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Why Impetigore Deserves The 2021 Best Foreign Language Film Oscar


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Joko Anwar's folk horror movie Impetigore has officially been nominated as Indonesia's pick for the Oscar international movie category, which it is more than deserving of winning — here's why. After its release on July 23, 2020, it joined Shudder's impressive lineup, which continued to expand at a substantial, impressive rate throughout the year. While most horror movies begin slow and steady, Impetigore immediately demands the attention of the viewer with perfect precision. This enthralling, terrifying, and beautifully shot feature is more than deserving of the nomination, and will hopefully result in an Oscar win.

While the COVID-19 pandemic may have put a standstill on several major horror movie releases set for 2020, the niche streaming service Shudder set up a schedule that released approximately 30 brand new titles during the course of the year. 2020 was the platform's most successful year thus far, as they became the home of 2020's best horror movie, expanded foreign horror offerings, and offered a space for movie festivals to showcase their feature films in the absence of in-person events. Out of all these releases, Impetigore falls towards the top of the list of Shudder's best original movies. Director Joko Anwar has an impressive filmography with several other horror flicks under his belt. While Satan's Slaves didn't perform as well as Impetigore, he will finally get the recognition he deserves come awards season.

Impetigore stars Tara Basro as Maya, a young woman who returns to her home village after a bizarre string of events lead her to believe there's something from her past that she has yet to discover. As it progresses, she discovers that her parents were involved with the supernatural and several murders. The movie's twists and turns alongside its impeccable ability to capture a folk horror story are only amplified by Impetigore's haunting and beautiful atmosphere. With a current rating of 95% on Rotten Tomatoes, it's clear that Impetigore deserves the nomination for the Oscar international movie category — here's why.

Horror Movies Deserve More Awards

 

Statistically, horror movies are snubbed at major award shows for being deemed illegitimate forms of art in comparison to dramas and period pieces. When Bong Joon-Ho's Parasite took home four awards at the 92nd Academy Awards, a Golden Globe, and became the first non-English movie to win a Screen Actor's Guild award for its incredible cast, it solidified that horror is a valid art form that deserves to be recognized at these major Hollywood events. While critics and fans have debated whether Parasite is actually a horror movie, it is undoubtedly part of the larger genre by being a psychological thriller that includes bloody violence and murder. Impetigore recently received 17 nominations at the Indonesian Film Festival, which makes it an obvious choice for the Indonesian movie industry to nominate for the international movie category. In recent years, critics have started to take the horror genre more seriously than they had prior, especially after movies like Parasite, Get Out, and The Shape of Water have been so critically acclaimed. Hopefully, this puts the odds firmly in Anwar's favor.

Impetigore Escapes Folk Horror Expectations

 

Impetigore escapes folk horror expectations in the best way imaginable. While most movies in the folk horror sub-genre are typically centered around Scandinavian and other European cultures, Anwar's movie draws from Indonesian mythology and folklore instead, which is a unique take. With the release of Ari Aster's Midsommar in 2019, folk horror movies have become more popular than ever. The addition of Anwar's work in the sub-genre opens up the possibility for more foreign films that center around that culture's - or other, lesser-explored cultures - specific folklore to flourish.

Not only does Impetigore open up opportunities for more directors to contribute to folk horror, it redefines the presentation of movies in the sub-genre. They're typically more subdued in regard to gore and violence, whereas Impetigore does not hold back on highlighting the horrific aspects of its specific cultural mythology. Perhaps one of the most appealing elements of Aster's movie was his use of horror occurring in the daylight, which is a common theme in Scandinavian folk horror. Anwar's use of darkness and lighting sets his movie apart from the others entirely by aesthetic alone. There are several scenes where darkness engulfs the characters or candles are used to create an eerie atmosphere. Lighting, sound, and acting can make or break a folk horror movie, and Anwar found the perfect balance when creating Impetigore.

Impetigore Has Layered, Unique Storytelling

 

WARNING: Major spoilers for Impetigore ahead


Rather than frame the movie around one character in particular, Anwar adds depth with several other stories. Impetigore highlights the perfect use of layered storytelling in a folk horror movie that also allows Anwar to bring several other folk legends and mythologies into the narrative. While the basic premise follows Maya's return home, she discovers that the village has dealt with a curse since her birth, which unravels new insights about other characters as the movie progresses. The first discovery she makes is that the babies of the village are born without skin and are then drowned shortly after birth because of their disfigurement.

This leads her to learning about a wayang kuilt maker who was rumored to have made a pact with the devil to heal his own child who suffered from this affliction, who is then revealed to be Maya. It's then revealed that her father killed three young girls - who are now haunting Maya - as a sacrifice to the devil, her mother had an affair with another man, who is actually her father, and this man's mother cursed her, which led to her being born without skin. While this may seem as though there are far too many threads to follow, Anwar perfectly weaves them together to create one of the most layered, fluid stories imaginable. Impetigore offers levels of horror that pertain to murder, torture, infanticide, curses, hauntings, and beyond.

The director covers nearly all of his bases while staying true to the folklore and mythology of Indonesian culture. This is a rather impressive feat, as most folk horror movies tend to focus on one thing or group, such as the cult in Midsommar and their impact on one specific individual, Dani. Ultimately, Joko Anwar's Impetigore deserves the Best Foreign Language Oscar for innumerable reasons. However, the movie really shines through Anwar's use of location, atmosphere, lighting, layered storytelling, and the cultural significance of the folklore and mythology used to craft the film's overall plot.

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