The Jakarta Post
Don't look back: Titi Kamal plays Rini, a woman who experiences strange occurrences when performing shalat prayers in a dormitory. (MD Pictures/-)
It all started as a fun project in 2015. Riza Pahlevi and his university friends made a short movie on Youtube about a presence that haunts people who are performing shalat prayers.
The short movie, Makmum (Follower), became a hit and grabbed several awards at local and international festivals. The movie also stirred controversy with some viewers complaining that they were terrified of praying alone after watching it.
The buzz around Makmum gained the attention of producers at Dee Company, Blue Water Films and MD Pictures, who jointly adapted it into a feature-length film under the same title.
Directed by Hadrah Daeng Ratu, the feature version of Makmum revolves around the terrifying occurrences felt by three girls – Nurul (Tissa Biani), Nissa (Bianca Hello) and Putri (Adilla Fitri) – at their dormitory.
They are unable to perform shalat prayers peacefully without being ominously disturbed by an eerie voice repeating back their prayer.
Makmum, which translates to follower in Arabic, is the act of an individual or group of people who join in on a shalat prayer after the Imam precedes them one or few rak'ahs. In this film, Makmum is not the actual name of the ghost but rather used as a reference of the horror felt by the characters.
When an alumnus Rini (Titi Kamal) comes to stay at the dorm indefinitely for the sake of former headmistress Ibu Kinanti (Jajang C Noer), the strange happenings grow more aggressive. As the movie progresses, the story takes a darker turn as the buried secrets of the dormitory begin to unfold.
Albeit some actors’ slightly stiff performances, the overall cast did a great job in setting the mood. Kudos go to Misha Jeter (Makmum) and Jajang C Noer, whose skillful performances adds to the bone-chilling effect of the entire movie.
The somewhat choppy transitions between scenes and some unrealistic inconsistencies, leads to a less refined take of the highly-praised short film. In spite of that, Makmum delivers a simple yet quite effective storyline without having to display fancy visuals or overpowering music.
As it turns out, using religion as a source of fear can bring out the most paralyzing kind of terror in people. Makmum calls to question the loyalty of our faith and the temptations we have to face.
Some viewers have developed a fear of praying alone, especially during the night. Several critics have warned that the movie’s premise could lead to religious misinterpretations, but the cast and crew have pointed out that rather than taking it as something to be afraid of, it should be a lesson to have stronger faith.
"If we are truly devoted to god, our heart, soul and body must bow to him. Disturbances shouldn't sway us, that's the moral of this movie," Titi Kamal said.
The movie has racked up 243,963 views in the first four days after its release on Aug. 15. Looking at its good performance in the box office, it seems that many moviegoers are curious how such a horror movie may strenghten their faith – or instead make them terrified looking over their shoulders during their prayers.
--The writer is an intern at The Jakarta Post
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