Horror has a Mother
With two twisted shorts already under his belt, the highly acclaimed Safe Haven, V/H/S/2 (2013) and L is for Libido, The ABC’s of Death (2012), Indonesian film maker Timo Tjahjanto is establishing quite a name for himself within horror circuits, both in his home country and internationally. Under the name of The Mo Brothers, Timo Tjahjanto and Kimo Stamboel, and based on their 2007 short simply titled Dara, also starring actress Shareefa Daanish as Dara the Mother of all Evil, Macabre is the feature debut for the film maker, collectively written and directed by Timo and his partner Kimo and completed prior to Timo’s more renowned shorts.
Set in Indonesia, the story centers around two newlyweds, Adjie and Astrid, who are preparing to travel to Sydney, Australia, where Adjie, about to begin a new job, and Astrid, in her final stages of pregnancy, are excited to start a new life abroad. Accompanied by three of their best friends, Alam, Eko and Jimmy, the couple is on the road travelling to the Soekarno-Hatta International Airport. The group stop over at Adjie’s estranged younger sister Ladya’s workplace and try convincing her to join them as a final attempt of reconciling Adjie with his sister, Ladya, who blames her brother for the death of their parents. With some convincing Ladya joins the group on their trip which, soon after, is abruptly interrupted after running into Maya, a strange girl who wanders aimlessly into their path claiming to have been robbed. Desperate, with no money or way to get home, Maya asks the group to give her a ride back to her house, which ends up being a property in the middle of nowhere at the end of the woods. Maya introduces the couple and their friends to her mother, Dara, a woman of ageless enigma and few spoken words. Dara insists that the group stay for a dinner feast as a way of repaying their kindness. It is here where the night turns into a crimson-hell for the group who find themselves trapped and hunted down, one by one, in a kill or be killed scenario by Dara and her cult-like family of deadly protégés, born and raised to systematically eliminate unsuspecting passers-by for one nefarious reason.
While The Mo Brothers set out to create something original, in an attempt to combine elements of Indonesian folklore with Western style genre horror, the final product doesn’t end up being nearly as fresh, clever, or ground breaking as the brothers may have anticipated; what we end up with is an outrageously gruesome bloodbath which primarily focuses on innovative and fascinating ways of slaughtering, maiming or torturing the lead characters. The narrative is extremely basic and straightforward, yet the film runs for a whopping 104 minutes, most of which focuses on the butchery and carnage taking place in and around the property. By the 40 minute mark, the first of the unfortunate victims is executed and what follows is about 60 minutes of grim, grotesque and hideous deaths which get more horrific and over-the-top as the film nears its insane climax which sees a chainsaw wielding Dara battle a Machete handling Ladya. Instead of creating tension, the Mo Brothers dream up scenarios where people can be chopped up, shot at or maimed in the most brutal, graphic and creative ways, leaving very little to the imagination. And if six victims wasn’t enough to satisfy those hard-core horror hounds, at the beginning of act three, we see a group of unsuspecting Indonesian Police Officers, and a handcuffed criminal, enter the household only to end up being extra bodies to pile on to the already large death-toll.
Visually, Macabre looks somewhat unique, as the design of the family household is quite elusive and can be very off-putting in a subtle way; there are butcher-style rooms and laboratory type locations meshed in with a very customary looking home. Blood is a major element in the film, so the color red is very prominent in the film’s aesthetic look, from set design to makeup, where everyone and everything gets thoroughly drenched in coagulating plasma thanks to the insanely violent bloodbath the film becomes in its second and third act, the color crimson becomes something viewers should speedily become accustomed to just like dismemberment, slashes and stabs. The performances are rather solid for a genre picture and much like most other contemporary slasher films, Macabre is a very female driven piece with all the female characters being more superior than their male companions. Accepting a Best Actress award at the genre Puchon International Film Festival not too long before Macabre’s release, Shareefa Daanish delivers a noteworthy performance as the spine-chilling Dara, balancing composure with insanity in her demented frenzy and passion for blood.
Within the ‘slasher’ style horror setting, The Mo Brothers have attempted to add a supernatural twist to the narrative which unfortunately doesn’t come out nearly as clear nor is as evident as the filmmakers may had hoped; some viewers may completely miss the component as it doesn’t get explained plainly enough and gets lost in the chaotic and violent bloodbath near the film’s climax. There is also a limited background on the deranged family and their twisted doings as we learn or see nothing apart from witnessing a few seconds of flashbacks that explain very little. However, the filmmakers did reveal that more of the background of Dara and her family could be explored in a follow-up feature which was to be either set in the future or the past, but seeing as much time has passed, and Timo has moved on to bigger projects, the likelihood of seeing a sequel or prequel with a richer back-story and stronger explanation is extremely unlikely.
Ultimately, for diehard horror fans, like myself, discovering a film like Macabre mirrors how Indiana Jones may have felt after locating the Arc of the Covenant as there is plenty to get juiced up about, seeing as Macabre is one of the most visceral, intense and violent rollercoaster rides that combines the best elements of the Saw films, Texas Chainsaw Massacre franchise and slasher films in general, creating one truly deranged and unforgettable feature. For the general public though, Macabre could be a little too much to stomach and is difficult to recommend as it somewhat resembles a trip to a human slaughterhouse but for anyone interested or out to get a decent adrenalin kick, Macabre is certainly worth a sit through!
3 / 5 – Good
Reviewed by S-Littner
Macabre is released through Gryphon Entertainment