Satan’s Slaves is a truly brilliant horror movie from Indonesia. It even manages to combine various subgenres in the most awesome ways. Do not miss this one! Screening at Fantasia 2018.

Satan’s Slaves (org. title Pengabdi Setan) might not be in English, but please don’t let that keep you from watching it. This movie has something for just about every horror fan. Whether you love ghost stories, demonic possession, or the living dead, Satan’s Slaves will hit your sweet spot.

Also, how about that title? I mean, you almost giggle just hearing it, because you expect something sort of crazy.

However, Satan’s Slaves isn’t that kind of movie. This one features a group of siblings really fighting to keep each other safe. This is not some kind of spoof or campy horror flick. This is nailbiting and seat-jumping horror!

So, of course, we absolutely loved it.

Familiar but with new twists

It’s hard not to think of everything from The Autopsy of Jane Doe (that damn creepy bell) to Marrowbone (the important sibling bond). This movie employs several elements that feel familiar. However, when used in Satan’s Slaves, they feel new and always have a twist.

For me, this is what makes Satan’s Slaves such a great horror experience. You feel like you know the characters and the story, but still, there’s plenty of room for surprises. Especially since many subgenres are allowed to be part of this story.

And honestly, I always like a movie better, when I love the characters. In this case, I feel we get to see a real family. Sure, the siblings may bicker a bit, but they also love one another. They may not say it, but they show it in so many different ways.

Also, I was pleasantly surprised when it turned out the plot twist I was expecting didn’t happen. That in itself is a real treat to someone who watches so many horror movies of all subgenres.

Satan's Slaves - horror movie review

The heart of horror

What really works for me, is the way Satan’s Slaves is all about heart. You actually care about the characters and want them to make it. And a big part of creating this “heart” is thanks to the visual style.

This is in large part the result of Art Director, Allan Triyana Sebastian, and Cinematographer, Ical Tanjung. They’ve managed to make you [the audience] feel like you’re an actual part of the household and family.

They very appropriately both won awards at the Indonesian Film Festival in their respective categories. In total, Satan’s Slaves actually won a whopping 7 awards!

Another award went to M. Adhiyat, who plays the youngest sibling, Ian. This kid is seriously rivaling Haley Joel Osment in Sixth Sense.

Satan's Slaves - horror movie review

Indonesia’s Master of Horror: Joko Anwar

Satan’s Slaves is actually a remake or reboot of Pengabdi Setan from 1982. I haven’t seen the “original”, but this new version does seem to be quite different. It was both written and directed by Joko Anwar, who is on the fast track to be an international master of horror.

While watching this movie, I did not know that it was a remake. In fact, I commented that this movie was so brilliant, it will probably get a US remake. If it does, I really hope they’ll bring Joko Anwar in to direct that one as well. He has a style and intensity, which I absolutely adore!

Please do yourself a favor and make sure you watch Satan’s Slaves as soon as you can. It’s screening at Fantasia 2018, which serves at the movie’s Canadian premiere. Also, it’s nominated in the “Cheval Noir” competition, so it just might end up with another award. It already won the Feature Film Jury Prize at the Overlook Film Festival in New Orleans this past April.

However, Fantasia 2018 does offer some pretty hardcore competition with so many great titles.

Satan’s Slaves is currently still playing at film festivals worldwide but will be out via later.


Director/Writer: Joko Anwar
Cast: Muhammad Adhiyat, Dimas Aditya, Nasar Anuz, Endy Arfian, Tara Basro, Bront Palarae


Rini lives with her three brothers in an old house on the outskirts of Jakarta. When their mother, a formerly famous singer, falls gravely ill, the family’s financial stability quickly starts to fall apart. Bed-ridden for three years now, her only means of communication is through a sinister little bell… Which, once she takes her last breath, starts ringing endlessly into the night. Even worse: their mother’s old hit suddenly begins playing on the radio, just as Rini’s brothers start seeing strange shadows roaming the cemetery across the street from their bedroom’s window…

I write reviews and recaps on Heaven of Horror. And yes, it does happen that I find myself screaming, when watching a good horror movie. I love psychological horror, survival horror and kick-ass women. Also, I have a huge soft spot for a good horror-comedy. Oh yeah, and I absolutely HATE when animals are harmed in movies, so I will immediately think less of any movie, where animals are harmed for entertainment (even if the animals are just really good actors). Fortunately, horror doesn't use this nearly as much as comedy. And people assume horror lovers are the messed up ones. Go figure!
Karina "ScreamQueen" Adelgaard
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