If you watch a lot of garbage genre movies like I do, you begin to see patterns emerge in the way these movies are made. You start to see where every movie is going because you’ve pretty much seen it all before. This is doubly true for ripoff movies made overseas to capitalize on the success of some property. The Italians did it a lot, the Japanese did it a bit, even the French and Germans did it somewhat.
I hadn’t seen too many movies made in and for the Indonesian market when I decided to pop in the 1989 film Lady Terminator, which featured an attractive woman wearing a leather jacket and brandishing a machine gun on the box art. I figured “Eh, it’s a Terminator ripoff; I know exactly what’s gonna happen.” Oh HOW WRONG I WAS, FRIENDS.
[The original Indonesian theatrical trailer is super NSFW, so I picked this tamer one from Bad Movie Night]
It boggles my mind that a movie can at once totally steal from another movie in just about every way possible and yet be totally unrecognizable as such. It’s like one movie is just cosplaying as the other one for the purposes of pastiche, but really it wants to be something else. I mean, there are no cyborgs, there is nothing to do with time travel, there is a weird Indonesian folk myth involved, some kind of zombie curse, lots of sexy-death-times, and still it involves a leather-clad person who can’t be killed shooting up everything in sight. So, is it a ripoff or isn’t it? I demand to know!!
Well, the answer is that it’s a movie that absolutely doesn’t start as a ripoff, has a completely different inciting incident and set-up, and yet somehow ends up with roughly the same third act. Director Jalil Jackson made quite a few horror films in his career, but this is easily his best-known, and I think it’s because of its ties to James Cameron’s 1984 film. Until the two Raid movies, this might have been the most widespread Indonesian genre film, and it’s because they decided to take a movie that was popular, add Lady to the title, and then proceed to give people exactly what it says on the tin and a whole lot more.
Okay, I’ve been beating around the bush a lot, so let me just try to give you the plot: a hundred-plus years ago, the great South Sea Queen, a powerful witch, gets duped into falling in love with a treasure hunter who manages to retrieve a magic snake from her…ahem…SOUTH SEA. She curses him that his great granddaughter will know her wrath. Why she has to wait so long is anyone’s guess. In the present of 1989, a young “American” anthropology student, who exclaims she’s an anthropologist more times than is necessary for anyone who actually is an anthropologist, gets that selfsame snake all up in her and it turns her into an unkillable, sex-starved, leather-clad badass.
For the second chunk of the movie, she goes around having sex with increasingly gross and skeevy underworld guys and basically feeding their genitalia to the snake that lives in her when they inevitably can’t satisfy her. (You guys, I couldn’t possibly be making this up.) Eventually, we meet a nice police detective in acid wash jeans who tries to protect a young woman (who is probably the great-granddaughter of the guy from the beginning, I honestly don’t know) from the Lady Terminator, who somehow, through the power of the nether-region eel, is able to perfectly wield an endless arsenal of automatic weapons, tearing the city and its citizens apart in the process.
This movie isn’t good, but it’s totally worth watching because of how baffling it is. It’s only 84 minutes long (or 82 or 80 depending on which edited version you pick up) and the first half of that or so bears little to no resemblance to Terminator and is just a horror movie about the South Sea Queen and her curse. I’ve never heard of this South Sea Queen, but she sounds pretty terrifying with her whole genital-eating eel power and all. Then, right at the 40-ish minute mark, it turns from a laughably weird gory sex movie to just the Terminator. Director Jackson takes all the memorable set pieces from James Cameron and does them in Jakarta with a lower budget.
Lady has to remove her eye after a historian/magician throws a magic orb into it, reminiscent of when the T-800 has to remove his human eye following his first fiery encounter with Kyle Reese; she walks into police stations/malls/night clubs and shoots up the place; at the end, after it’s been clearly established she can’t be killed, she gets caught in a car explosion and emerges all zombie-like (still with hair and clothes, though), very much like the finale of Cameron’s film with the endoskeleton continuing pursuit. It’s all the same!
Lady Terminator isn’t the easiest movie to find (a cut version is available to watch on a website that rhymes with “Shoe Rube”), but it’s definitely worth it if you can track it down. It’s got everything a schlocky movie night with friends needs, and even has some poor dubbing and exaggerated performances to add that international flare. And really, once you know the premise, there really should be no reason NOT to try to track this down. America made a female Terminator-style movie a couple of years after this called Eve of Destruction, but it doesn’t contain any vaginal serpents, so I think you know which way to go.