alfie’s previous fight with the Devil means she can best a demon like the one that threatens them all. From there, things really get pretty wild.

MAY THE DEVIL TAKE YOU TOO has upped the game by the sequel rules, more characters, so more gruesome kills, and mayhem. It has characters with understandable motivations that you can empathize with and feel sorry for. People bravely try to do the right thing and fail. Some people have power that they don’t know how to use. There’s a lot of real-life situations that make sense and it adds a sense of reality to the demonic shenanigans which make the horror work even better. The actors really do a uniformly good job in grounding their characters so that it is all more believable and even the villain is someone that you can’t totally hate. Just like real life. The actress that they cast to play The Priestess, seen only briefly in MTDTYT, Ruth Marini, is the exception to that. She’s scary and she can freeze your blood, just with a look. Mujianto and Stanley Sakul deserve applause for the casting of the entire cast, but for Ruth Marini in particular.

The look of both films is consistently terrific. The camera moves are very fluid and almost sensuous, if a camera move can be described in that manner. One of my favorite shots is the one used when a hand pushes the Book or the Black Bible across the table. Another is when the camera slowly draws back from the point of action. The colors are mostly gold tones and the muted foggy greens of the outside. Other than that, there’s a lot of usage of black. The film makes the most of darkness, almost always suggesting – through earlier setups, that there is probably something lurking in that dark, even if there isn’t, which is a constant source of unnerving energy for the entire film. Tjahjanto and the director of photography, Gunnar Nimpuno, have done a very good job of creating an atmosphere and beauty that, for the most part, is confined to a single house and consistently making it interesting. The music, by Rooftop Sound, is very much suitable for this kind of film as it is eerie, but not overpowering to the action.

Still from MAY THE DEVIL TAKE YOU TOO

I have seen some grousing about how Tjahjanto is “ripping off Sam Raimi and the Evil Dead” films. Firstly, Tjajhanto has made no secret that he is a great fan of Raimi’s work, so naturally, his work in the MTDTY series is influenced by Raimi’s Evil Dead films and that’s okay. Why is that okay, you ask? Well, because neither film is a straight-up copy of any of the Evil Dead films.  Tjahjanto has added his own ideas and his viewpoint as an Indonesian to his movies. They are more about family and love between people with lots of demons. He even leaves out Raimi’s Three Stooges comedy obsession. Everyone is going to be influenced by great horror films. It’s almost impossible to not be influenced by the classics of the genre, just like it’s hard to not be influenced by many films and filmmakers period that have come before you. The key to not doing a slavish imitation is that you add something of your own to the film you make.

In the MTDTY series, there’s also a dose of J-Horror as well, but I don’t see much carping about that. If only truly original ideas in art were allowed, Dracula would not exist because it was written after Sheridan Le Fanu’s Carmilla. No more modern zombie movies after Romero made Night of The Living Dead. Demonic possession movies? VERBOTEN after The Exorcist. Demonic possession movies didn’t start with Raimi either. In fact, Tjahjanto can be applauded for making an Evil Dead style movie that is his own idea and not a reboot of the original franchise, if we want to get really picky about it. If you want to go totally hardline about it, Raimi himself should never have used the comedy of The Three Stooges in his films, now should he? Pfft, of course, he should. That kind of broad comedy was just lying around, the Three Stooges weren’t using it, and Raimi applied it to his own ideas, thereby making a truly awesome series of horror comedies that are still influencing other filmmakers to this day. Also, I am pretty sure that Larry, Moe, and Curly never stomped on a demon head and sent an eyeball flying across the room into someone’s mouth.

See how that works?

MAY THE DEVIL TAKE YOU TOO is a really solid horror film in the subgenre of demonic possession. I think it is best watched after having watched the first film at some point. Full of a lot of believable familial love despite the presence of Moloch searching for the souls of children, it actually has quite a sentimental core and lots and lots of demon blood.

You can now watch MAY THE DEVIL TAKE YOU TOO is now available on Shudder.

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Dolores Quintana is an actor and writer living in Los Angeles. She has written for blogs as diverse as Buddyhead, Pocho.com, and The Theatre @ Boston Court. She works as an actor in independent film and both immersive and traditional theatre with Alone: an Existential Haunting, Screenshot Productions, and Native Voices at The Autry.
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