An overcooked and cartoony sequel to a well-liked predecessor, hamstrung by its own lack of subtlety and love of played-out tropes.
In Munafik 2, director, writer, and star Syamsul Yusof plays Ustaz Adam, a Muslim preacher grappling with both his faith and the supernatural in the sequel to a well-liked faith-based genre film out of Malaysia. He’s a decent character, this Adam fellow, and whenever the film allows him to be a complicated, conflicted man of faith, instead of a conveyor belt for rote jump scares and cartoon villainy, it’s a so-so addition to Netflix’s ever-expanding international offerings. Unfortunately, Munafik 2 rarely allows Adam to be that and suffers both as a sequel and a self-contained story as a result.
Adam’s path of righteousness weaves through a neighboring village where Sakinah (Maya Karin) is being made to pay for rejecting the outlandish shenanigans of Abuja (Nasir Bilal Khan), a silly rival preacher who carries a scepter like Jafar from Aladdin, whose followers wield flaming torches apropos of nothing, and whose perversion of Islam is being used for evil both otherworldly and otherwise. It’s a timely thing to deal with, given how wilful misinterpretation of scripture is such a common theme among extremists of all stripes, but Munafik 2 only presents the idea with shallow, flamboyant obviousness.
A cardboard cut-out villain with a virtually unexplained backstory and nebulous motivations keeps the film apart from any notion of reality, having to rely instead on tedious and unimaginative jump-scares and tried-and-true genre commonplaces, some of which are reasonably well-done, some of which aren’t. The impression is of a bigger, brasher sequel that has lost sight of what worked about its predecessor, which I suppose is an unintentionally fitting reality for a film at least in part about a man struggling to maintain his faith.
Some subtlety would have helped Munafik 2, as Syamsul Yusof is not an incompetent filmmaker and clearly has a vision for this character and the franchise surrounding him that occasionally peeps through the overreliance on bombast and cheap tricks. But this overcooked sequel isn’t a great representation of his talents or ambition and does little to whet appetites for a potential third film.