Satan’s Slaves: Communion, or Pengabdi Setan 2: Communion if you prefer, is the newest film from Indonesian writer/director Joko Anwar (The Ritual, Gundala), It’s no secret I’m a fan of his work and with it being three years since his last film, Impetigore, I was quite ready to see his sequel to the film that brought him international attention, Satan’s Slaves.
The film opens in 1955 with Budiman (Egy Fedly, Bloodlust Beauty, Headshot), the journalist from the first film, being brought to a local observatory where several corpses are arranged as if they were at prayer. There are lots of footprints leading from the cemetery to the building, and the corpses all have muddy feet. The government wants to cover it up but one local official asks him to get the word out. Instead, he keeps quiet.
From there Satan’s Slaves: Communion moves forward to 1984, three years after the events of the original. After fleeing their house at the end of that film Rini (Tara Basro, Killers, Halfworlds) and her family, brothers Toni (Endy Arfian, Ghost Writer, 13: The Haunted) and Bondi (Nasar Anuz, Stan’s Slaves), as well as their father Bahri (Bront Palarae, Zombitopia, Fly By Night), have settled in Jakarta.
The moment you see the tower block they live in off by itself in a field you know something is wrong with it. And it’s only a few minutes later we see Bondi digging up pieces of gravestones buried nearby. We also find out about Toni’s attraction to their new neighbour Tari (Ratu Felisha, Vengeance Is Mine, All Others Pay Cash, The Chanting), Rini’s plans to leave for college, and the storm that’s heading their way.
Satan’s Slaves: Communion runs just under two hours and takes its time getting started. There are occasional glimpses of strange happenings, Rini’s walk through a floor housing some very odd tenants, the voice that tries to lure Wisnu (Muzakki Ramdhan, The Queen of Black Magic, The Returning) into the garbage chute, etc.
But, apart from a horrifying elevator accident, most of the first half of Satan’s Slaves: Communionis low key, and the emphasis is on the characters, especially the new ones, and setting things up for the moment when all hell does break loose. Thankfully Anwar keeps the first hour moving at a decent pace and doesn’t let it bog down in the dramatic subplots before the horror really starts to kick in.
One of the strongest things the film has going for it is its setting. The building itself is one of those grey concrete monstrosities that actually looks dead at the best of times. Once the basement floods and the power goes out it becomes a genuinely terrifying place. This makes it easy to finish winding the audience up. And by the time the dead get up and start walking around you will be wound quite tightly. While we do get jump scares and, towards the end, some gore, Satan’s Slaves: Communion is much more about atmosphere and suspense for most of its running time, and it excels at it.
If you haven’t seen Satan’s Slaves you may want to give it a watch before taking on the sequel. You can get through the movie without it, but the final act will make a lot more sense if you have. Apart from that, the only real issue I have with the film is the amount of shaky camerawork we get when everyone is running around near the end. And, while the final scene has to be what it is to set up the third film, the shot before it would have made for a much better final image.
One of the best films Shudder has added to its library this year, Satan’s Slaves: Communion is an excellent piece of supernatural horror and one of the few sequels that totally surpasses the original. I can’t wait to see how Anwar closes out the trilogy.
Satan’s Slaves: Communion will stream exclusively on Shudder in the U.S., Canada, the UK, Ireland, Australia, and New Zealand starting November 4th. The original is also on Shudder if you want to see it before the sequel premieres. And if you want more devilish films, FilmTagger can offer some suggestions.