You think that American genre cinema is the absolute peak of weirdness? You study Italian horror, post-armageddon movies from the Philippines and Japanese musicals about murderous families and you think you’ve seen it all. Then you discover this movie, straight out of Indonesia, where low-budget exploitation films like this — that said, there’s no real movie like this — were released domestically and then sent to Japan.
H. Tjut Djalil is probably the foremost director of Indonesian grindhouse, if there’s such a thing. He’s also known for Lady Terminator, which we’ll be getting to soon. Here, he focuses on the Southeast Asian and Balinese mythology of the Leyak, a paranormal creature which takes the form of a flying, disembodied head with entrails and internal organs intact and hanging down from the neck. Get ready. Mystics In Bali is about to ruin your brain.
Catherine “Cathy” Kean (Ilona Agathe Bastian, who was not an actress but a German tourist on vacation) has traveled to Bali to write a book about voodoo and black magic. Her lover Manendra offers to help her study further and takes her to several rituals. The following evening, they meet the Queen of the Leák, an ancient witch with an ever-changing face. Before she leaves their first meeting, a handshake between her and Cathy ends up leaving our heroine with a severed arm in her grasp.
Cathy wants to learn more, so the next night, she and Mahendra bring blood for the Queen to drink. That evening, the Queen appears in the form of a tongue that orders Cathy to strip before carving a spell into her upper thigh. Cathy is to return the next evening alone.
This is where a normal human being would just stop and walk away. But no — Cathy returns and she and the Queen transform into pigs before destroying a wall of fire. That means that somewhere, someone has been killed. However, she grows sick with the Queen telling her to return to be healed the next evening.
This is when Mahendra starts to think something weird is going on, so he asks his uncle to teach him how to combat the Leák’s magic. But it’s too late — this movie is about to go off the rails in a way few movies can live up to.
The Queen tells her that she’s going to borrow her head and Cathy becomes a leyak, which means that her head, organs, and entrails detach from her body and fly away to the home of a pregnant woman, where she sucks an unborn baby right out of that poor woman’s womb by positioning herself between the thighs and just going to town. If you thought a severed head performing oral favors in Reanimator was the limit, Mystics In Bali is ready to turn your brain into Ayam Bakar Taliwang.
The blood from the fetus cures Cathy and makes the Queen young and strong. Together, they become snakes and escape before Cathy wakes up and throws up mice. Yep, this movie doubles down on a severed head eating a baby through someone’s vagina and raises you vomited up vermin.
After killing someone else while in fireball form, Mahendra and his uncle decide to bury Cathy’s body so her head can’t find it. A climactic battle in a graveyard ensues, with the Queen electrocuting Machesse and slicing his neck, killing the old man. Mahendra’s former girlfriend also is killed by the Queen before another of Mahendra’s uncles, Oka, stabs the Queen — now a humanoid pig — in the heart, turning her into a masked figure. The old wizard and the Queen blast energy at one another which explodes, just as the sun kills both Cathy and our villain.
Mystics In Bali is said to be the Holy Grail of Asian cult cinema. Brought to Western attention by the maniacs at Mondo Macabro (you can get it at their site), this is a movie that can still shock and excite nearly forty years after it was made.
The film was made on the Indonesian island of Java rather than on location in Bali, as locals were too superstitious about the black magic rituals it depicts. The roles of the Queen and Machesse (and Oka) were played by the husband and wife duo of Sofia W.D. and W. D. Mochtar, who each appeared in many, many movies. Sofia even directed her own movie, Badai-Selatan, which played the 1962 Berlin International FIlm Festival.
While I highly recommend the Mondo Macabro release, you can also watch this movie on the Internet Archive. But be warned: once you watch this, you can never truly go back. This is the darkest of film craziness, where you are forever changed by the movie you just witnessed!