Pengabdi Setan contains some ethereal nightmare scenes and an overt synth score that elevates it beyond many of the meretricious Asian supernatural movies of its era. Indonesian films were always more delirious than their Hong Kong counterparts and less simplistically sadean than Japanese movies. Aside from a brief and suitably tacky disco scene, there are scenes of Jean Rollin-like cinematic poetry, which, combined with later imagery typical of the bluntness of Far East cinema, makes Pengabdi Setan a whole lot more interesting. It’s something of a mess but the overall result is fascinating, if flawed by the usual conceits of exploitation cinema. A big-haired witch and some odd-looking zombies ensure that the finale is daft yet entertaining.
Plus, a glorious moment for seasoned global horror fans is the discovery of a ‘forbidden’ copy of House of Hammer magazine, a youthful temptation that was often forbidden by authority figures.