The fine people of Indonesia don’t cut their sandwiches in half. You may find that hard to believe. I did. In fact, despite how much weird stuff Elang sees during Shackled, the sight of the neighbours shoving whole slices of bread and filling into their gobs is the most irregular. Maybe it says more about the movie than I thought.
Psychological thriller Shackled (aka Belenggu), by female director Upi, attempts a David Lynch style murder mystery. It opened the Terracotta Festival’s Horror All-Nighter jointly presented with Film4 FrightFest in June. The story follows Elang (Abimana Aryasatya), already haunted by images of bizarre murders involving a killer with a rabbit costume. Think Frank from Donnie Darko, only a bit less monstrous, and a little bit silly.
Elang's efforts to solve the mystery and save the lives of those he thinks are in danger have trapped him in a downward spiral. He becomes a suspect. The mysterious rabbit figure does not. Hopping mad, he tries to tell the world about his theory but no one believes him. In proving his innocence, he will be forced to unveil a horrible and long-buried secret. Not involving sandwiches.
There’s plenty to enjoy during the first hour of this thriller. The opening five minutes are wonderfully bizarre, offering enough questions to keep you interested for a large chunk of its running time. The backwater locale, nutjob locals with intriguing habits, a pretty girl next door, and an uncouth lead performance from Aryasatya add weight to an already absorbing mystery.
There’s little in the way of syrupy chaos, especially in the second half, but the riddle makes up for it, and will help you forgive the director for making her lead more and more unlikeable as the movie goes on. Other characters fare better, and its these established players that hold the film together, up until the midway point when we’re introduced to a couple of useless detectives.
Before this misstep, however, there is a superbly tense scene involving our costumed rabbit throwing knives at the girl next door, and an out of place, but extremely welcome slice of brutality involving a brick to the head. The femme-fatale is a bit kooky too. Although, if someone ever said to me, "Thank you. Fate has brought us together," after knowing me for one evening, you wouldn't see me for dust.
Basically, now would be the time to turn off. It takes an eternity for the detectives to solve a fairly straightforward case, and the entire cast seem to be tainted by the same monotony engulfing the viewer. With a suspicious past finally arousing our intrepid detectives, you can’t help but wonder how Elang has been getting away with everything for so long. Is he mental? Is he insane? Is he innocent? Why don’t they cut their sandwiches in half? With Elang banged up, the threat is gone. The suspense disappears with the bunny.
Seasoned horror buffs will find little to excite them, while most will just lose interest and let their minds wander instead. I started thinking about Christmas. All in all, a shame, because Upi has created a bleak but beautiful world, with some eye-catching imagery to tease the senses. For a while it feels like The Shining. Then it becomes Eyes Wide Shut.
Visions of violent murders, a giant knife throwing rabbit, and a mysterious femme-fatale aren’t enough these days. The fascinating opening will draw you in, but the dull as dishwater second half will be a test of anyone’s patience. Shackled runs out of ideas fast. It doesn't need two dumb detectives to figure that one out. Instantly forgettable. DW