Studio: The Collective
Director: Kimo Stamboel, Timo Tjahjanto
Writer: Kimo Stamboel, Timo Tjahjanto
Producer: James Toh, Freddie Yeo, Gary Goh, Greg Chew, Delon Tio
Stars: Shareefa Daanish, Julie Estelle, Ario Bayu, Sigi Wimala, Arifin Putra, Daniel Mananta, Dendy Subangil, Imelda Therinne, Mike Lucock, Ruly Lubis
Six friends are captured and tortured by a murderous family after giving a ride home to a desperate stranger.
There is more red plasma to be found within the 95 minutes of “Macabre” than there is stocked inside an entire fleet of American Red Cross mobile blood banks. In fact, more blood comes out of the film’s 15 main characters than could possibly fit back inside the bodies of three times as many human beings.
Adjie is estranged from his sister Ladya, who still holds her brother accountable for the death of their parents. Adjie’s pregnant wife Astrid hopes that the siblings can make amends before she and her husband move to Australia to raise a family. At least Ladya will be left in the care of Adjie’s friend Alam, who has a fondness for Ladya that causes trouble when chivalry springs him to her defense. Eko balances things out with a jovial yin to Alam’s hotheaded yang. And everyone has Jimmy to drive the car. That may sound like more threads to keep track of than a telenovela, but do not be fooled. The truth is that those backstories are just fluff and these half dozen friends are mainly lambs for the slaughter.
When the sixsome makes the mistake of playing Good Samaritan and offers a stranded robbery victim a ride home, they have no idea that they are signing themselves up for Sally Hardesty’s worst nightmare. Their night of beer drinking, flirting, fighting, and armchair family therapy turns to screaming, torture, terror, and exsanguination after they end up captive in a house occupied by a family of sadistic human meat traffickers.
No one will accuse The Mo Brothers, who wrote and directed “Macabre” together, of pulling any punches. Theirs is a film that seeks to play chess against Peter Jackson’s “Dead Alive” just so that it can proudly exclaim, “checkmate!” “Macabre” is not so much a horrific story of tension and survival as it is a balls to the wall carnival of mayhem and crimson.
However, The Mo Brothers know how to create characterization in addition to carnage. What is most interesting about how they introduce the heroes and the villains is that the personalities develop naturally over the course of the plot. There are not any obligatory scenes of exposition slowing down momentum or forcing character traits upon the players unnecessarily. The economy with which “Macabre” approaches setup and plot details is in sharp contrast to how liberally it doles out buckets of blood when the killing begins.
And once it begins, it does not stop. By the time “Macabre” comes to a close, the sets are soaked completely from wall to wall and ceiling to floor. If such a crime scene ever existed in real life, no one would even think to attempt cleaning it up. Even a homeowner’s insurance adjuster would suggest razing the entire building to the ground, or possibly even light the match himself.
Oddly enough, for as over the top as the violence is, it strangely never comes across as gore for gore’s sake. This is not a demo reel for a makeup effects company. There is a purpose behind the visual shocks. “Macabre” is an intentionally brutal story and the excessive fountains spurting from severed limbs and decapitated heads only elicit laughter when the brain does not want to comprehend the unending horror.
Where a limit does exist is in the number of chainsaw dismemberments and butchered body parts that can continually pass across the screen before the viewing experience becomes frustratingly redundant. “Macabre” features six heroes and four villains, and then adds another five pieces of prey for the predators in the third act. As blades and blood fly everywhere throughout the house, it becomes difficult to track who is alive and who is dead, especially when the seemingly dead have a tendency to keep coming back for more.
In one scene, a police office is stabbed in the stomach, and he presumably dies. Later, he suddenly stumbles into a room and is accidentally shot by a startled fellow officer. Still later, the same officer resurrects again for another appearance only to be hacked to pieces, apparently dying for good this time.
“Macabre” is well shot, well executed, and has almost enough white knuckle winces in its hour and a half runtime than “Saw” does in the entirety of its franchise. It also walks a delicate line with violence that avoids leaning into black comedy territory and never strays too far into disturbing realism. At the same time, “Macabre” never quite quits while it is ahead. As exciting as the ride can be, it starts spinning its wheels too long in the same territory, and misses capitalizing on those moments where a little more restraint would have made things a little less repetitive.
Review Score: 65