Indonesian horror has been receiving some attention in recent years, mostly thanks to some pretty good entries from the country. So it is not surprising that the said country’s highest-grossing local film is from the horror genre. KKN di Desa Penari currently holds the title of the highest-grossing film in Indonesian history. Sadly, the film’s box-office success in its home country doesn’t really translate to its overall quality.

The title basically means KKN In Dancer’s Village and is based on a viral Twitter thread of the same name (later rewritten as a novel) by SimpleMan. KKN or Kuliah Kerja Nyata (Student Study Service) is part of the country’s education curriculum where students are assigned to go to rural areas to do community service. In the film, we follow a group of young college students composed of Nur (Tissa Biani), Widya (Adinda Thomas), Ayu (Aghniny Haque), Bima (Achmad Megantara), Anton (Calvin Jeremy), and Wahyu (Fajar Nugraha) who arrive at a remote, unnamed village to conduct their community service. However, things don’t go as they have planned when a mysterious entity in the form of a mesmerizing local dancer (Aulia Sarah) starts following them around the village, leading the group into grave danger.

Penned by Lele Maila and Gerald Mamahit, this supernatural horror flick from director Awi Suryadi had loads of potential, from its supposedly “based on a true story” gimmick and the premise’s rich mythology. Unfortunately, all of that potential is lost in the film’s lackluster execution. While the film had some creepy moments, it’s admittedly far from being scary. Apparently, the film had two versions: a heavily edited cut that was released theatrically in the country and the other, entitled KKN di Desa Penari: Luwih Dowo, Luwih Medeni (KKN In Dancer’s Village: Longer, Scarier), which was an almost 3-hour long version released online and internationally. I found the “longer, scarier” version on Amazon Prime Video and thought it would be better to see it in this extended form. Big mistake, as it turns out that this version is nothing more than a bloated and exhausting horror flick that’s bereft of scares.

I’ve seen Awi Suryadi’s other work, Sunyi (Death Whisper), which was a 2019 adaptation of the 1998 South Korean horror classic, Whispering Corridors. I actually like that movie: it’s slick, it’s creepy, and it’s pretty straightforward. However, compared to that one, KKN di Desa Penari is an overly long and boring mess of a horror flick. It heavily relies on cheap jump scares and loud, overbearing music. There’s hardly any tension or thrills in the proceedings. I didn’t feel any sense of urgency, even if everything was already going crazy in the village and around the young college students. To make matters worse, the writing is also pretty bad. There’s hardly any attempt to give the protagonists some good characterization. While I haven’t read the film’s source material, the film’s script feels like it tried so hard to cram so many ideas into the film, without realizing which ones actually work, resulting in confusion about the mythology and frustration with the characters. To be honest, that story could have fit into a 90-minute feature flick with faster pacing and minus the excessive detail.

It boasts some pretty effective performances from the cast, particularly Tissa Biani. However, these performances alone can’t make up for the film’s overflowing misgivings. From its lack of effective scares, bloated running time and overall dragging pacing, this Indonesian horror flick is all hype but definitely lacks the bite.

KKN In Dancer’s Village: Longer, Scarier is available to watch here.*

*Affiliate Link

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