Director Joko Anwar on filming 'Pengabdi Setan 2' at an unsafe abandoned building

The Sunowo family live one day at a time in 'Pengabdi Setan 2'. Photos: Handout

It took Indonesian director Joko Anwar three months to find the right building to shoot the sequel to his 2017 horror flick, Pengabdi Setan.

This is because the structure is more than just a set in Pengabdi Setan 2: Communion. It contributes to the unfolding of the horrific events in the movie, and is a character of its own.

“The second film is a direct continuation from the ending in the first film, where we see the family move into a low-cost flat,” said Joko, 46, to Malaysian press during an online press conference.

“While the first film focused solely on a single house around this one family, here the terror and scares are doubled, maybe even tripled,” he stated, referring to the multiple levels and units he could get into at the run-down property, as well as introduction of new characters.

According to an article on an Indonesian website, the eerie building is located at Pasar Sumber Arta, Bekasi, West Jawa.

The construction began in 2007 with a plan to house 1,008 units.

However, it was never completed and no one really knows why the project was halted.

In another article, it’s mentioned that the film crew was not allowed to enter the seventh floor of the building when they were shooting there.

“When we shot the film in 2020, the building had already been abandoned for 13 years. Right now, it’s been abandoned for 15 years,” explained Joko.

“I must say it was not the safest place to shoot a movie. But we did our best in technical terms to make sure it was safe (for the cast and crew).

“But in terms of supernatural things, we don’t know how to make it safer. So, we prayed every day that there will be no supernatural disturbances during the shoot.

“So the challenges were not only because we were filming at this run-down place where no one had lived before but also the supernatural component,” said the filmmaker who’s also helmed hit films like Janji Joni, Kala, Perempuan Tanah Jahanam and Gundala.

Meanwhile, cast member Jourdy Pranata shared: “Thankfully, there wasn’t any supernatural occurrences when we were.

“None of the cast members experienced anything unusual.”

Pengabdi Setan 2 is set in Jakarta, in the year 1984. It’s been three years since the Suwono family escaped the horrific events at their old family home, which started after their ailing mother passed away.

Although the youngest child disappeared during the chaos, the remaining siblings – Rini (Tara Basro), Toni (Endy Arfian) and Bondi (Nasar Anuz) – carry on with their daily life along with dad (Bront Palarae) at their small flat.

But, soon the family and other occupants in the building start to experience strange disturbances.

There are many tense scenes in the sequel that would satisfy horror fans, with adept character development of both new and familiar people.

An unexpected ingredient in this latest film – penned by Joko – is the comedic moments.

Joko elaborated: “I wanted to make Pengabdi Setan 2 into a roller-coaster ride, where there are some really frightening and suspenseful moments, as well as some that are more light-hearted.

“Films are supposed to be entertaining. I don’t want the audience to exit the cinema feeling stressed out or gloomy, especially right now, after having gone through the difficult times due to the pandemic.

He added: “Mixing horror and comedy in Pengabdi Setan 2 was done on purpose.”

Joko Anwar says he is fascinated with unorthodox teaching. Photo: The StarJoko Anwar says he is fascinated with unorthodox teaching. Photo: The Star

And what is a good horror film if it doesn’t have a conspiracy theory and a satanic cult at the centre of it?

Joko touched on why he felt compelled to include them in the film: “Unorthodox teachings are an interesting subject to dig into because they try to answer questions that some people feel are not covered in the conventional teaching.

“For us, (conventional) religious belief is enough, but for others it might not be.

“When that is the case, they turn to these unorthodox teachings as an alternative to find whatever it is they are seeking.

“I am curious why they do that. To me, it shows that humans have a very complex way of thinking. And, it makes for a good subject to explore on film.”

The sequel offers some answers that were raised in the first movie. The sequel offers some answers that were raised in the first movie.

With so many elements featured in the film, no wonder the sequel has gotten an amazing response from the Indonesian audience.

When the film premiered in Indonesia on Aug 4, it set an opening day record for 2022.

On Aug 9, Joko shared on Instagram that his film garnered more than three million Indonesian audience in five days.

This is an impressive feat considering in 2017, Pengabdi Setan became the highest-grossing Indonesian horror film in that country after having attracted more than 4.7 million audience in total.

That record was broken this year by the film KKN Di Desa Penari which garnered nine million audience as of June.

Joko hoped Malaysian audience will like his work just as much, as he feels the two countries share many similarities in terms of beliefs, family values and horror elements.

“How much it would make at the box office is not within a filmmaker’s control as there are too many variables involved.

“All I can do as a filmmaker is to try my best to come up with the best story, best cinematography, best acting, etc.

“My aim is always to make a film where the audiences are entertained.”

Pengabdi Setan 2: Communion is now showing at cinemas nationwide.

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Joko Anwar


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