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Blood Flower (2022) Review

Having done well with several of the Indonesian films they’ve picked up such as Satan’s Slaves and The Queen of Black Magic, Shudder has decided to sample other local fare and picked up their first Malaysian film the supernatural thriller Harum Malam, or Blood Flower, in English.

Iqbal (Idan Aedan, Zombitopia, Anak Rimau the Movie) inherited a gift from his mother mother Dina (Nadiya Nissa, Beautiful Pain, The Outsider), the ability to see demons and other supernatural entities. This helps his father Norman (Bront Palarae, Motel Acacia, Headshot) in his work as an exorcist. That is until a particularly powerful djinn tries to possess Iqbal and she intervenes, saving him but at the cost of her own life. Hoping to save his son from a similar fate, Norman binds his powers

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To make some extra money, his father takes a job looking after a collection of exotic, and carnivorous plants that includes the blood flower. The greenhouse also contains a room with an odd parchment that they’re told is empty, which is odd considering the multiple padlocks on it.

Dain Said (Dukun, Bunohan: Return to Murder) who directs from a script he wrote with Ben Omar (Iman Untuk Bulan) and Nandita Solomon (Interchange) has a reputation in his home country for his genre films and Blood Flower’s opening scenes, while nothing special in terms of plot, do have a great look to them. That includes a demon that sprouts a face from the back of its head to try and possess Iqbal and a shot of dark shapes in the distant woods.

The plot never really strays far from the path and it isn’t long before our young hero disobeys his father and shows the greenhouse to his friends one of whom in a show of bravado rips the parchment off the forbidden door. That frees an evil spirit that begins to kill off Iqbal’s friends and neighbours. He’ll have to not only regain his powers but master them if he wants to stop the creature.

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Cinematographer Jordan Wei Meng Chiam (Pangazou, A Journey of Happiness) may actually be the true star of Blood Flower. His camerawork takes advantage of the apartment building’s claustrophobic corridors and rooms as well as adding much needed atmosphere to familiar situations such as a woman repeating that they’ll all be damned before jumping to her death, indistinct shapes moving in the darkness, and, of course, multiple nightmare scenes.

And to be fair several of those scenes are surprisingly effective, such as the pregnant ghost that slices herself open and eats the fetus. The practical effects for this scene and other shots of bodies, etc. are quite good. The CGI ranges from effective in darkly lit scenes of people being dragged into walls to a demon that is so jerky it looks like bad stop-motion work.

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But as good as the effects get, they’re still propping up a script that feels extremely calculated, as if the filmmakers had watched several successful recent American horror films and decided to make something that would have more international appeal than the typical Malay film. And apart from the language and its Islamic rather than Christian focus Blood Flower could pass as another Blumhouse supernatural film, Insidious: The Flower of Evil.

If you’re in the mood for some jump scares and gory moments, Blood Flower is still an enjoyable enough occult outing. But its lack of local flavour is disappointing, especially from a director whose treatment of a sensational real murder, Dukun, was so controversial it was banned for over a decade.

Blood Flower will be available on Shudder starting on September 8th.

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