Around the World in 31 Days: Malaysia

munafik 2

I’m delighted to be able to watch these horror movies from lands and cultures I know very little about. For Malaysia, Netflix was able to offer me Munafik 2. I have not seen Munafik 1, alas, but I still caught the gist of this entertainingly over-the-top religious rant. In fact, a quick Google reveals that “munafik” defines  hypocrite, or someone that professes to believe in Allah but truly doesn’t.

Munafik 2 felt to me like the equivalent of the U.S.’s Left Behind franchise.

Munafik 2 (2018)
Director: Syamsul Yusof
Writer: Syamsul Yusof
Notable Cast: Syamsul Yusof, Maya Karin, Fizz Fairuz, Mawi, Fauzi Nawawi, Nasir Bilal Khan, Rahim Razali, Weni Panca
Plot: Sakinah, a poor single mom in an isolated village, is haunted by an evil spirit linked to Abuja, a man with misleading religious teachings, and Adam have to embark on a rescue mission to save Sakinah from the evil spirit and Abu Jar’s torment. (Source: imdb)

Commentary: Ooh boy, how do I unpack this glorious turkey? Let’s start with the good: as a horror film, Munafik 2 had some spectacular supernatural scares, including possessions, random spirit attacks, and a demoness reminiscent of that wacky nun, Valak, from the Conjuring-verse. It was nicely filmed, with its horror sets placed in appropriately dark and menacing locations, and its shots of Malaysia’s countryside looking verdant and beautiful.

The bad: the movie is tediously overwrought in both dialogue and acting. The plot is long and meandering. There is great camp value in the character of the heretical leader Abuja, who hams it up like Rita Repulsa in Power Rangers. There was an unnecessary implied rape.

Ultimately, it was a long, highly obvious religious rant that made every character in the film seem hollow.

What We’re Afraid Of: Again, here’s another Islamic-based horror movie that uses the language of American haunting and satanic panic films – most notably The Conjuring and The Exorcist – to express a religious viewpoint. Munafik 2‘s creators are very worried about apostasy and heresy. The villain Abuja acts like some sort of devil-worshipper and has access to all kinds of black magic, but is in fact a “munafik,” trying to present a version of Islam that is “not true.” The fear here is being led astray from a “true” interpretation of Islam.

In one scene, the character of Sakinah kicks ass and kills one of her daughters kidnappers – right on, girl! – and yet, her own daughter condemns her for the killing, because it goes against the Quran! That of course frustrated my western ass, but as an anthropology student I learned to try to set my biases aside.

I say “try” because I can’t fully do it. I earlier compared it to Left Behind, a noxiously strident evangelical piece of fiction that proselytizes to death. I should be kinder to Left Behind movies too. I guess. But they piss me off.

I would love it if any reader with insight and knowledge could clarify a few things for me and chime in with their thoughts!


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