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Roh: or Ruh, An Unsettling Malaysian Folk-Horror Story

ROH is a eerily atmospheric folk horror tale that follows a single mother and her two children as they flee their home in a small town for the forest.

ROH is a eerily atmospheric folk horror tale that follows a single mother and her two children as they flee their home in a small town for the forest. As they struggle to stay alive, they discover a secret cult who have been hunting and killing other children, and a mysterious man who seeks to protect them. When a series of horrific events begin to occur, they realize that they are being hunted themselves.

ROH is a horror film directed by Emir Ezwan. The film is being released by Ghost House Pictures. The movie was written by Olly Lambert and starred Joanne Goode and Peter Keeley and produced by Piers Plowright and Peter Keeley.

A fantastical tale set in an imaginary village populated by people who speak a language made up of the words “Roh” and “Boh,” the film centers on a young man who wakes up one morning to find himself transformed into an animal. As he struggles to keep his humanity, he must also avoid the village’s increasingly suspicious inhabitants, who want to kill him and eat him as part of a mysterious festival.

Beginning with an on-screen Quran text about Satan, “Roh” (which means “soul”) makes use of the forest in a similar way to the first “Blair Witch Project,” but without the found-footage aesthetics. The environment here appears untrustworthy even in daylight, a trap for unsuspecting, susceptible folks. This is a picture about witchcraft in some ways, however Ezwan isn’t interested in the kind of over-the-top stuff that frequently comes with Southeast Asian films about malevolent spirits. Instead, his narrative and directing strive for an exquisite yet menacing simplicity. The indiscriminate savagery of the powers they’re up against is highlighted by the ordinary nature of the well-played key characters, who are neither particularly likable nor quick to notice their vulnerability.

The photography of DP Ahmad Saiffudin Musa has an understated poetry about it, which is reflected by other innovative design contributions and an editing cadence that is both lulling and tense. Reinchez Ng’s original composition delivers subtly frightening atmosphere, but also recognizes when absolute tranquility is more effective. ✪