Suzzanna: Buried Alive is an enthusiastic celebration of an Indonesian genre icon that might be a bit too outlandish and unusual for international audiences.
The unashamed throwback silliness of Suzzanna: Buried Alive is, I think, what I like most about it. But that’s also probably what people looking for a more traditional horror movie will hate about this genre-blending homage to Indonesian horror icon Suzzanna, perhaps not even aware that it’s a homage at all.
And that’d be a shame. But it is an unfortunate consequence of Netflix’s reach, and since Suzzanna: Buried Alive arrived there today, the double-edged sword of international exposure might cut Rocky Soraya and Anggy Umbara‘s romantic horror-comedy off at the knees a bit. Taken as a single two-plus-hour genre film, it’s baggy, overlong, and tonally inconsistent; a weird mishmash of ideas and influences that only really form a cohesive whole if they’re viewed through the lens of intentional throwback pastiche. And even then the film is more fun than it is truly engaging or suspenseful.
It is fun, though. Luna Maya plays the titular Suzzanna (authentically made up for nostalgia), the happily pregnant wife of Satria (Herjunot Ali). Slightly less happy are Satria’s employees Jonal (Verdi Solaiman), Umar (T. Rifnu Wikana), and Dudun (Alex Abbad), who want a raise and, since they won’t be given one, plot to rob Satria’s home while he’s away on business. This wacky home-invasion scene results in the murder of Suzzanna and her re-emergence as a folkloric ghoul, determined to seek revenge on her killers. This is all played for maximal 80s insanity and slathered in fair helpings of over-the-top period gore, but it notably lacks any real suspense or, indeed, any actual horror.
Intentional? Probably. But a problem nonetheless? Absolutely. Most people tune into horror films with the expectation of being scared, and the fact that Suzzanna: Buried Alive is a celebration of schlocky Indonesian genre cinema isn’t going to cut it as an excuse for some of those people. The film’s much better at being over-the-top than it is at being scary, and at over two hours, with certain sequences extended to a point of near-absurdity, I suspect that the sense of nostalgia isn’t going to be enough. Still, this is a well-constructed and thoroughly weird experience that is well worth a look for anyone who’s in the market for such things.