Demian Andersen: half-Malay, half-American boy growing up in Malaysia; born 1964. Extremely observant but quite shy, and in great need of a positive male role model.
Junaidah Andersen: pretty and lively Malay wife, and mother of Demian. She possesses gentle wisdom and optimism, and a great love for her son.
Ethan Andersen: unseen in this script, he is Junaidah’s husband and Demian’s constantly traveling, businessman father. An American expatriate originally from Ohio.
Uncle Sinai: Junaidah’s Indonesian uncle. He is portly, with a two-inch long, gray beard. He is deeply religious and has sparkling eyes. He possesses an amazing secret.
* * * * * * * * * *
DEMIAN, eleven-years-old, sleeps hugging a blanket in his bedroom. He has light brown hair, olive skin, and is wearing blue pajamas. Though outside the glass-pane windows it is a hot, tropical morning, the room interior radiates cool blue and the long-suffering air conditioner hums consistently. Scattered around the room are many books, toys and stuffed animals. There’s a small desk with a writing journal on it. In the corner is a three-foot-tall wooden sculpture of a dancing frog.
A big breakfast is being prepared, but we don’t see by whom. Water foams out from the top of a rice cooker. Eggs crack and sizzle on a pan. Coconut kaya jam is spread on toast. Fried fish with vibrant sauces and chillies are dished onto plates and set on a marble table. Like the rest of the house, the kitchen is modern-rustic, warm, and breezy. Dark, finely-carved wood and muted earth tones create a sort of 70’s neo-Balinese style. In one corner sits another sculpture of a frog; this one is smoking a pipe and gawking. The sound of food being prepared fills the house.
Sensing breakfast, Demian begins to wake up. Rubbing his eyes, he drags himself out of bed and walks out his door. Wind chimes indicate a soft breeze on the veranda.
Demian yawns and shuffles his way to the kitchen. The hallway opens up to a large dining room, connected to an open veranda and surrounded by garden. The sound of early morning birds and the rustling of leaves is heard. At the back of the garden there are several more Balinese stone frog statues. One squats in the foreground. It has a lazy eye and a drawn sword.
At the stove is JUNAIDAH, a slender, pretty Malay woman in shorts and a tank top. She’s just finishing up breakfast. Demian enters.
“Well hello, lazybones!”
Junaidah takes off her apron, pinches Demian’s chin affectionately and nuzzles his hair.
“Uunngh. Morning … mom. Up so early.
Why are you cooking so special? Is dad back?”
Junaidah moves to the fridge and begins pouring two glasses of soybean milk.
“Two weeks, sayang. How you sleep?
Today is a very special day though.”
Demian picks food off of the plates; his mother shoos him off.
“Today your uncle is coming to visit. Remember?”
“Hmm, Sinai? From Indonesia. Does dad know?”
“Yeah, it’s fine. And yes: Uncle Sinai.
You met when you were younger.”
“Tsk … you know what he does, right?”
Junaidah hesitates in order to check Demian’s reaction.
He again begins to pick at the breakfast items laid out.
“He’s coming to clean the house.”
Demian is more interested in food. Junaidah lightly slaps his hand away from the plates.
“Hah, very naughty, you. Go get ready.”
* * * * * * * * * *
In a cramped train compartment sits UNCLE SINAI. He is a stout man wearing a large, white button-down shirt with gray pants. He has a short, trimmed mustache and goatee, thick black glasses and a songkok, or Malay men’s cap. He carries a small black leather bag. A loudspeaker crackles to life and everybody looks up at it:
Demian is brushing his teeth. On the bathroom sink stands a miniature frog statue, covering its eyes.
Uncle Sinai now sits, cramped, in an open-windowed bus, careening down an unpaved road. He’s clearly uncomfortable with the bumpy ride. In the background, a skinny man clutches a terrified rooster, which screeches at every pothole. Someone else is searching for music on a portable radio. Sinai pinches his temples to fight getting carsick.
Junaidah is tidying up a guest room for Sinai. We can see how well it is decorated. There are many unique masks on the walls; the bedspread is a beautiful batik design, and there are family pictures of Demian as a toddler and Junaidah laughing with her husband.
Demian is finishing getting dressed, struggling to put on a shell necklace his dad gave him. Demian exits his room.
Unexpectedly, he sees his smiling uncle open his arms in greeting from across the hall.
* * * * * * * * * *
Uncle Sinai, Junaidah, and Demian are eating breakfast. Demian sits quietly, sucking on a mug of tea, watching his uncle and mom converse. He looks suspiciously at Sinai. Sinai and Junaidah speak mostly in Bahasa Indonesia with an occasional English word or Malay phrase thrown in.
“Juni, where’s Ethan?”
“Business, lah. Always working, him.
Anyway … better to call you for cleaning when he’s gone, no?”
“Yah, still … He’s always overseas.”
Demian is still suspiciously eying Uncle Sinai. His uncle turns and addresses him with a friendly grin.
“And you! In primary three? Any exams?”
“I don’t go to local school. We don’t take exams. I’m in 4th grade.”
Sinai clicks his tongue.
“Ah, I see. But are you having fun in school?”
Demian doesn’t answer; he stares at his uncle.
“And you miss your father?”
“I never see him. He’s … I think he’s dead.”
Junaidah instinctively touches her mouth and gasps.
Uncle Sinai is a little taken aback by this, but remains calm. Demian storms off to his room.
“Hey, Demian!! Get back … I’m so sorry, Sinai.
That’s so unlike … I mean, he has been so angry lately….”
Uncle Sinai eyes Demian slamming the door of his bedroom.
“It’s OK, let him cool … Maybe he doesn’t like a
man in the house other than his papa….”
Junaidah wipes her face and sighs.
“Yes, I’ll look at him too. Maybe we begin cleaning now.”
* * * * * * * * * *
Demian is writing something in a journal at his desk when, through the window, he sees Uncle Sinai walking around the yard. He stops writing to spy on him.
Uncle Sinai begins to casually look around the perimeter of the yard — carefully inspecting, in particular, these Balinese frog statuettes that are all over the garden. Most of the statues are green with vines or moss, in various strange poses with pipes, instruments, or weapons. Though Uncle Sinai doesn’t see the boy or hear him, he smiles, knowing that he is being watched.
Uncle Sinai walks beyond Demian’s view, but just before he disappears, he turns around, looks directly at Demian, and winks. Demian’s eyes shoot wide, and he scampers out of his bedroom to watch his uncle from another window.
Sinai chuckles to himself and continues surveying the lush garden on the other side of the house.
Demian is watching his uncle’s every move.
As Sinai reaches the driveway, he notices something troubling on the creaky, metal gate. His expression immediately turns serious. He can sense that something threatening is nearby.
Sinai looks around, making sure that no one else is there. He closes his eyes, holds his right palm perpendicular to his face, and in intense concentration begins an indecipherable chant. He enters a trance-like state, repeating an obscure mantra.
Demian is straining to see what his uncle is doing.
Sinai’s eyes bolt open. He pushes his palm forward as if slapping something mid-air, and lets out a short yell. He watches the metal gate intently, judging an opponent before a fight. The gate sways, blown by a light breeze.
After a pause, Uncle Sinai turns directly to Demian and motions for him to come outside. Demian jumps up and runs out the front door. In a moment he is standing by his uncle’s side.
Uncle Sinai leans down to his nephew, grips his arm and whispers:
“You don’t have to be afraid; it’s a choice.
I am your uncle; here to help. We are family.
Remember that. I won’t let you get hurt.
But … there are things you must know.”
Sinai stands back up and points to the front gate.
Demian looks at the gate and then his uncle. Sinai places one hand on the crown of Demian’s skull and another on his forehead. Demian’s eyes close. Then, Sinai re-enters his trance. He is “transferring” something to Demian through his palms.
Demian’s breathing quickens, as though in a bad dream. As Uncle Sinai removes his hands, Demian awakens. Sinai motions to the gate with his mouth.
“Nah … Look again.”
Demian isn’t prepared for what he sees. The sky is dark; they have entered another reality. Draped over the gate is a giant, evil, red anaconda. It’s a foot in diameter and twenty-feet long. Its eyes are glowing and looking straight at Demian. All down the snake’s spine are cuts in its flesh; incisions perpetually bleeding to form a long quote in an ancient, unknown script. Also on the gate are black and yellow strips of cloth, palm leaves, coconuts, incense; all placed there in some sort of sinister ritual. Demian grabs his uncle. In his fear he barely notices that they both are suddenly wearing traditional sarongs. The same ominous quote that is cut into the snake is written in henna ink on Demian’s bare chest.
Sinai clamps his hand down on Demian’s mouth.
“Shhh … somebody is trying to target
you … perhaps directed towards your
father … that’s why you have nightmares.”
Demian is still terrified behind his uncle’s hand.
“This … is just a warning. Not too hard to clean.
I will show you so you know … so you will never not know.”
“We are not alone….”
Sinai lets go of his nephew’s mouth, takes a deep breath, and returns to his trance-like state. Demian stares, open-mouthed and petrified. The snake stares back, gearing up to attack.
Suddenly, Uncle Sinai claps his hands with deafening reverberation.
All around the garden, dozens of Balinese frog statuettes start to come to life. At first the actual stone begins to move; stiff joints groaning and cracking. Then, like an old movie trick, translucent frog warriors strain to free themselves from the rock, as if hatching from eggs. Many of these frogs already hold crude weapons. But those that are smoking pipes or playing instruments now carry them menacingly.
Finally drawn from their stone existence, the frog warriors notice the snake on the gate. The battle begins. They shake themselves into fight mode and run towards the serpent, yelling in throaty, high-pitched yelps. The snake sees the frogs approach, and an all-out brawl erupts. Sinai continues to concentrate, palms outward, chanting and “pushing” against the ensuing battle. It seems that he is guiding these amphibian fighters.
The battle is extensive. Each of the frog warriors has its own signature tactic. The frog with the pipe wields it like a club; he climbs onto the snake’s head and starts smacking it. Several mustachioed frogs wield a curvy knife known as a kris, which has the ability to fly and return like a boomerang. The kris knives have their own deep, ancient voice and respond to their frog’s commands. One warrior is missing an arm. Another wields a pair of angklung (a framed bamboo instrument) like they were nunchucks. Each frog is a unique character, and this is clearly not their first battle.
Finally, the snake rears up, hisses a death rattle, and collapses: killed by a thousand cuts and bruises. Victorious, the frogs begin the process of dragging it and all the other cursed items to the street. Demian’s mouth hangs wide open.
“Hah, you see? Okay, we’re good. Close your eyes.”
“Wha … whaa!?”
Demian still stares at the busy frogs as his uncle places a hand on his head. The creatures are destroying the cursed gate items, squabbling over portions of meat, and dragging the mangled snake into a rain gutter. In the background, we briefly see that Demian’s neighborhood is augmented by a whole South-East Asian world of gatekeepers, charms, mythical beasts and lost souls milling around, unseen by normal eyes.
“It’s OK anak, be calm….”
That second, Sinai starts his chant and covers Demian’s forehead with his hand. Demian’s eyes close. He is instantly calm as he falls back into the trance. The hidden world fades from view, and the sun returns peacefully.
Sinai and Demian awake, standing in the same place, in regular attire, as though nothing had happened. Demian looks around, dumbfounded, but all he sees is his smiling uncle and the garden. The frog statuettes still in their regular places, moss-covered and stone. He looks up at Sinai. Sinai smiles back and shrugs.
“You’re OK, Demian. See? It’s all OK. I’ll explain….”
The front gate creaks in the breeze.
* * * * * * * * * *
Junaidah sits reading the paper and drinking coffee at the dining room table. Sinai and Demian enter from the veranda.
“Oh! How’s it going, boys?”
Demian, still dazed, walks back to his room. Junaidah and Sinai watch him. Just as Demian is about to go in, he turns around, runs to Uncle Sinai, and hugs his waist. Sinai smiles and hugs back. Demian kisses his mom and runs into his room.
Demian grabs his journal.
INT. DINING ROOM, HOUSE
“Well, looks like you two are on good terms now.
How did it go?”
Sinai sighs and looks toward Demian’s door.
“Demian’s a brave boy … we have to talk, though.”
Junaidah can see that Sinai is worried; she furrows her brow.
“But for now, I have completed cleaning your house.”
Outside, the frog warriors stand ready in stone.