NIGHTSTREAM ’20 — ‘May the Devil Take You Too’ is a Decent, Albeit Predictable Addition to the Haunted House Subgenre

Frontier Pictures

Any casual horror fan knows it takes a lot to put a demon down for good. Even when the protagonists are convinced they’ve said the right incantation to send the devil spawn back to hell, somehow they always come back for a sequel. Such is the case with Timo Tjahjanto’s newest release May the Devil Take You Too — the sequel to his 2018 film May the Devil Take You. While Tjahjanto’s direction is as beautiful as ever and the visuals, especially the special effects, are just as terrifying as the first, the characters are agonizingly flat and —  apart from a few fun twists — the plot is quite predictable.

The film follows the two siblings, Alfie (Chelsea Islan) and Nara (Hadija Shahab), who survived the Devil’s attempts to take their souls. Apart from being outwardly traumatised by the events that plagued them two years prior, no other development is really added to their characters: Alfie still harbors anger towards anything she encounters and Nara is still a terrified child. As part of a plot to rid an abandoned private orphanage from a demon, the two are kidnapped by a crew of former inhabitants of the orphanage. Much like Alfie and Nara, none of these characters are allowed room to develop individually. Because Alfie has accrued the reputation of demon slayer, Alfie and Nara are forcibly brought to the orphanage to rid Ayub’s spirit and save the now-adult orphans’ souls. From there the plot follows a conventional supernatural film: the spirit is slowly revealed to the skeptics via jump scares, people are possessed and die one by one, there’s a big final demon battle at the end full of blood.

The only new character given any chance to develop is Gadis (Widika Sidmore). Gadis suffers from Stockholm Syndrome and believes the former orphanage owner Ayub (Tri Hariono) was a good caretaker protecting the orphans from the outside world despite obvious signs of child abuse. Tjahjanto improves upon the metaphor of abuse that was somewhat present in the first film. When Gadis initially reports seeing Ayub’s spirit nobody believes her despite the large number of hand-shaped bruises on her body. This mirrors law enforcement’s responses to the orphans when they reported Ayub’s abuse while he was alive, as well as Alfie’s step-family when she reported seeing a demon in her father’s hospital room in the first film. The demon’s constant presence is even referenced as feeling like the pain and the memories of Ayub never leave; it’s a further, deeper elaboration on a theme established in May the Devil Take You handled with care and grace. 

May the Devil Take You Too also has several homages to other supernatural thrillers. There’s a very Sam Raimi feel about this film and its predecessor: they’re both inherently campy but still have truly terrifying elements. While Raimi opted to go for a slow-building dread until a crazy final act, Tjahjanto uses the first act for dread and then provides jump scares of varying quality throughout the rest of the film. May the Devil Take You Too even reuses the conceit of the basement hiding the Book of the Dead from the Evil Dead series. In addition, there’s a visual homage to The Exorcist when a possessed Nara comes crawling down the stairs in a very Regan McNeil fashion. The nods are subtle, but well-crafted.

May the Devil Take You Too is a mixed bag. It excels in the message about abuse and trauma, but the plot fails to do anything interesting. The whole film feels like a throwback to older possession movies, but the terror doesn’t come from a sense of increasing danger and more from (often) cheap jumps. It’s a decent follow-up to its predecessor, but it’s not anything special.

May the Devil Take You Too was screened as part of the virtual Nightstream Festival 2020 and will be available on Shudder from October 29th

by Red

Red (they/them) is an English literature student based out of the swamp that is Florida. Their bread and butter is horror movies — the cheesier the better — but if someone puts on a Wes Anderson or Hayao Miyazaki movie they won’t complain. Their favourite movies are The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, Dogtooth, Sorry to Bother You, and The Muppet Movie. 

You can find them on Instagram and Twitter @tapewormg0d and Letterboxd @tapewormgod.

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