The Return of the Repressed: Pemuda and the Historical Trauma in Rizal Mantovani and Jose Purnomo’s Jelangkung

Being the first horror film produced after the Reformation period, Rizal Mantovani and Jose Purnomo’s Jelangkung (2001) played an important role in resurrecting the horror genre. As a commercially successful film, it became the blueprint for horror films produced afterwards. It challenged the New Order horror narrative pattern, introducing significant changes such as the shift towards pemudas or the youth as the central characters in the film, the absence of a patriarchal figure, and the open ending. These changes could well have been influenced by trends in global horror cinema, but for Indonesian films specifically, on the allegorical level, they have been able to effectively capture the anxiety and fear pemudas felt during the Reformation, especially about what it means to be a young Indonesian in post-Soeharto times.

This study explores the allegorical function of this contemporary Indonesian horror film, focusing on how Jelangkung represents “the return of the repressed” through what Lowenstein (2005) calls “allegorical moments.” It also attempts to locate these moments in Jelangkung, contextualizing the return of the repressed as the fear and anxiety toward the unresolved May 1998 traumatic event in Indonesia and the existing patriarchal system.