Indonesian filmmaker Joko Anwar is prolific when it comes to making absurdly intriguing horror pieces. So, when Netflix teamed with the writer-director for a series of horror stories, a la Guillermo del Toro’s “Cabinet of Curiosities,” it seemed great news. Joko Anwar’s “Nightmares and Daydreams,” released this Friday on Netflix, is a weird jumble of supernatural stories. And it is a good thing. Because it absolutely lives up to its name. Dreams do not always make sense. But they make you wonder, and Joko Anwar is successful at that.

Joko Anwar’s Nightmares and Daydreams (Season 1) Netflix Recap:

All the stories are set in Jakarta. Each episode looks into a different story involving the weird, the mystique, and the supernatural. However, there is a common thread connecting all of them.

Episode 1: Old House

It is 2015. Due to her ailing health and dementia, Ranti is checked into an elderly care hospital by her son, Panji. Panji and his wife, Rara, were reluctant to do so, but Ranti’s mental health has started to become dangerous for the well-being of their toddler. Ranti pleads with Panji, but Panji forces himself to leave his mother. A hospital nurse previously warned Panji not to put his mother there. As he comes to visit his mother the next day, he is suspicious of the Hospital. He does not see any old folk in their rooms, instead, he sees a party going on. And all the revelers are young. When a nurse gives him some excuse for the absence of his mother, he decides to hang back.

Episode 2: The Orphan

It is 2024. Iyos and Ipah live in the poorest of conditions with a bare minimum income.  Their condition is best highlighted by the fact that they cannot even afford vegetables and have to eat rice with salt only. Without money, they face eviction from their paltry slum room as well. That is when Iyos learns about a magical boy, an orphan, who, when adopted, bestowed his adoptive parents with unimaginable riches. But the catch is that all of the adoptive parents died on the seventh day of adoption. Iyos convinces Ipah to adopt the boy and kill him once they become rich before the boy can kill them.

Episode 3: Poems and Pains

In 2022, famous author Rania launched her second book titled “Period.” Despite her feeling that this is a better novel than her debut one, “Poems and Pains,” the readers and critics do not bear the same opinion. Rania feels her first novel gloried domestic violence, and she does not like to repeat that. But her publisher and friend, Hendra, urges her to write a sequel.

There is another mystery about “Poems and Pains” that Rania has not revealed to anyone. When she wrote that book, she literally felt the pain that her central character, Laras, went through in the book. She dismissed that as an ‘author being too involved in the story’ psychological situation. The official confirmation of her second book’s failure forces her to write the sequel. And this time, she captures herself in the camera while writing the book. She sees herself going into a trance as an invisible hand grabs her throat, choking her. All the while, she keeps on writing.

Episode 4: The Encounter

It is 1985. The story is about Wahyu. Wahyu is a fisherman living in a closely-knit but poor community of fishermen. Wahyu is reserved and hard-working, a fact hated by some of the community members. They think Wahyu is too self-absorbed to help the greater good of the village. And the village is in peril, as promoters and builders are circling to demolish it for a modern residential complex. Wahyu only cares about saving up enough money so that he can go to Saudi Arabia, where his mother was last seen. His wife, Dijah, is also fed up with Wahyu’s obsessive desire.

One night, while strolling along the shore, Wahyu sees an ethereal and alien sight — an angelic figure floating over the sea. He takes a picture. When other villagers see the picture, they start to think of Wahyu as a ‘Messiah’ to whom the angel bestowed her powers. Rumors start to spread that Wahyu can read minds. This makes Dijah, who was having an affair, elope with her love. She takes all of Wahyu’s savings with her. However, as if by divine intervention, a reporter offers a lot of money to Wahyu if he is to sell the picture.

Episode 5: The Other Side

Joko Anwar’s Nightmares and Daydreams (Season 1)
A still from Joko Anwar’s “Nightmares and Daydreams” (Season 1)

Bandi and Dewi are poor, but they are happily married. They squat in an abandoned building and have a son. Despite Dewi’s unconditional love and support, Bandi feels unhappy as he is unable to provide financially. One night, while fetching medicine for Dewi, he pauses to look at the dilapidated cinema theatre. This was the place where he had worked before when he was happy. Everything went downhill when the cinema got closed. For old times’ sake, Bandi goes inside. He is shocked to see the inside. It is still just like he remembered. His old boss and friends welcome him.

Bandi stays in the magical land for a couple of hours. Then he takes a last look at the place and leaves since he needs to be with his wife and son. Returning to his house, he is met with shock from Dewi and the son. Bandi learns, to his utmost horror, that it has been two years since he left. Bandi cannot understand that. He constantly pleads to Dewi that he only stopped in the old movie theatre for two hours. Dewi gradually accepts that, and they start to live together again. But things change one night. Due to a misunderstanding, some local goons chase Bandi. Bandi has to take refuge inside the movie theatre again.

Episode 6: Hypnotized

Ali, a color-blind electrician, is forced to find a path of treachery as he is in serious need of money. Ali, from his neighbor, knows the craft of hypnotism. He tries to hypnotize an old lady so that she will give him her money. This lady turns out to be Dewi from the previous episode. Ali seems to succeed in his venture as Dewi, under Ali’s hypnosis, gives Ali a lot of money. After a wave of guilt and fear, Ali seems to calm himself as he goes back to his house to his wife and children.

In the night, the TV sets in his house started to show a colorful spiral. Ali switches them off and goes to bed. The next morning, strange things start to take place. Both his daughter and son start to show a tremendous apathy towards crime. The daughter desires violence, while the son starts to fight with neighborhood kids and steals their kites. Even Ali’s wife starts to brag about her shoplifting. A shocked Ali confronts them, but they ask him why it is right for him to steal.

Episode 7: PO Box

Valdya is a diamond appraiser. A job that denotes that she has the perfect set of eyes. During a day’s job, a weird woman approaches Valdya and praises her eyes. She tells her that their paths will cross again. Valdya has a secret. Her elder sister went missing some years ago. Despite the police trying, nobody found her. Valdya, however, has not given up hope. She still checks Dara’s apartments from time to time. One day, she finds a pen drive where she finds Dara’s letter of applying for a job. It’s a job interview on the day she went missing.

After some research, Valdya finds that Dara’s application was received by PO Box number 888. Valdya takes a box in the same place, and also applies for the same job and waits for someone to pick up the application from box number 888. Valdya is successful in following the two suspicious-looking gents. She joins some other applicants. She finds that all of the applicants are completely different from one another. There is a football player, a researcher, a porn star, a singer, and so on. Before she can decide what to do, all of them are knocked out using gas.

Joko Anwar’s Nightmares and Daydreams (Season 1) Netflix Ending Explained:

Episode 1: Old House – Who Were the Young Folks?

Panji hides himself inside a cupboard. He follows one of the young folks when he gets the chance. He sees the folks adorning cult-like cloaks with a glowing triangle symbol. Once he carefully reaches the sanctum sanctorum, he is horrified by what he witnesses. He sees the cult taking an old woman and her middle-aged son towards a pair of bloody-looking humanoid creatures. The creatures are hanging like bats. With their long-fingered hands, they transform the youthful looks and energy from the son to the mother. It becomes clear to Panji that the young folks he saw are old people who regained youth by sacrificing their young children. Thanks to the monstrous pair of creatures.

Panji, desperate to rescue his mother and not be youth fodder himself, escapes through the labyrinthine passageways. However, the cult of old-turned-young folks become aware of his presence. Then comes a helping hand for Panji. The nurse, who warned Panji before, provides him with her cloaks so that he can evade the zombie-like creatures that the cult released to find Panji. With that help, Panji locates his mother, but both of them are captured. They are strapped to the creatures so that Panji’s youth can be transferred to Ranti. But Ranti proves to be unwilling, and the arrangement does not work. Panji, who always carries a lighter, uses his mother’s sacrificing parting words to find strength and lights up a fire in the chamber. As the fire kills the cult and the creatures, Panji manages to escape.

Episode 2: The Orphan – Did the Mother, Ipah, Live?

Joko Anwar’s Nightmares and Daydreams (Season 1)
A still from Joko Anwar’s “Nightmares and Daydreams” (Season 1)

Iyos and Ipah’s life starts to improve as they begin to find bags of money from unexpected places. Convinced by the boy’s power, Iyos becomes more greedy. Ipah, on the other hand, starts to love the boy. Iyos and Ipah lost their young boy in an accident years ago. It is only natural for Ipah to grow motherly feelings for the seemingly innocent boy. Iyos, however, is convinced that the boy has to be killed. On the seventh day, they find themselves rich beyond imagination. Ipah refuses to hand the young boy to Iyos. Iyos tricks her and tries to kill him anyway. As a last resort, Ipah kills her husband to save the boy. Immediately feeling guilty and blaming the boy, she kills herself.

However, the young boy starts to cry and calls Ipah ‘mom.’ He seemingly involuntarily channels some magical power as if healing Ipah. The house gets filled with light. It’s not clear whether Ipah actually lives or not. Given the extent of the boy’s power and how he always gets what he wants, it is likely that Ipah lives. Maybe that will be revealed in the next season if there is one.

Episode 3: Poems and Pains – Does Rania Save Asti?

With Hendra’s help, Rania realizes that she is going through intense pain first, and then she writes whatever she is experiencing. Rania is adamant that Laras actually exists and she is somehow inhabiting Laras’ body and her experience. Next time, she forces herself to see through Laras’ eyes. It appears Laras has been locked in a bunker by her husband. She also has a daughter named Asti. Both of them are locked inside the bunker, and they have no contact with the outside world, a la “Room” by Emma Donoghue.

Rania tries to control Laras’ body and fight back, but Laras gets beaten even more. Rania decides to help Laras. So, the next time she goes to Laras’ mind, she uses water to see Laras’ reflection. She is astounded to see it is her own face. She pays a visit to her parent’s house and learns that she has a twin sister, whom the parents had to give away.

Using her mental connection with Laras, Rania finally finds the name of the abusive husband. It is Adrian. She tracks down him in his lavish house, where he is living with another wife and children. She finds the banker beneath the floor of the library and tries to rescue Laras. But Adrian’s last beating ensured Laras breaths her last breath. Rania rescues Asti and promises to come back for Adrian, who threatens Rania that no human being can harm him.

Episode 4: The Encounter – Was Wahyu the Messiah?

Meanwhile, one of the ruffians of the village gets into trouble. He finds that Wahyu has the photo which could bring a lot of money. So, he attacks Wahyu and threatens him with a gun. Before he can do anything, he is interrupted by a flock of villagers. They inform that the promoter’s goons have attacked the village with guns. They also want Wahyu to decide their fate. Whether they should fight or leave the village. Wahyu lies that he faked the picture and says he is not a messiah.

The disheartened villagers leave. Just when a fight seems inevitable, Wahyu’s hut is filled with mysterious light. An angel-like figure appears in front of him. It takes the form of his mother. She tells Wahyu that Wahyu is indeed chosen to be enlightened. He is to know the secrets of the universe. The figure takes Wahyu to the space as a light engulfs him. Back in the village, the villagers get ready to fight the attackers. Just when both the parties are about to clash, Wahyu comes in between them and asks them to stop. They are astounded to see Wahyu floating in the air. All of them, including the attackers, stop to kneel in front of Wahyu. So, Wahyu is indeed the enlightened. As we will see, he will become the key figure in the resistance to fight off the non-humans.

Episode 5: The Other Side – What Happened to Bandi?

Bandi is once again trapped inside the movie theatre. He is once again welcomed by his old boss. All of the movie theater patrons seem to love Bandi. His boss tells him that this is the world where Bandi should stay. He will only bring pain to himself and his family outside. Bandi falls asleep. After waking up, he realizes what must have happened. He goes back to find that now it has been three more years. This time, Dewi has truly moved on and remarried.

Although we do not see Bandi aging or changing his appearance, when seen from the perspective of Dewi, Bandi is shown to reflect the times. Through Bandi’s perspective, it appears he has only aged a few hours, but through Dewi’s eyes (and the reality), Bandi reflects his true age. His disheveled long hair and beard and his stinking clothes signify Bandi has indeed spent three years on his last trip. Spurned by Dewi, Bandi goes back to the movie theater and continues his job of ticket checking.

A still from Joko Anwar’s Nightmares and Daydreams (Season 1)
A still from Joko Anwar’s “Nightmares and Daydreams” (Season 1)

Meanwhile, news channels cover the story of rising homelessness. All of these homeless people look to be in a trance. Dewi sees Bandi among them and rushes to find him. Dewi finds Bandi and many more folks in a forest. All of them are in a trance, while a human-like creature screeches on top of them. It appears Bandi and everyone in that perfect movie world are having a common psychosis. Dewi, with great effort, kills the creature. But it seems Bandi is too deep in his psychosis to come back to the world.

Episode 6: Hypnotized – Was Ali Hypnotized All Along?

Ali realizes he is now under hypnotism. The TV screen shows it is Dewi. Dewi tells Ali to find his true self, or he will die. After a lot of adventure involving a clock, Ali manages to break Dewi’s hypnotism. It appears that when Ali put the hypnotism on Dewi, Dewi realized that. So Dewi returned the favor. All the events involving Ali’s family are due to Dewi’s hypnotism. Dewi asks Ali to join her for a greater cause. A cause guided by an enlightened being. This enlightened being is none other than Wahyu from the fourth episode.

Episode 7 – PO Box – How Did Valdya Survive?

When Valdya wakes up next, she discovers the horrific truth about the mysterious cult that lured all the applicants using false job advertisements. This sharply dressed cult includes Adrian (from episode 3). They are busy eating the best parts of the applicants. Like the feet of the football players and the fingers of the violin players. From Valdya, they need the eyes. Valdya figures they did the same with Dara as well. Before Valdya’s eyes are gouged by a fork, a group of fighters appear, including the woman who met Valdya earlier. She saves Valdya, and a fight breaks out between the cult and the new group.

Who Are the Creatures from Agartha? Who Are Antibodies?

This group of fighters is none other than the folks whom we have encountered in the previous episodes. Their leader is the enlightened Wahyu. Wahyu, like a wise Nick Fury, assembled all the people who encountered supernatural stuff. All of these are victims to this breed of invading non-human creatures: Rania, who vowed revenge on Adrian; Panji, who lost his mother to the youth-transforming creatures; Ali; Dewi, who already killed one of these humanoid invading creatures. Wahyu explains that they are the ‘antibodies.’ Like our human body has antibodies to fight against invading foreign viruses, these special people are the same. It is their responsibility to save humanity from these creatures of a place called ‘Agartha.’ The series ends when they ask Valdya to join their group, and Valdya says yes.

Joko Anwar’s Nightmares and Daydreams (Season 1) Netflix Review:

For Joko Anwar, there is no lack of ambition when it comes to being wildly imaginative in his “Nightmares and Daydreams.” He does not pull his punches in finding the weird among the horror. Despite some significant influences, most of his stories hold on their own. The seven episodes tell seven different stories while culminating into a lackadaisically constructed overarching narrative. And despite an undercurrent of being juvenile, it does work. At least, no one can complain it is not fun.

With just the right amount of special effects, exquisite makeup, and necessary eccentricities, Joko Anwar does not pause the intrigue in all his daydreams and nightmares. With seven different stories, there is always a risk that some would hit and some may not. But, here, most of them work. Sure, everyone might have their favorite and least favorite. For example, I liked “The Other Side” and “The Encounter” the most. Together, they represent the two best qualities of the series. — daringly imaginative (The Encounter), heartachingly creepy (The Other Side). With the credits rolling on its final episode, the series fulfills its promises in reflecting the chills of nightmares and the fun of daydreams.

Will There Be a Joko Anwar’s Nightmares and Daydreams (Season 2)?

It does seem likely as the entire overarching story now takes the series into a fantasy mode. It is like Avengers assembling over supernatural and weird. This season has been mysteriously intriguing and fun. The story now opens up to a team fighting the Agartha-born creatures. Story-wise, a second season seems obvious. However, Netflix does not always do that. Here’s to hoping for more weird fun from Joko Anwar.

Read More: Abang Adik (2024) Movie Ending Explained: What Happens to the Two Brothers?

Trailer:

Joko Anwar’s Nightmares and Daydreams (Season 1) Links: IMDb, Rotten Tomatoes
Joko Anwar’s Nightmares and Daydreams (Season 1) Cast: Sita Nursanti, Haydar Salishz, Lukman Sardi
Where to watch Joko Anwar’s Nightmares and Daydreams

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