When talking about cult movies, what countries do people normally think of that produce the most unusual cult movie fodder? While most people would probably think of countries like Japan, Hong Kong, and probably Australia; there are a good number of unusual cult movies that exist in other parts of the world. This include countries like South Africa, Canada, South Korea, and of course the many countries that make up Southeast Asia, this includes movies that were made in countries like the Philippines, Indonesia, Cambodia and Singapore.
For fans of cult movies, or anything a bit more unusual, these movies are certainly worth checking out. From seriously entertaining exploitation films to slow burning B-movies, and everything in between, here are 17 cult Southeast Asian films sure to please any cult or bad movie fan.
1. Machete Maidens Unleashed (2010)
Plot: This documentary examines the many exploitation films that were made in the Philippines from the late 1960s to the early and mid 1980s. It features many notable directors and producers responsible for such movies including Roger Corman, Joe Dante, Jack Hill, Cirio H. Santiago, John Landis and Eddie Romero; and includes notable actors like, Pam Grier, Sid Haig and more!
Best Part: This documentary features a treasure trove of underrated exploitation films for fans of cult movies.
Final Result: A fascinating look at the movies that had come from an often times ignored country. This documentary is completely fast paced and makes for a great watch; especially the interviews.
The movies features in Machete Maidens range from notable exploitation films like The Big Doll House; to classic films like Apocalypse Now; and even features more obscure movies like Terror is a Man and Brides of Blood; both are some of the first Filipino exploitation horror films. Machete Maidens Unleashed is very informative and worth checking out as a sample of what movies the Philippines have to offer.
2. Mystics in Bali (1981)
Plot: A woman researching black Magic in Bali finds herself cursed by a witch. This curse results in her becoming a creature known as the Penanggalan, and results in her head, as well as most of her internal organs, to detach from her body.
Best Part: The sheer weirdness of it is truly the best part. Mystics in Bali seriously ranks up there as being one of the weirdest horror films ever made. However, it should be noted that Mystics in Bali holds the distinction for being one of the first Indonesian films aimed towards a western audience.
Final Result: Pure insanity, that needs to be seen to be believed! Most diehard cult movie fans already know this movie due to its weirdness, but for those who have not seen this movie you don’t know what you’re missing.
It’s a weird, but at the same time informative, horror film, due in part because of the Penanggalan, a notable Indonesian Myth that is certainly worth researching if you want to learn more about Indonesian Mythology. Mystics in Bali is a good introduction to Southeast Asian cult films, because it’s only going to get weirder from here.
3. The Devil’s Sword (1983)
Plot: The Devil’s Sword is about a warrior on a quest to obtain the mythical Devil’s Sword, while encountering fierce warriors and the forces of the Alligator Queen.
Best Part: The nonsensical and bizarre fight sequences. These fights sequences are just crazy, especially due to the editing and the half man half Alligator people; which looks especially cheesy because of the obvious rubber masks.
Final Result: What starts out as a fairly standard early 80s sword and sorcerer film, something akin to films like Conan the Barbarian, turns out to be an utterly bizarre entry in this subgenre.
This film has elements of fantasy, martial arts and even some horror elements thrown together to make this entry in the sword and sorcery genre partially memorable. (And is it just me or does the soundtrack sound like it completely rips off the theme from Videodrome?) Either way, this is a sword and sorcery film that is completely unlike the other films from the genre and makes for a crazy experience.
4. Firecracker (1981)
Plot: Susanne Carter is trying to find out who murdered her sister in the Philippines. This leads her to a martial arts syndicate that is also into drug dealing.
Best Part: The fight scenes. While most people might remember Firecracker for being the movie where Jillian Kesner fights a group of men half nude, which might be memorable based solely on its sleaze factor. The other fight scenes are actually pretty good; well they’re certainly not boring.
Final Result: An exploitation cult classic of the highest order. The movie moves at a breakneck speed, going from different fight scene to different fight scene, to a sex scene, then back to the fight scenes! So yes, Firecracker might not be the most plot heavy film, and while it lacks in plot it certainly makes up for it by being seriously entertaining. If you’re looking for something short and chock full of entertainment,this is the movie for you; especially seeing how this movie is only 77 minutes long!
5. The Killing of Satan (1983)
Plot: A man looking for his daughter fights the forces of evil, which includes Satan himself.
Best Part: The weird sound effects and cheap special effects, which are gloriously cheesy.
Final Result: A schlocky Filipino exploitation film that moves at a snail’s pace. This movie is a slow and hilariously bad experience, which is a combination that never works; and this movie is certainly one of those examples. The acting from the main character Lando, played by Ramon Revilla, is just awful due to his ultra wooden performance.
However, the slow pacing of the movie is really what kill it, and makes what could be a memorable ‘So bad it’s good’ movie into a chore to watch. However, this film would totally be forgotten if it wasn’t for the parts that were just utterly ridiculous, such as the Lando gaining superpowers, someone ripping off Lando’s face, and of course the fact that he is trying to kill Satan!
The Killing of Satan certainly makes for a good time riffing with a couple of friends during a bad movie night, but be advised against watching it alone.
6. Lady Terminator (1989)
Plot: The spirit of the South Sea Queen (a well known figure in Indonesian mythology) possesses a woman in the present to kill the great-great grandchild of the man that killed her.
Best Part: How about the fact that Lady Terminator doesn’t actually feature a female version of the Terminator!
Final Result: An amazing example of rip-off cinema. Lady Terminator manages to rip-off fairly important scenes from the Terminator all while being gloriously low budget. The main plot of the Terminator is there, but there are some differences between this movie and the one it rips off, some more parts noticeable then others.
Most notably, Lady Terminator features a scene where the main actress sings a full length three minute pop song called Souls on Fire, in a scene that honestly shouldn’t have be in this movie; although Souls on Fire is actually a very catchy song. Lady Terminator is a total blast of rip-off cinema, where it’s just different enough to not be considered outright plagiarism, and it makes for an entertaining time.
7. The Aswang Phenomenon (Documentary) (2011)
Plot: The Aswang Phenomenon is a documentary about the legendary monster known as the Aswang, and how the people of the Philippines are convinced that this monster is real.
Best Part: The informative nature of the documentary is fascinating.
Final Result: A documentary that sheds light on a phenomenon that’s incredibly informative. The frustrating thing about this documentary however is that there might be millions of Filipinos claiming to see this monster, but there are so many misconceptions about what the Aswang actually looks like, especially seeing how different parts of the Philippines have different interpretations as to what it looks like.
However, the interesting part about the Aswang is the concept of it, as this mythical creature seems to represent the fear that the Filipino people have about the unknown; while also painting the Aswang as a scapegoat for wrongdoing.
For example, in some parts of the Philippines, the Aswang seems to represent a monster that eats children if they do not come home before dark, while other representations of the Aswang characterizes it as some sort of de-sexualization of women, seeing how Aswang’s are commonly portrayed as women; while other representations blame this monster for certain mental illnesses. So it’s the fear of the unknown and a deeply superstitious society that makes the Aswang real.
This documentary sheds so much light on this creature, as well as bringing up a lot of intriguing theories about this monster’s existence. This movie might not be a traditional ‘Cult Classic’, but this documentary certainly sheds light on a topic that is not normally seen as mainstream, and for western audiences that are not familiar with this monster, it makes for an intriguing look at the Filipino mythology.
8. Kung Fu Cannibals (A.K.A Raw Force) (1982)
Plot: A group of martial arts students are going to an island known as Warrior Island, where a group of kidnappers are kidnapping and selling women to a tribe of cannibalistic monks. These two groups collide on Warrior Island and craziness ensues, especially when kung fu zombies enter the picture.
Best Part: The melting pot of different exploitation genres, which includes subgenres like kung fu, zombies, cannibals, and sexploitation; yes, this movie is all over the place.
Final Result: A fun, but trashy exploitation film. Make no mistake, Raw Force certainly make for a great watching experience, but this movie just feels like five different movies stapled into one, 86 minute long film.
On the plus side, Raw Force is filled with some pretty good kung fu fight scenes, bad acting, lightning fast pacing, and just so much gratuitous nudity, to the point where it’s pretty distracting. The mere fact that there are so many different cult movie genres in this movie is probably the best part about Raw Force. So if you want something really different, then this movie is certainly worth checking out.