Sunday, 30 August 2009


I found myself slightly inebriated in Leicester Square during Fright Fest and so thought I'd take in a midnight movie at the Empire Cinema.

The premiere of the Indonesian horror Macabre, directed by the Mo Brothers and billed as 'the goriest film ever shown at Fright Fest' certainly turned some heads, and maintained a good turnout considering its witching hour showing time.

We're quickly given a relatively simple set-up - a group of Indonesian young adults on a roadtrip as they emigrate to Australia. Passport; check, visa; check, heavily pregnant woman and spouse; check. On the road they come across the oddly aloof Maya, who claims to have been robbed. At this point, Maya's character seems to draw upon the role of the quintessential Japanese female horror character: mute, facially-obscured, and with mandatory long hair.

The good samaritans agree to give the girl a lift, and upon arrival, are invited into the sprawling mansion Maya calls her abode. There they meet the Indonesian Addam's Family, and the nightmare begins, complete with unbridled violence and creative torture in bloody detail.

The film works with a few themes, but never manages to get its teeth fully into any of them. We have the almost Victorian ghostliness of the family, but this idea is picked up and thrown away at the narrative's convenience. No doubt, the mother holds the film together in this respect, but her transformation into some sort of Terminator-style immortal borders into the ridiculous. The torture scenes play on themes explored in films such as the original Saw, but never seems to touch the audience beyond revulsion. Even the inclusion of the pregnant mother's imminent arrival with her assailants waiting for the birth outside the door fails to touch the sides, and was eclipsed by audience laughter as the plot took outlandish turns for shock value.

There are a number of twists in the tale, but they seem to be heavily diluted due to the concentration of narrative ideas. Dozens of characters arrive at the house, escape, and are dispatched at regular intervals, leaving the audience unable to connect with any of them. Most characters are nothing more than meat for a gory opportunity, but none are used to their full potential.

Macabre attempts to disturb, but makes the rookie mistake of trying too hard when it matters most. It underestimates the imagination of the audience, and instead concentrates on showing the intimate detail of each horrific event, overindulging the human desire to see, and numbing the senses. A more focused approached to fully exploring one area would have produced a far more intense viewing experience, but the mishmashing of various ideas left a flat feeling of missed opportunity.

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