UK Release date: 18th June 2012
UK Distributor: Scanbox
Directors: The Mo Brothers
Starring: Shareefa Daanish, Imelda Therrine, Arifin Putra, Julie Estelle, Ario Bayu
Running time: 95 mins
Reviewer: Adam Wing
It's rare in this day and age for a horror movie to come out of nowhere and surprise you, but Indonesian splatter fest Macabre (Rumah Dara) does just that. The first Indonesian film to be banned in Malaysia, Macabre tells the bloodthirsty tale of cannibalism, immortality and chainsaws. Six friends head out on a road trip but run into trouble when they meet Maya, a strange young girl who wanders into their path claiming she's been robbed. Some of the friends are hesitant at first, but in the end they agree not to leave her alone in the pouring rain.
If any of this sounds familiar to you, don’t worry - the opening act of Macabre follows every rule and every horror cliché ever committed to film. A post modern audience will find it hard to believe that the characters aren’t more suspicious, but then again, we wouldn’t have a very good horror movie if they just dropped her off at the door and went about their business. Stupid characters deserve grisly misfortune, and come the half hour mark, that’s exactly what they get. Excessively.
They give her a ride to an isolated house (go figure), deep in the woods (ahem), and once inside - the heavily pregnant girl needs her rest - Maya introduces them to her courteous mother. Dara is an ageless, almost robotic presence, determined to cook them a hearty meal by way of thanks for their kind-heartedness. Some of the friends are hesitant at first (I think we know where this sentence is headed) but in the end they decide to stay. This is when the night turns a darker shade of red and the small group of dim-witted friends find themselves trapped and hunted by Dara and her ‘family’, who have been raised to eliminate and devour unsuspecting passers-by. Especially pregnant ones - they’re very much like the pink and blue buttons in Liquorice Allsorts as it turns out.
Remember that scene in Switchblade Romance where a chainsaw wielding maniac attacks Marie in the back of a car for near-on five minutes? That’s what Macabre is like for sixty gut-punching minutes. Mutilation and mayhem make for good bedfellows and Kimo Stamboel & Timo Tjahjanto are well aware of that. The order in which the cast member’s die is at times surprising, and the way in which they’re butchered is mercilessly captivating. Just when you think they might run out of characters to kill, a police unit turns up and all hell breaks loose again. The perpetrators are almost impossible to kill, which means the surviving characters will have to get creative if they’re going to survive the night, and that they do in a blisteringly brutal finale that really hits the spot.
It’s not all plain sailing of course. The editing is a little too choppy at times and budgetary restraints are obvious from the start, even if the gruesome effects work is faultless throughout. A laboured approach and dumb cliché ridden characters only serve to frustrate, but all is forgotten by the time they sit down for their last supper. From here on in Macabre is a horror enthusiast’s wet dream, overflowing with creative kills, unrecognisable body horror and gruesome torture sequences. If you’re the kind of person who likes their movie heroines covered in blood, then look no further; Macabre is an unapologetic exercise in torture porn excess. Strong performances help - as does the wide array of household appliances at the perpetrators disposal - but it’s the relentless bloodlust that hits home hardest.
Reminiscent of French thriller Inside, Macabre is a surprisingly efficient little horror movie that makes The Texas Chainsaw Massacre look like a night in with The Brady Bunch. Check in before you get checked out.