Macabre (2009)

Everybody bleeds...
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Macabre - Everybody bleeds...

In 2009, Indonesian writer/directors “The Mo Brothers” (aka Kimo Stamboel and Timo Tjahjanto) unleashed their horror movie Macabre on the populace of Singapore. They made a deliberate effort to merge the American slasher genre with more traditional Eastern horror and they definitely achieved this. It draws influences from American horror so much so that it could easily carry off the title "The Indonesian Chainsaw Massacre" and bears many similarities to its Texan counterpart. Despite this similarity to Tobe Hooper's cinematic work of art, down in the details this is a very different film and the beauty is in the detail. This beauty is what makes Macabre stand out from the crowd and makes it a tremendously engaging and exciting film.

Macabre follows on from a short film called "Dara". Due to the very positive feedback this short received "The Mo Brothers" decided to make it into a feature length film. The feature was initially released in Singapore under the name "Darah". The year after it was released in its own country of Indonesia with the title "Rumah Darah" and was christened Macabre for wider release. The name Macabre seems a peculiar choice, there is a macabre undertone to the film with respect to cannibalism but this aspect of the story is quite underplayed with the focus being on the slashing and the buckets of blood.

The cast are spectacular. Despite being relatively inexperienced, each of the main characters puts on a sterling performance and they work well together. A very conscious effort was made by the makers to get a cast full of distinctive and beautiful looking people. By far the standout performance is from Shareefa Daanish (Dara herself), her unique face and her ability to operate it allows her to fully embrace the role, which she does with gusto, and creates a powerful villainous character which propels a potentially mediocre story to an exciting and emotional experience... and who can't adore a female that can run in high heels swinging a chainsaw?

The movie starts with a stereotypical road trip with a team of good looking youngsters. It is a last ditch attempt to reconcile newlywed Adjie (Ario Bayu) with his sister Ladya (Julie Estelle) and her tiny mouth. After some drunken brawling the crew take off but barely get out of the car park before almost knocking over a bedraggled Maya (Imelda Therinne). Maya, seeming very disorientated, claims to have been robbed and feeling all samaritan like the friends see no harm in making a slight detour to drop Maya off home at her isolated house in the middle of nowhere. Maya's mother, the enigmatic Dara, insists that she repays the act of kindness with a feast. It soon becomes apparent that the feast is a precursor to a much more exquisite meal.

There are numerous subtle concepts integrated into Macabre each of which could easily send the story spiralling off in a different direction. It could quite easily have turned down the path of a much slower burning movie regarding family cults, cannibalism, dark forces or child brainwashing but these threads are quite underplayed despite their relevance to what is going on. The selling of their produce to the wealthy customers could be a whole film in itself but is only briefly referenced. The more macabre aspects are only touched upon with the main focus being the torment of the innocent friends and their attempts to escape.

Dara and her family possess delicate superpowers, their strength, dexterity and youthfulness all attributed to their diet of beautiful people. This concept adds the Asian influence to the story with the faithful belief in the supernatural being more difficult to digest in western culture. This adds charm to the scenario whereas if Dara and her family would have been rednecks the story would have just been an unoriginal cliché with little re-watch value.

Macabre is a very fast paced, blood filled delight with enough substance to make this more than just another slasher. It takes talented direction and a skilled cast of actors and actresses to maintain this pace throughout a film and both are exhibited within. Some of the more sinister aspects could have been expanded on but this would have slowed the pace and made this a different film entirely possibly numbing the effect of the action. The gore is gratuitous, the blood letting is absurd and the methods of execution are varied and creative. In the hands of a different director Macabre could have been another manga influenced bloodfest but instead it comes across much more professionally and for this reason holds it's dismembered head high above many other films of a similar ilk.
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