The Javaian phrase Sewu Dino means a thousand days. The latest Indonesian horror film is titled the same, and it is the story of a thousand days worth of damnation for one ill-fated character. It has all the usual tropes of any Indonesian horror, and if you are a fan of this particular sub-genre, then you would probably have a pretty great time watching it. However, while I thought Kimo Stamboel’s horror film was cool enough, at least forty percent of it seems quite confusing and utterly pointless. While the film manages to resolve the central conflict, a lot of other things are left up to your own interpretation. Unfortunately, there aren’t many breadcrumbs to follow. We are still going to make an attempt at dissecting the film, especially the ending, which I thought was strangely abrupt.
Plot Synopsis: What Happens In The Movie?
Sewu Dino is actually based on a viral Twitter thread that was posted by Simpleman. You can try to find out more about it if you feel like it. The film doesn’t waste any time letting the audience know how high the stakes are. It opens with two young women performing a strange bathing ritual on a frail, sickly, but young woman. Everything smells creepy here, and you can sense something is about to go horribly wrong. Soon enough, the sickly woman appears to be possessed by some sort of a demonic spirit, and she bashes one of the women’s head in, while the other one screams in horror.
Who Is Sri, And What Does She Want?
A modest waitressing job can’t cut it for Sri, who is in desperate need of a substantial job with a lot more pay. Her father is sick, and without a hefty amount of money, she is unable to buy the medications. Her colleague suggests she seek a job with the Atmojo family, who are coincidentally planning to employ young women in the age bracket of twenty to thirty-five. There are even posters about it everywhere. Sri, in spite of considering giving it a try, backs down after finding out that even a woman with a graduate degree failed to get the job. With no formal education, Sri clearly has no chance after all. But fate has a different plan for her, as, thanks to a freak accident, Sri ends up inside the Atmojo household and has a chance to get up close and personal with Mbah Karso, aka the matriarch of the family. She is shocked to see that Mbah has strange lesions on her face and all over her body. The Atmojo matriarch offers her a job and promises to take care of her financial needs if Sri agrees to do it. The woman already seems to know about her father’s health condition. I believe this only indicates that the accident was only a ploy to get Sri inside the house. In case you didn’t notice, the Atmojo family driver could be seen eating at the same food joint where Sri was waitressing at the beginning of the movie. I assume the family was already scouting possible candidates for their plan, after all.
What Is The Job?
Sewu Dino takes quite a while to reveal what the job really is, but given Mbah asks Sri to bathe her with some sort of holy water with lots of flowers in it, it is not too hard to guess. Starting the film with the horrifying scene that also has a similar bathing ritual is a bold move, but creating unnecessary suspense over the whole “job” thing after that doesn’t really make much sense. Anyway, it is not Mbah who needs to undergo the bathing ritual. It is her granddaughter, Della, who is basically possessed by an evil power called Sangarturih. What’s at stake here? Della’s going to remain possessed by evil for exactly one thousand days, and then she will be gone forever. The only way to rescue her is by venturing into an equivalent of “upside down” (in case you don’t get the reference, imagine a darker but magical world coexisting with ours) on Day 1000 and getting her out.
But the first order of business is to get the bathing ritual right. With three more days left until Day 1000, Sri is taken to a secluded location deep inside the forest by Atmojo family’s driver Sugih. On the way, she meets two of her co-workers, a friendly young woman named Erna and the rather stunned Dini, whom we’ve seen before (in the very first scene, which means she has survived). Upon reaching the house where the three women have to take care of Della and perform the ritual on her in order to keep the evil subdued, they meet this old man, Tamin, who meticulously explains what they have to do. Sri and Erna get their first dose of the “horror that’s about to come” when Dini gets attacked by Della. Tamin quickly takes care of the situation while Sri and Erna run away from the house, understandably. Not that they have the privilege to escape, as the surroundings of the house are guarded by an enchanted fence to contain Sangarturih inside the perimeter. Tamin explains to Sri and Erna that all they have to do is perform the ritual right for the next three days, and that’s about it.
Performing the ritual is not quite an easy task, as the one who is bathing Della needs to follow a set of instructions recorded by Mbah by playing an audio cassette. I believe none of us were surprised to see that there’s a problem with the water pumping device, which is going to become a huge issue for the trio. The first night still goes okay as Erna does the ritual without any hassle while Dini takes care of the pump with Sri’s help. Sri sees a strange dream that night where she is running through a sugarcane field only to come across a menacing-looking man wielding a machete-like weapon. The dream gets cut short like it usually does, but Sri finds sugarcane leaves stuck on her feet. Where did those come from? Sri tries to talk about it with Erna and Dini, but the latter pretty much shuts her down and orders her not to have any weird thoughts and just to get the job done. As if someone can stop having weird thoughts on que!
Sri has another dream where she is again running through the sugarcane fields (and the sky is looking strangely yellow), and this time, she hears a faint voice of a woman crying for help. Just when she is about to find out the source of that voice, that man comes out of nowhere and attacks her, and that was it. She again tries to get to the bottom of it, but Dini discourages her. During the bathing ritual, the audio cassette doesn’t play right, and Sri has a conversation with Della, who thanks her for taking care of her. Things soon take an ugly turn when Della, under the influence of evil, loses her marbles and attacks Sri. Dini and Erna rush to her rescue. They manage to take care of Della, but Erna ends up extremely injured after surviving a vicious attack by Della. When Tamin arrives the next day, he explains to Sri that it was Sangarturih who was tricking her. Sugih also arrives with Tamin, and he ends up carefully digging a grave, which looks eerily similar to the ones Sri wakes up from, every time in her dreams.
Things go haywire during the final bathing ritual when the water pump malfunctions again, and this time Della escapes. But thanks to the entire area being surrounded by enchanted fences, she also can’t escape. As you would expect, Sri soon stumbles on Della, who attacks her. But thankfully, Tamin is back to save Sri, which he does by quickly splashing the flowery water on Della. However, what neither Tamin nor Sri saw coming was Erna suddenly stabbing Tamin and revealing herself to be the person behind everything that has gone wrong so far—the water pump, the audio cassette, intentionally keeping the door open so that Della can get out. The twist would have been a cool one if the film took some time to establish a motive behind Erna’s action, but sadly, we are just left to assume that this was a psychotic break. In an unfortunate turn of events, Erna dies in the hands of Sri.
Does Sri Manage To Save Della?
Of all the things she could ever imagine herself to be capable of, killing Erna was most definitely not there. Shocked and devastated, Sri plans to leave. Now that she has figured out how to break out of the enchantments, getting out of the area is not going to be a problem. But it is Day 1000, and she has a job to do. Why her? Because her blood has a special scent to do the thing that’s needed to be done, as explained by Mbah, who herself has arrived, given that this is the D-day. Sabdo Kuntjoro, the man who is responsible for Della’s condition, also happens to have the same thing in his blood, which makes Sri the only one with the power to take him down and free Della. For that, she has to go through hell by getting inside the grave with Della and traveling into that other dimension, which is called the world of Sukma here.
Sri is free to leave now, but upon Mbah’s request to save her only family, i.e., Della, she agrees to do the job. In case I haven’t mentioned it earlier, Sri has a dead sister, Tyas, whom she couldn’t save from an illness due to not having money. This is another plot point which doesn’t have any major relevance. Anyway, the last bit of ritual turns out to be quite gross, as it is simply pouring a bucket of blood (or was that just red paint? the film never clarifies) on Sri, which eventually makes her wake up in Sukma.
In Sukma, it doesn’t take much for Sri to find the location of Della. This is the first time we get to see the character in her complete human form, by the way. But getting out of Sukma is not easy, as the menacing man, aka Sabdo Kuntjoro, is out to get both Della and Sri. Meanwhile, in the real world, things don’t go as planned. While the unavailability of water earlier makes sense as it was clearly Erna’s doing, at a time when Dini is supposed to be doing the bathing ritual on Della continuously, running out of water is unforgivable. There is no logic behind it; hence, I have no other option but to consider this a giant plot hole. Anyway, with no water around, Dini gets attacked, and one of her ears gets munched on by Della. Tamin and Subih are soon knocked out of the battle, and Della approaches to attack Mbah. On the other side, Sri and Della manage to escape the wrath of Sabdo Kuntjoro just when Della is about to attack Mbah. However, upon getting freed after such a long struggle, Della comes back to her senses, and Mbah finally gets her granddaughter back, all thanks to Sri.
While Sewu Dino could have ended with Sri saving Della and everyone finally being happy and healthy, the film couldn’t resist being something more. So it comes down to Sri asking Mbah about how it all started, and instead of giving any proper answer, Mbah is just saying some cryptic things about how a lot of knowledge can be harmful at times. We get it; she is basically preaching an “ignorance is bliss” sort of thing here, but why exactly? Maybe because the writer of the film felt lazy about writing a proper backstory. We do get to know something else, though. Sugih, the driver, happens to be a Kuntjoro, who has lost his family in the feud with Atmojo. If the magical fight between these two families was this important, then why didn’t we get to see some of it? Sugih applauds Sri’s decision to refuse to take Mbah’s money, as it only implies Sri is not bound to do anything for the Atmojo family. That’s alright, but what about her father’s medication, then? I guess we will never know unless this film somehow becomes popular and we get a sequel in a few years. Given how it has ended, I do see that actually happening.