I’m no expert on Indonesian horror cinema, but there is one common thing in all the Indonesian horror films I’ve watched thus far on Netflix: they all revolve around sexual abuse. Despite being a fan of disturbing movies, this is something I’m not keen on watching. Mantra Surugana is an uninspired tale of a new college student, Tantri, who learns of some supernatural happenings in her dormitory soon after reaching college. As a young child, she watched her father try to kill himself with a knife before speaking a prayer and burning himself to death. If ugly makeup and jump scares are frightening to you, then this movie might have your heart pumping; however, if you’re like me, you’ll just be raising eyebrows at the terrible special effects and bad writing. Big sexual violence trigger warning, though.
What Happens In The Film?
When Tantri reaches her university, she makes two new friends really quickly. She learns of two kids who have been missing for a year and immediately starts to see things. At least we can’t complain about the pacing of this film. Fey and Asta are quick to show her the ropes, so quick that it feels like they’ve known each other at least for a year. In her room, Tantri finds a discarded photograph of five friends, which include Fey and Asta. On the back of it is a cryptic message about hate. She drops the photograph accidentally, only to be surprised by a ghost under the bed (wow, spooky). Tantri learns a little bit more about the missing friends from Asta. Arum was picked up by her father, and they both disappeared soon after. On the other hand, Luki is believed to have committed suicide, but his body has never been found. The fifth member of the group is Reza, and it seems he has some romantic feelings for Arum.
At night, all three girls see strange visions. Tantri’s is the most vivid. She’s almost like a psychic. She also wears a necklace around her neck, which is meant to keep her protected and was given to her by her father. Tantri wakes up from a nightmare that shows Luki’s death. He spilt his blood and then proceeded to plunge into a well to his death. The next day, Tantri finds her way to that well, and his body is actually there. It seems he died about 5 days earlier. There’s a photographer named Mahes who wants to know more about how Tantri found Luki’s body and what else she knows, but Reza keeps pushing him away when he tries to talk to her. On the other hand, Asta requests Tantri to accompany them to Arum’s house in case she’s able to make some connections through her visions. In reality, Asta knows exactly what’s happening and just wants to use Tantri as a medium to connect with the dead. Arum had used a book earlier with a spell in it to command an evil spirit. This evil spirit would kill people for the gang, if they did exactly what the book said.
Asta asks Tantri to do the spell in order to keep the rest of them safe; however, it just ignites the spirit of the ghost and curses them all. They all see the evil spirit emerge as she talks to them and implies that she will kill them all. Asta seems to be the only one who isn’t affected by what she sees. In fact, she’s had a plan all along. Asta’s been sexually abused by her uncle since childhood. Her plan is to get the evil spirit to do her bidding and kill the man. She gets dropped off at home and follows the steps of cutting a piece of his clothing and his hair while he’s sleeping so she can conduct the spell using her book. However, he wakes up and forces himself on her again. Later at night, Tantri watches Asta’s uncle die in her vision. She rushes to Asta and Fey, asking them to give her the book and stop what they’re doing because they don’t know what the evil spirit can do (who put her in charge though?). Fey tells Tantri the truth about Asta, and Asta’s not happy about it. Tantri feels for Asta, but she can’t have them use supernatural activity to get revenge.
What Happened To Arum?
Arum was a victim too. Reza and Luki had a bet on who would get to sleep with her first. Reza won the bet (ew) and proceeded to take an explicit picture of her and send it to the whole college. Arum was depressed and angry, which is why she resorted to the book to get her revenge. Tantri is shocked when she hears this story because that means Asta should’ve been on Arum’s side, but she took the side of her other friends, making sure Arum was left alone. Seeing her ex-boyfriend Mahes with Tantri, Asta gets angry and decides to use the book on Tantri (because green is a terrible color for her).
What Happened To Surugana?
Tantri learns that a woman named Surugana was sexually abused by five men one night in a drunken state. When they were finished with her, she wrote down all their names in a book and cursed them and their future generations, a “sins of the grandfather” situation. Surugana vowed that she would come back and haunt all future generations until no offspring remained. Tantri happened to be the granddaughter of one of these men, and we can assume that Arum was one of the grandkids too because she wore the same kind of necklace that Tantri herself wears. This is probably to protect them from Surugana’s spirit.
How Does Tantri Save The Day?
During Mantra Surugana‘s ending, Tantri meets Arum, who was locked up by her father because she was possessed by the spirit of the curse book. Her father didn’t know what else to do to stop her, but before he could release her from the binds, he was killed by the spirit. This left Arum tied up and alone for all this time. I’m not sure how this is possible with a year having passed, but sure. A possessed Asta shows up with a knife at Mahes’ neck. Tantri tries to connect to whatever is left of Asta in there, but it doesn’t work, and she ends up killing the love of her life. Asta then proceeds to kill herself. For everything to stop, five people must die for Surugana to be satisfied, since that is the number of people who abused her. The last one on this list is Arum, so as Arum is calling the evil spirits and cursing Tantri, Tantri takes the knife that Asta used and stabs Arum in the heart, apologizing. Somehow they’re already using each other’s nicknames without having ever known each other. Arum thanks Tantri for freeing her and dies in her arms. Reza gets taken to prison, where he kills himself by slamming his head onto the bars a dozen times (oops), and Fey, who removed her eyeballs with her own hands, is in the psychiatric hospital for self-harm.
Just when Tantri thinks everything is over, she wakes up on a bus back home from the nightmare of Reza’s death. She’s shocked to see the book in her own hands, and as she turns around, she sees that everyone on her bus is dead. At the end of Mantra Surugana, a veiled woman is in Arum’s room; she turns around and her eyes turn red, and we can only imagine this means the cycle’s begun again and there’s going to be a sequel. A lot of Mantra Surugana doesn’t make sense to me; however, I understand what they were trying to do with the story. Still, the presentation could’ve been much better, in my opinion. Ultimately, in such a situation, only the evil spirit can win, because it’s the righteous ending for her, I suppose.