Slasher films are arguably the most clichéd movie genre around, and yet, somehow, movie viewers can’t seem to get enough of it. Different countries have different interpretations, and the Mo brothers’ “Macabre” (aka. Rumah Dara, Dara) is Indonesia’s interpretation of the slasher-horror genre. It has earned a MA-18 rating in Singapore because of its violent blood and gore and has become the first Indonesian film banned in Malaysia for its excessive violence. Oh, yeah, horror fans may have a reason to rejoice, but the plot really offers very little that we haven’t seen before.
A group of friends have been traveling around the countryside before Astrid and Adjie (Sigi Wiwala and Ario Bayu) leave for Australia. The group also hooks up with Adjie’s sister Ladya (Julie Estelle) for one last night to say goodbye. On the way back to Jakarta, they come across a young woman named Maya (Imelda Therinne) who had been robbed and with the persistence of Eko (Dendy Subangil), they come to a decision to help her get back home. Little do they know, that this action has taken them to a place where they will have to fight to survive this evening against a murderous family who wants their flesh.
The screenplay’s set up captures certain key elements that we’ve all seen in “TexasChainsaw Massacre” and the French horror film “Frontier(s)”. There is nothing special here and nothing original. “Macabre” is one of the most clichéd motion pictures I have seen, but really, what slasher film isn’t? It begins with some light characterization with the introduction of its main characters, and from the get-go, you could just feel which of them would die first, and which ones may have the chance to make it to the end of the film. There is the married couple, the sister, the wannabe tough guy, the one with the job and the one who is a skirt chaser; once you do the math, you know exactly where the film is going and it is just not going to end well.
Thankfully the villainous family does have personality if rather also clichéd. Their cannibalistic goals for the protagonists are twisted and unsettling; granted, it isn’t something we haven’t seen before, but as soon as the film begins to get to the violence, it goes into gore-tacular overdrive. Shareefa Daanish plays Lady Dara and she is one creepy lady; with the blackish, emotionless eyes, she comes forth as someone quite intimidating and scary. There is something about her that just speaks pure evil; Daanish was pretty convincing as the leader of this murderous family. There is a certain form of ‘organization’ here, as Dara leads the family with a ‘seducer’, a muscle-man and what you may call a ‘worker’. Imelda Therinne as Maya and Arifin Putra as Adam may play genre characters, but they assisted with the smooth flow of the script. Julie Estelle is the strong female character type and from the beginning you knew exactly who or what she would play. “Macabre” follows the rules and structure of past slasher films and it does not hide this fact. I did find the presence of the goofy police officers to be a distraction, and their role played no significant part but just to increase the body count.
For a genre film, I was very happy to see that the film did not relent in its display of brutal violence. The killings may not be very creative, but they sure were pretty grisly. I applaud the filmmakers for using practical effects for its display of blood and gore. I also enjoyed the make up effects and the use of prosthetics to display the dismembered limbs and sliced off heads. They looked pretty realistic for the most part, as the slices, the dices and the sawing of limbs drive the film’s fun fare. The gore effects and blood would make Eli Roth, Takashi Miike and Sion Sono proud. The direction did come dangerously close to wallowing in blood and gore, but thankfully the emotions were worked into the script by the 57 minute mark. Despite its abundance of clichés, it manages to salvage a heart in all the mayhem.
“Macabre” is your usual horror-slasher film at its core, but maybe that is a good thing. The Mo Brothers knew exactly what they were working with this film, and they did not try to be more. Their film is a celebration of blood and gore as they do come by the bucket loads. Practical effects and gorgeous grisly make up effects is part of this film’s charm, and really, it is rare that they make a movie like this anymore. It is a no holds barred battle to survive against a super-strong murderous family that it gets my recommendation for horror fans. Indonesia has a winner in torture porn and slasher films. [3 ½ Out of 5 Stars]
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