The horror genre has always been the best conduit for women to convey the anger, disappointment, shock, and pain that they feel for simply being who they are in this patriarchal society. It allows them to put the viewer, regardless of their gender, in their shoes and spend anything between 90 minutes and 3 hours in their shoes. And then, they leave it up to the viewer to imagine what it must be like for a woman to experience what they’ve just seen on a daily basis. In case that’s too difficult, women also use horror to showcase their resilience by sending the message that, despite these spine-chilling circumstances, they continue to persevere. They can be motivated by self-preservation, the well-being of their loved ones, or the desire to disallow their oppressors to win. “Qorin” is one such primal cry of a film that’s not for the faint of heart and a must-watch at the same time.
“Qorin” is set in a girls-only school run by Ustad Jaelani, Umi Hana (Jaelani’s wife and the daughter of the deceased founder of the school, Kiai Mustofa), and Umi Yana. Although there are multiple students in the school, the plot is centered around best friends and roommates Zahra, Gendhis, and Icha. The disappearance of a girl named Sri has opened up a slot for the new girl, Yolanda. While Zahra, Gendhis, and Icha religiously follow the rules and regulations of the school, Yolanda has no intention of doing so, as she thinks she’ll be leaving the place in no time. But her assumption turns out to be wrong. Under the guise of teaching them about high-level spiritualism, the headmaster orders the students to summon their Qorin, which is a jinn that is a supernatural carbon copy of the summoner. While the students are unsure of what they’re supposed to do once the jinn is out in the wild, with every passing minute, it becomes apparent that Jaelani wants to harness the entity’s power for a mysterious reason.
Lele Laila and Ginanti Rona take a sledgehammer to the brand of religion that men perpetuate in order to abuse and enslave women. They understand that religion can be a source of unity, peace, strength, and more. They know that some women love to practice out of their own volition and others don’t—and both of those instances are fine. But whenever there’s a man involved, there’s bound to be a metric ton of foul play. Throughout the course of the film, you’ll find yourself questioning Jaelani and the reason for his villainy. The simple answer is that he is a man, and he thinks that the respect that he gets is an open invitation to conduct the lewdest things imaginable. He knows that religion is a powerful tool that can be wielded to make the oppressed even more subservient. And he doesn’t think twice before acting like God. In stark contrast to that, the women always see “Allah” as their one and only Lord. There’s no hubris in sight. They read the same text that Jaelani reads, and they see it as a means to process their trials and tribulations and hopefully help others who are suffering.
Talking about trials and tribulations, it’s difficult to be scared after watching “Qorin.” Horrified? Surely, yes. Scared? Not exactly. There’s no doubt about the fact that Ginanti Rona packs the film from wall to wall with a lot of jumpscares and moments that’ll give you the chills. There are extensive scenes depicting the possession of the human body and soul, and it’s painful to look at. But when you sit and think about it, you see that the element that’s generating fear in your heart is merely the personification of the abuse that the women in the film are facing. Sometimes this entity is acting out a person’s darkest impulses. Sometimes it’s (literally) reflecting one’s body image issues. At times, it’s just judging them based on what they or society think is sinful. And, at least for me, that realization turns my sense of anxiety into a crushing sadness, which is only accentuated by the claustrophobic atmosphere created by the cinematography, editing, and production design. It gives the notion that we are afraid of what we don’t understand a whole new (and relevant) meaning and asks us to be empathetic towards women since we are unaware of the demons they’re battling.
The performances from the entire cast are mind-blowing. I can’t pick and choose who is the best out of the lot because all of them knock it out of the park within the screen time they get. Zulfa Maharani definitely plays the most fleshed-out character, and the way she chooses to internalize Zahra’s pain and then bring her rebellious nature to the fore is worthy of applause. Aghniny Haque portrays Yolanda’s arc in such a grounded and heartbreaking fashion as she goes from being a self-centered individual to being the most selfless out of the lot. Naimma Aljufri is probably the most underrated actor here since, just like her character, she’s always there but never too noticeable. And Aljufri essays this dichotomy of being shy and yearning for inclusivity very well. For the most part, Cindy Nirmala’s Icha remains on the sidelines. But when she has to spark the fireworks, she ensures that the images she conjures are burned into your mind. Omar Daniel, as Jaelani, is the kind of villain who gets under your skin because of how relentless and nonnegotiable he is. You will have to fight the urge to punch him through your screen. Dea Annisa and Putri Ayudya are the pillars of calm in this chaos. Although Ridwan Roul doesn’t have a lot of lines, he does manage to be both ominous and trustworthy.
At the end of “Qorin,” which is a destination that exacts a heavy toll, you are forced to wonder whether these schoolgirls are ever going to be free of the trauma they’ve faced. If you take a look at the larger picture that Ginanti Rona and Lele Laila are pointing at, you must ask if any woman can achieve true freedom in this lifetime or the next. Simply killing one’s oppressor doesn’t erase the scars they’ve etched into the skin of the oppressed. The cycle of violence and tyranny always continues. It just changes shape. It probably doesn’t change its gender, as the aforementioned brand of violence is usually promoted by men and men only, thereby allowing us to channel our concerns in a specific direction. But those concerns can transform into real change if men realize that they’re the problem. In the meantime, women must stay united, back each other up, fight for their right to get educated and find their center of gravity through whatever means, which can be religious or atheist in nature. With all that said, please do watch “Qorin,” form your own opinions about it, and feel free to let us know what you think about it.