Dancing Village: The Curse Begins (2024)

Director: Kimo Stamboel

Running Time: 123 Minutes

Starring: Maudy Effrosina, Aulia Sarah, Jourdy Pranata, Ardit Erwandha, Moh Iqbal Sulaiman, Claresta Taufan Kusumarina, Aming Sugandhi

Opening in 1955, a strange ritual unfolds which sees women dancing in a trancelike manner, with the dancers dropping until one remains. The village elder, Putri (Pipien Putri), instructs her young daughter, Inggri (Princeza Leticia), to run away with a mystical bangle in order to save the village from the might of the mysterious Badarawuhi (Aulia Sarah).

25 years later, Mila (Maudy Effrosina) arrives at Dancing Village along with her cousins, Yuda (Jourdy Pranata) and Arya (Ardit Erwandha). Joined by local guide Jito (Moh Iqbal Sulaiman), the group seek to return the bangle in order to save Mila's mother from a mysterious illness. However, their arrival coincides with Badarawuhi's return to once-more control the village.

Serving as a prequel to 2022's KKN, Curse of the Dancing Village, Indonesia's highest grossing film of all-time, Kimo Stamboel takes directorial duties this time around. While it may be connected to a previously released film, Stamboel and returning writer Lele Laila ensure that this instalment works regardless of how much knowledge viewers have with this series.

Aiding things is the effectiveness of Stamboel's direction, ensuring that a sense of spookiness resides throughout to convey how the village is plagued with curses. From a local legend involving a man transforming into a dog, to the sight of graves covered in black cloths, a creepiness perseveres throughout to a greater effect than the moments which utilize jump scares. It also helps when the gruesome imagery is utilized, offering an unsettling image which also showcases the decent practical effects.

Hoping that her actions will do some good, Mila is an effective protagonist that finds herself venturing through this mysterious village. As she delves deeper, it becomes clear to Mila how much she has played into others' hands. Her companions offer support along this journey and, even though they are not the focus, one wishes they felt as distinctive. As for the antagonistic figure, Badarawuhi is depicted as a manipulative seductress whose power lies in persuasion. Sarah casts an enticing presence as the figures who may have low-stakes goals, yet her attempts to fulfill them are far-reaching and deadly courtesy of her mystical powers.

One feels that a tighter runtime could have benefitted things, as the 123-minute length leaves the pacing to feel off and attentions to wane. What does succeed is how this tale captures the suffering caused by outdated practices, and how the greatest victory can be for one to simply live their life. As such, Dancing Village: The Curse Begins makes for an effectively low-stakes tale that knows how to chill.

Dancing Village: The Curse Begins is released in select U.S. cinemas on April 26th