Macabre -- Film Review

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Bottom Line: A horror film that rejoices in cheeky excess.

BUCHEON, South Korea -- "Macabre" is a splatter film that spills buckets of blood as it doles out ladles of tongue-in-cheek, genre-savvy fun. A slasher formula -- where innocents gets lured into an isolated mansion inhabited by weirdos guarding a dark, murderous secret -- is given an injection of physical stamina and Asian exoticism by Indonesian directing duo Timo Tjajanto and Kimo Stamboel, known as the Mo Brothers.

"Macabre" is the brainchild of Gorylah, a freshly minted genre label founded by Singaporean auteur Eric Khoo and Mike Wiluan of Infinite Frameworks. Its marketability is illustrated by its sale to France's Overlook Entertainment and influential Thai company Five Star, its first acquisition of a foreign film. Certainly, in its pace and visual style, the brothers have the tone right to stimulate western palates so sales may well continue.

Jakarta urbanites Ajie (Ario Bayu), his pregnant wife Astrid (Sigi Wimala), Ajie's sister Ladya (Julie Estelle) and their three friends are driving to the airport on the eve of the couple's emigration to Australia. Their car is halted mid-road by sexily rain-drenched Maya (Imelda Terrine), who claims to be robbed, and begs for a ride home.

When they reach Maya's stately mansion, she invites them in to meet the family, a thoroughly creepy bunch who could be offshoots of the Addams Family. The prim matriarch Dara (Shareefa Daanish) looks no older than Maya, but dresses like the lady in Grant Wood's "American Gothic." Maya's brothers are drop-dead gorgeous Adam (Arifin Putra), who has Igor's body language, while pudgy Alam (Mike Muliadro) reacts like a bulldog on Viagra. The guests sit down for a juicy meat feast, unaware that they are the real game being hunted.

Unlike most mainstream Bahasa/Malay horror, "Macabre" seldom lapses into cheesy drama, lame comic relief or cry-wolf false shocks. The action stays resolutely on course, revealing the family's mysterious heritage and evil motives at the halfway point via sepia movie footage that is the film's most eerily effective touch.

The bloodbaths are a manic mixture of live-action fighting and unreal special effects, designed with a gleeful excess that makes one giggle rather than shiver. Half the casualties aren't even caused by the villains' blades or chainsaws, but rather characters slipping on the red stuff or tripping over wall-to-wall skeletons and corpses.

Daanish won the Best Actress Award at Puchon International Fantastic Film Festival for her role. She chills with a stuffy, old world courtesy and a frosty, impenetrable composure. Without her, "Macabre" may just be forgettable fun, but her spellbinding presence pulls all eyes to her like a magnet.

Every rupee from the modest budget has gone a long way with production design and technical excellence. The Indonesian colonial mansion exudes period ambiance. Interiors exhibiting collections of moose heads, ancient weaponry or preserved jars conveys the feel of a Victorian anthropology museum, enhancing story's time warp element. The color scheme is consistent and sharp with crimson governing both costumes and sets.

Venue: Puchon International Fantastic Film Festival
Production: Gorylah Pictures, Merah Production, Guerilla Visuals, Nation Pictures, MediaCorp. Raintree Pictures
Cast: Shareefa Daanish, Julie Estelle, Imelda Terrine, Arifin Putra
Directors-screenwriters-producers: The Mo Brothers (Timo Tjajanto, Kimo Stamboel)
Producers: James Toh, Freddie Yeo, Gary Goh, Greg Chew, Delon Tio
Executive producers: Eric Khoo, Mike Wiluan, Charles Teo, Daniel Yun
Director of photography: Roni Arnold
Production designer: Rico Marpaung
Music: Zeke Khaseli, Yudhi Farahi
Costume designer: Aksara Pandya Paramita
Editor: Herman Kumala Panca
Sales: Overlook Entertainment (U.S. & Europe), Five Star Entertainment (Asia except Indonesia and Singapore)
No rating, 95 minutes
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