Best Indonesian Horror Movies: The Definitive List

Netflix’s The 3rd Eye (2017) led to a successful sequel release in 2019.

The Indonesian film industry releases more than one-hundred titles each year and is an important part of the cinema of Asia. Many of their horror movies are based upon local folklore about ghosts that have been passed down for generations. A great deal of those films is set in Jakarta. Jakarta is the capital of Indonesia and is also a province. It has a population of over ten million.

Sabrina (2018) is the third terrifying film of the Doll series.

Jakarta is home to the Jeruk Purut Cemetary, which is said to be haunted by the ghost of a decapitated pastor. This inspired the film Hantu Jeruk Purut (2006). Then there is the Casablanca Tunnel, which is said to be haunted by a woman who attempted to perform an abortion at the station. There is also Dr. Cipto Mangunkusumo Hospital, which is haunted by the vengeful spirit of a nurse. She is called suster ngesot, which translates to the limping nurse.

In addition to basing movies off their own folklore, a lot of Indonesian horror movies are inspired by American films. There are plenty of overlapping themes you will see in the scripts, such as haunted dolls and devil worshipping. You might even see subtle references to movies like The Evil Dead (1981) thrown into the scenes. However, there are a lot of new aspects that will stand out in comparison to American films as well. In order to experience them for yourself, here is a list of the best Indonesian horror films:

Macabre (2009)

Watch the official trailer for Macabre, a slasher film from Indonesia

Summary: Known as Rumah Dara, this horror is about two newlyweds who decide to go on a road trip with their best friends. However, they run into a lost little girl who leads them back to a house where they are trapped and hunted by a cult-like family. Some viewers have mistakenly called this the first Indonesian slasher film. However, there was also a slasher film called Srigala made back in 1981 that was inspired by Friday the 13th (1980).

Director: Mo Brothers (Kimo Stamboel and Timo Tjahjanto)

Writer: Mo Brothers (Kimo Stamboel and Timo Tjahjanto)

The 3rd Eye (2017)

Mata Batin screened in Indonesian cinemas for one year until its Netflix debut in 2018.

Summary: This film is about a little girl who claims to see the dead. When her older sister consults a psychic, she learns that their childhood home really is filled with vengeful ghosts. The CGI used on the ghosts in this film is terrifying at times and creates several jump scares. In addition to its excellent visuals, this film has a good plot and pacing. It is perfect for fans of The Ring (2002) and The Evil Dead (1981).

Director: Rocky Soraya

Writer: Fajar Umbara, Riheam Junianti and Rocky Soraya

Satan’s Slaves (2017)

Pengabdi Setan (2017) became the first Indonesian film to be released in 4DX format and became the highest grossing picture in Indonesia at the time.

Summary: This movie is a prequel to a cult classic film with the same name, which was made in 1982. This film is set a year earlier, in 1981. It’s about a mother who suffers and dies from a strange illness. After she passes, the family learns she was involved in a cult that worships Satan.

Director: Joko Anwar

Writer: Joko Anwar

Sabrina (2018)

This scary movie from the late 2010s was directed by Rocky Soraya.

Summary: This film is about a toy manufacturer who is terrorized by a demon after their niece tries to summon her mother’s spirit. Although the plot may sound familiar, it isn’t anything like Child’s Play (1988). It has an unpredictable storyline that is scary, fun, and refreshing to watch.This movie is actually meant as a direct sequel to The Doll (2016). However, the director decided the movie would be considered a spin-off instead.

Director: Rocky Soraya

Writer: Fajar Umbara, Riheam Junianti and Rocky Soraya

May The Devil Take You (2018)

Director, Timo Tjahjanto, considers this film a love letter to The Evil Dead (1981).

Summary: This film is about a woman who seeks answers when her estranged father falls into a mysterious coma. She visits his old villa and ends up uncovering dark, dangerous truths about their family. Fun fact: Fact: Although this film has terrifying visuals and excellent directing, it was shot in only twenty-five days.

Writer/Director: Timo Tjahjanto

More Indonesian Horror Movies

The movies listed above were selected based on their stories, themes, and overall popularity. However, there are plenty more Indonesian horror films that you can try to track down when you’re in need of a horror fix. Here are a few more creepy Indonesian horror films that are worth the watch:

  • The Living Skeleton (1941) is considered Indonesia’s first domestic horror film. It was a commercial success, partially due to its impressive special effects for the time.
  • Sundelbolong (1981) is a cult horror film. It is about a mythical prostitute ghost. It was eventually remade into Suzanna: Buried Alive (2018).
  • Mystics in Bali (1981) is a supernatural horror film about black magic. It is based on a novel called Leak Ngakak by Putra Mada.
  • Lady Terminator (1988) is a horror fantasy action film inspired by The Terminator (1984). It’s about an ancient sex goddess who seduces men and devours their private parts.
  • Hantu Jeruk Purut (2006) is a horror film about an aspiring writer being haunted by a ghost she is investigating. The story was inspired by an urban legend in South Jakarta.
  • The Chanting (2006) is about a student who moves into a haunted boarding house. It is inspired by a specific type of ghost in Indonesian folklore.
  • The Casablanca Tunnel (2007) is based on an urban legend that this tunnel is haunted by a woman who died there. This movie tells her story.  
  • Lawand Sewu: Kutilanak’s Vengence (2007) is about a group of high school graduates who stop at a haunted building to use the bathroom – and one of them goes missing. It is about how humans should always be aware of their surroundings.
  • The Ghost Train of Manggarai (2008) is about a group of teenagers who summon a ghost train in order to look for someone’s missing sister. The story was inspired by a real legend about a ghost train in Jakarta, Indonesia.
  • Dara (2009) is considered both a slasher film and a short comedy film. It was eventually released as a longer version called Macabre.
  • Amphibious (2010) is a thriller about strange secrets that are lurking in the waters. It was originally released in 3D.
  • Hi5teria (2012) is a horror thriller about two strangers searching for a missing man in the middle of the jungle.
  • The Witness (2012) is a horror action film. It is about a woman who moves to Jakarta and is haunted by horrible dreams of a man committing suicide.
  • Shackled (2012) is about a man who has brutal, bloody nightmares about a woman he later meets in a bar.  
  • Devil’s Whisper (2017) can be considered a supernatural horror film and a psychological horror film. It’s about demonic possession but is also about childhood trauma and abuse.  
  • Kuntilanak (2018) is about a group of children who find a mirror in their orphanage. However, there is a ghost in the mirror who starts kidnapping and imprisoning the children.
  • The Secret: Suster Ngesot Uban Legend (2019) continues the story from a novel based on the same name. It’s about a girl who suffers from an accident and is brought to a haunted hospital for treatment.