Back in 2018, Indonesian director Timo Tjahjanto went from satisfying his cinematic bloodlust with martial arts brutality to satisfying it with horror as he presented us with May The Devil Take You. Those who watched it may have either thrilled at the relentless energy or dismissed it as just another possession flick, however, all of them would no doubt agree that the gore-flecked adventures of the ill-fated, central, family-in-crisis felt aaaaaaawfully familiar.
Defiantly wearing his pulsating heart on his blood caked sleeve, Tjahjanto’s nihilistic opus didn’t just hold up Sam Raimi and his Evil Dead trilogy as a major influence, he pretty much stole entire scenes and images wholesale as the spirits raged and plasma sprayed – and yet, despite the director’s shameless act of grand-theft-Raimi, May The Devil Take You turned out to be a surprisingly enjoyable affair, bringing the same intensity as Fede Álvarez’s Evil Dead remake. Of course, to no one’s surprise, a sequel was announced that took the Teen Wolf/Splash route of sequel numbering, but with the opportunity to expand his – uh, borrowed concept, would Tjahjanto strive to shoot for some originality to go with the blunt force trauma?
Two years have passed since Alfie and Nara, her sister from another mister, survived the supernatural events sent in motion by their shared father and both are doing what they can to process the harrow events that saw their family torn to shreds by a vengeful, evil force named Moloch. However, the odd nightmare aside, Alfie finds that the world of the dead isn’t quite done with her yet as she’s dragged back into the world of dingy houses, dark spells and exposed entrails when she and Nara are kidnapped by a masked gang of six assailants.
After being transported to an abandoned orphanage (good start) Alfie and Nara’s captors reveal their intentions and introduce themselves as the kids who used to live there and who suffered torment and abuse from the owner, Ayub, who was never the same after the death of his wife. Finally being unable to weather the storm of cruelty and perversion, the children banded together and set the bastard alight as he pottered around in his basement, but unbeknownst to them, Ayub had a supernatural ace up his flaming sleeve and was in the midst of a deal with the demon Moloch and thus has belatedly returned from the dead and murdered the seventh member of their group.
Swiping Alfie was a last resort as they needed someone who had waded through shit like this before and made it out of the other side relatively intact, but after using Ayub’s black bible to send him away, they only, inadvertently, make him stronger and as a result, both the survivors of May The Devil Take you are forced to negotiate yet another ordeal with possessed friends, bodily mutilation and all sorts of shit flying about the place. However, even with an evil force getting directly in her face, can Alfie trust these strangers who find themselves in deep shit along side her?
Whether it’s because he recieved some negative feedback about the over-familiar liberties May The Devil Take You takes with Evil Dead or he just figured that he was going to try something subtly different this time, Timo Tjahjanto’s May The Devil Take You Too thankfully doesn’t draw all of it’s best ideas from Raimi’s legendary trilogy this time – it does, however, steal a bunch of ideas from everywhere else instead, which continues the first movie’s thread of feeling super familiar even if you’ve never seen it before. The fact that Chelsea Islan’s heroine, Alfie, is bullied back to face the horror simply because she’s an “expert” by attrition is pure James Cameron and the fact that she has a little girl in tow highlights the influence of Aliens even more. Elsewhere we get an Exorcist spider-walk, more Raimi references as someone is dragged screaming into a trap door by their face and bandsaw blades whizz through the air only to thunk into skulls like the Spheres from Phantasm while a trapped child screams from a TV screen like something out of Poltergeist. The bad news is that Tjahjanto hasn’t seemed to have learned his lesson at all, however the good news is that his influences are more evenly dispersed so instead of feeling completely like 100 minutes of Raimi worship, the sequel feels more like an episode of horror greatest hits.
The other thing that saves the movie is that, much like it’s predecessor, Tjahjanto’s borrowing honestly doesn’t actually feel like a cynical cash grab devoid or artistic merit and you sense that he genuinely loves the iconic moments he’s shamelessly riffing on. If it helps any further, the homages are admittedly executed really well, fitting neatly into the gloomy, grimy visuals that the director have infused all his recent movies with (have you seen The Night Comes For Us, that’s a martial arts movie that should come with a tetanus shot as standard) and the flick even comes up with a few ideas of it’s own as a late in the day twist sees Alfie trying to channel some of the evil to her own ends.
Of course, for a movie like this, the nastier the violence is the better and May The Devil Take You Too certainly doesn’t let its predecessor down in this department as the movie unloads all the spraying vomit, head trauma and face-ripping gore hounds could possibly want fromsuchva mean spirited flick such as this – someone even takes a taser to the fucking mouth at one point. However, Tjahjanto continues to proves that, even if his inspirations are a little obvious, his ability to craft a spooky scene cannot be denied as atmosphere leaks out of the film from every pore and the series’ continuing theme of kids paying terribly for the demonic mistakes made by the so-called responsible adults who are supposed to be protecting them.
The characters – and thus the actors who play them – are regrettably rather forgettable with only another larynx ripping lead performance by Islan and a eye popping villain turn from Widika Sidmore, but they do enough to make their gruesome demises count.
Rumour has it (and the ending certainly suggests it) that Tjahjanto has a third installment on the cards and while i would wholeheartedly welcome a trilogy capper – may I humbly suggest May The Devil Take You Next? – it would also be nice if the filmmakers dig a little deeper and unearth a couple more of their own ideas instead of supermarket sweeping their way throughout the horror genre at large.
Still, there’s far worse things to watch while we wait another official Evil Dead entry.