[review by JA Kerswell]
|Which ex bumped off Alex and who is the killer?
This slight Indonesian slasher has a great premise but isn’t skillfully enough made to stick the landing despite a clever twist. Four women in their twenties mourn the death of their ex-boyfriend Alex (Jeff Smith) only to discover that he was dating them all at the same time. Worse still, they each receive a letter from Alex telling them that if he is dead one of them murdered him. Handling some pretty heavy subjects, including sexual abuse and bullying, 4 MANTAN - which loosely translates as 4 EXES - is a little too maudlin and hand-wringing for its own good.
Sara (Ranty Maria), a violin student who cares for her disabled mother at home, gets a phone call one night to let her know that her ex-boyfriend Alex has been found dead - allegedly suicide by hanging. At his funeral, Sara meets three other women who all are surprised that not only did they also date Alex - but had all been dating him at the same time. They include Rin (Melanie Berentz), the tough gym go-er; the bulimic model Rachel (Melayu Nicole), who has an angry boyfriend who criticises her weight constantly and Amara (Denira Wiraguna) who works in the local cafe. There are whispers at the ceremony that Alex may not have died of natural causes. They are also shocked to receive the letter - with their names written in blood on the envelope - but rather than turn on each other they try and piece together the mystery of who might be the killer.
Meanwhile, some of the group are seemingly haunted by Alex’s mother’s ghost (Wani Siregar) who appears in full funereal garb. Later, the women - and the men in their lives - are targeted by a mystery killer. Will any of them survive long enough to find out who the real murderer is?
|4 MANTAN isn't as straight forward as many other slashers - but that isn't necesarily a good thing.
As a slasher movie, one of the main problems with 4 MANTAN is that the first murder doesn’t happen until the halfway mark. Some of the killings are grisly enough (the severed head in the microwave being especially gruesome). Still, the film seems less interested in these horror aspects and suspense scenes than it does in tackling its main subject - the cycle of abuse. Whilst that gives the film some gravitas as far as subject matter goes, the scenes of child abuse are protracted and the film is really too silly to warrant them - and, in the end, it just comes off a bit distasteful. Whilst competently shot, it has the bland, flat feel of a Lifetime TV thriller. Most of the suspense scenes come from supernatural jump scares that are essentially a MacGuffin - and seem shoehorned in simply because they are expected in an Indonesian horror movie.
Whilst I won’t give away the film’s twist - which is worth sticking around for - it could have been a doozy in the right hands. However, looking back it isn’t hard to feel a little cheated by the film’s sleight-of-hand and sloppy tying up of loose ends.
At times, the film gets so bogged down in its convoluted plot that a psychiatrist character is added to try and explain everything to the audience! Ultimately, the filmmakers aim for such poignancy that, by its end, it becomes almost comedic when you see what has really been going on it tends to raise more laughs than sympathy.
Sadly, a good premise does not a good film make - and there are a lot better modern Indonesian slasher thrillers out there.
female: 4 / male: 4
1) Male dies (off screen)
2) Male slashed to death with a knife
3) Female killed (method unseen)
4) Female has throat slashed with a knife
5) Male found with throat slashed
6) Female hit by a car
7) Male has throat slit with a knife
8) Female stabbed in the neck with a pencil
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