Siksa Neraka: Is The Netflix Film Based on a Comic Book?

The Indonesian horror film, ‘Siksa Neraka,’ depicts a story of religious reckoning as it follows the lives of four siblings who pay the price of their sins in the afterlife. Easily categorized as torture porn, the film revolves around four siblings, Saleh, Fajar, Azizah, and Tyas, who come from a small Indonesian village. Despite their father’s best attempts to keep his kids in line, the siblings end up partaking in various sins throughout their lives. Consequently, as they attempt to sneak out one night, it ends up becoming their doom as they meet their demise. Nevertheless, death isn’t the worst thing in store for them as they find themselves getting burned, mutilated, and abused for eternity within the fiery depths of hell.

The film sports a clear moral lesson, highlighted and reinforced through gory, nightmarish imagery, reflective of religious interpretations of the afterlife. Thus, given the film’s startling concept, viewers must harbor some questioning regarding the story’s origins and its possible basis in a true story.

MB Rahimsyah and The Siksa Neraka Comics

While the film’s explicit depiction of the afterlife naturally sets ‘Siksa Neraka’ as a story unfolding in the realm of fictionality, its origins remain rooted in reality. At first glance, the story’s connection to the religious teachings of Islam evidently stands out, with the characters’ fates being directly influenced by the measure of their morality as per Islamic teachings. Even the hell presented within the film persists as a textual interpretation of the religion’s ideas of hell. Thus, in that regard, despite the fictitious nature of the characters and the events occurring within the film, the overarching narrative holds onto a realistic analysis of religion.

However, even outside the same, the film possesses some fascinating origins. ‘Siksa Neraka,’ roughly translated to Hell Torture, is actually based on a line of Indonesian comics that can be traced back to the 1950s. The ‘Siksa Neraka’ comics, written by MB Rahimsyah AR, with Ema Wardana helming the illustrations, were introduced into the market in the 50s and started gaining significant traction among audiences by the 1970s. The comics were all centered around similar narratives and visual themes of crude torture, with each page bringing illustrations of humans undergoing painstaking punishment to pay for their mortal sins.

Rahimsyah and Wardana’s work found their appeal in the proactively cruel imagery of their comics, which was balanced out by the story’s undeniable moral and religious lessons. Each worldly sin came with a uniquely designed torture— ranging from tongue mutilations for liars to pouring of hot molten lava for others. Ultimately, the violence of the illustrations, paired with its religious themes, helped the comic find relevance within culture. By the 1990s, ‘Siksa Neraka’ became such a phenomenon in Indonesia that several comics with differing authors, illustrators, and narratives began hitting the market that still held onto the original premise of Rahimsyah and Wardana’s comics.

In adapting such a cultural touchstone, Anggy Umbara’s film equips the same thematic beats, setting up the characters and their sins only to rain hellfire upon them as the plot progresses. The visualization of the hellish horrors in the film remains reminiscent of its source material— bringing the skin-crawling imagery of punishment as depicted by Wardana to the screen through CGI and special effects. Similarly, after delivering an ample amount of torture porn to scare the audience, the film ends on a moral note, imparting religious wisdom to the viewers with its departure. Thus, the film ends up adapting its source material with notable accuracy, translating the comics to a cinematic medium with success. While the same might have gotten the film banned from a few places, including Malaysia and Brunei, the graphic depictions help the film retain connections to Rahimsyah and Wardana’s work.

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