Beneath Still Waters: Brian Yuzna’s Ritual Return in Indonesian Cinema


This article offers the first academic consideration of Brian Yuzna’s recent films created in Indonesia. Since the mid 1980s, Yuzna has worked extensively across the USA, Europe and the Far East (both as a director and producer), pioneering a distinctive international brand of horror cinema that combines social critique with explicit splatter. Despite his transnational credentials, Yuzna’s work in Indonesia has largely been ignored by those critics interested in reclaiming 1970s/80s genre entries as more ‘legitimate’ symbols of Indonesian cult cinema.

However, by considering Yuzna’s 2010 title Amphibious, I shall argue that the film contains the elements of hybridity and generic impurity that critics such as Karl G. Heider have long attributed to Indonesian pulp traditions. Specifically, it shall be argued that the film’s emphasis on performativity, trickery and spectacle are used to evoke Indonesian myths rather than Americanised tropes of genre cinema. As well as considering the transnational elements to Amphibious, the article will also explore possible connections between abject constructions of the transformative female body in both Indonesian film and Brian Yuzna’s wider cinema. The article also features exclusive new interviews with Brian Yuzna and Amphibious screenwriter John Penney discussing the making and meaning of the film.