Satan's Slaves 2: Communion

Satan's Slaves 2: Communion ★★★★

Satan’s Slaves 2: Communion starts with a scene of exhumed corpses and camera-bulb eeek flashes illuminating maggoty flesh, so immediately Joko Anwar is having fun with genre iconography in this bigger, bloodier, bolder sequel. 2017’s Satan’s Slaves was in the spirt of James Wan’s Conjuring hauntings, filtering that mood though an Indonesian prism with strong family dynamics and even stronger scares. The surviving Suwono family has left their cursed home behind for an apartment building’s safety in numbers, and Anwar is eager to punish that false sense of security via a claustrophobic brutalist deathtrap in the middle of nowhere that traps its residents during storm floods.

But something much more insidious than floodwaters is seeping through these floors. The first forty minutes take their time reorienting us to the new setting, current family situation, various subplots and other families in the buildings, establishing geography and set-up for later payoffs through occasional tautly-constructed moments of terror. Hints of sinister secrets and looming occult threat crescendo to a mid-film stunner of an elevator nightmare, rocketing Communion into its second half’s dark stormy night laden with suspenseful dread, jump-scare fright, and sleuthing teens. Unburied corpses lying on apartment floors, rainwaters rising to cut off escape, whispers of a hidden sealed level, blackout turning hallways into shadowy caverns barely lit by flickering matches, a paranormal journalist racing to the building before it’s too late: Anwar piles on floorfuls of atmosphere and eeriness until Communion is as much a Satan’s Slaves sequel as it is just supernatural bedlam fraught with lurking ghouls and chaotic set-pieces dooming victims to gory fates. What engaging drama and precise construction is lost compared to the first, is countered by the grander scope (as in Indonesia’s first IMAX film) and gleeful spookfest craft on display.

The ending is abrupt and the very final scene feels especially tacked on in the continued efforts to set up a trilogy or franchise. But regardless Satan’s Slaves 2 was a worthy addition to that illustrious sub-subgenre of high-rise horror.

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