The film focuses on black magic and borrows from Southeast Asian folklore and Balinese mythology, specifically the Leyak and the Penanggalan, spirits that appear in the form of a flying head with organs and entrails still attached. The film is considered to be a cult classic and a landmark of Indonesian horror cinema. The film is in the public domain.
Catherine "Cathy" Kean is an American (or, depending on the dub, Australian) woman who travels to Bali to write a book about voodoo and black magic. She learns of Leák magic from her lover Mahendra, who says that it is the most powerful form of black magic and that it can be used to kill. After attending a ceremonial ritual, Mahendra agrees to help Cathy study magic, and they share a kiss as an unknown woman watches from afar. The next night, after a brief thunderstorm, the two meet the cackling leader of the Leák cult, an old witch with long fingernails known as the Queen of the Leák.
The Queen of the Leák shows the two her face, but says that her face changes every time she makes an appearance. Before departing, the Queen shakes hands with Cathy, and her severed arm is left in Cathy's grip. She drops it in fright, and the arm crawls a short distance. The following night, Cathy and Mahendra bring bottles of blood to quench the Queen's thirst. The Queen, revealing herself only as a prehensile tongue, orders Cathy to take off her skirt, and carves a spell into Cathy's upper thigh. The Queen demands that Cathy return the next night, and that Mahendra is not to join her.
The next day, Cathy asks Mahendra to read the spell on her thigh, but he can only decipher the word "Leák". At midnight, wearing a tapis, Cathy ventures into the graveyard. The Queen appears, cackling, and Cathy laughs maniacally and dances with her, and they transform into pigs. Later, Mahendra's uncle, Machesse, teaches him mantras which can counteract Leák magic. Cathy tells Mahendra that she and the Queen could communicate telepathically, and that she envisioned destroying a wall of fire, which Mahendra says means that she killed someone somewhere. Feeling aches, Cathy lies down, and tells Mahendra that the Queen will cure her illness that night. In her meeting with the Queen that night, Cathy's head, organs, and entrails detach from her body. Now a floating Penanggalan under the control of the Queen, Cathy's head flies into the home of a pregnant woman and sucks out the unborn baby from the mother's womb.
Cathy's head returns to her body, her illness is cured, and the blood she devoured invigorates the Queen's youthfulness and power. They transform into snakes, and Cathy awakens as a human and vomits mice. During the night, in the form of fireballs, the Queen and Cathy defeat one of the Queen's enemies. The unknown woman witnesses Cathy's head flying, and she tells Machesse, who informs his colleagues of the evil and retreats to meditate. The Queen appears to Cathy as a young woman and detaches her head again. Machesse finds Cathy's headless body, and the townspeople attempt to ward off the flying head. Machesse tells Mahendra that Cathy is no longer the woman he loves, and they bury her body to prevent the head from reattaching. Mahendra dreams of Cathy, who pleads for her body to be exhumed.
That night, the Queen and the flying head appear to Machesse and Mahendra in the graveyard. The Queen, revealed to be an old rival of Machesse, uses her powers to disinter Cathy's body. The head reattaches, and the Queen electrocutes Machesse and slices his neck, killing him. The unknown woman, revealed to be Mahendra's former lover, tries to attack the Queen but is killed. Mahendra's uncle Oka appears and attacks the Queen. The Queen transforms into a humanoid pig, which Oka stabs in the heart with a dagger. Becoming a masked figure, the Queen shoots energy at Oka, who projects energy in return, causing an explosion. The Queen and Cathy are killed by the sunrise.Ilona Agathe Bastian as Catherine "Cathy" Kean
Yos Santo as Mahendra
Sofia W.D. as the Old Queen of the Leák
Debby Cynthia Dewi as the Young Queen of the Leák
W.D. Mochtar as Machesse / Oka
In the late 1970s and early 1980s, the Indonesian government saw films as a possible source for foreign revenue. As a result, low-budget Indonesian exploitation films were produced and exported to international markets. The most successful films in overseas markets were generally produced by any one of three studios—Rapi Films, Parkit, or Soraya Intercine Films.
The film's lead, Ilona Agathe Bastian, was not an actress prior to the film's production. Rather, she was a German tourist visiting Bali who was chosen by the wife of one of the film's producers to portray the female protagonist. Filming took place on the Indonesian island of Java rather than on location in Bali, as Hindu locals were too superstitious to allow the black magic rituals shown in the film to be performed there.
The film was not widely released on VHS, being distributed only to Indonesian and Japanese markets, yet it has achieved a cult status among horror fans. The film was released on DVD in 2003 by the label Mondo Macabro, though this version has since gone out of print. In October 2007, Mondo Macabro re-released the film with a new high-definition transfer from the film's original negative.
The film garnered online attention after being featured in an episode of James Rolfe's Monster Madness horror film review series in 2010, and in an episode of RedLetterMedia's Best of the Worst series in 2015.
In 2016, the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema in South Lamar, Austin, Texas offered a free double feature screening of Day of Wrath (1943) and Mystics in Bali, in preparation for the release of The VVitch.
Stuart Galbraith IV of DVD Talk called the film "a landmark of Indonesian horror", but noted that the film "isn't as daffily entertaining as Mondo's other Indonesian titles, notably Lady Terminator and Virgins from Hell, though it has its moments". Madelyn Sutton of Silver Screen Riot called the film "a raw horror romp that embraces its supposed unbelievability to playful, gory effect".