OCTOBER 17, 2009
One of the shorts I caught at Screamfest 2007 was Dara, which I enjoyed quite a bit (except for the fact that it further hyped my expectations for Audition, which I was told at the time was quite similar), so I was curious to see how the feature version, Macabre, played out. The story has been changed some in order to accommodate a 90 minute narrative, but unlike certain other films of its type, I never got the impression that I was watching a padded version of a story intended to be told in 20 minutes... at least until its final reel.
While I liked the film overall, it began to really annoy me how no one in the movie would just die when they were brutally attacked. Almost every single fight in the movie (there are four villains and six good guys) is interrupted by someone we thought was dead (or at least incapacitated in some way) running into the room and helping the person on their side. Some of the villains even return 2-3 times. As I’ve said before, when this sort of storytelling device is employed, I began to lose whatever fear I have for the characters, as they start to feel inhuman. It’s OK to have the one time for a villain - it’s a time honored tradition in horror movies. But by the 3rd time our main villain starts to show signs of life again after being dispatched, it gets silly and annoying. Not to mention repetitive, and knowing that it started life as a short made me wonder if they didn’t have enough and decided to give every character an extra life in order to pad things out a bit (ironically, my main complaint about the short film was that it went on too long).
And they get even further on my nerves by introducing a never-explained supernatural element to the proceedings, one that suggests that our villains haven’t aged for the past 100 years or so. My biggest pet peeve of these ‘run afoul’ movies is that our heroes never seem to do anything incredibly creative to escape the clutches of folks that have been doing it for years, but it’s usually like, 10, 20 years. After 100 or so, you’d think they would be so good at drugging/killing unsuspecting tourists that there wouldn’t be a single thing that could surprise them, and yet they’re all done in by our good guys deciding to defend themselves and try to escape by... running toward the door. Brilliant! Why has no one else thought of that?
That said, it’s still an entertaining entry in this never-ending sub-genre. The fact that it’s an Asian (specifically Indonesian) film helps; I’m so used to seeing these folks deal with ghosts and such, it’s a breath of fresh air to have them tackle a more grounded enemy (of course, again, there is that immortal nonsense). It’s essentially a combination of Inside and Frontière(s), and (also somewhat under-explained) a touch of Turistas (organ transplants) for good measure. I’ve seen plenty of our movies get ripped off by other countries, and I’ve seen plenty of American movies that are ripoffs of foreign films, but I think this is the first foreign “homage” of a different country’s film(s). It’s nice.
I also enjoyed the mild dark humor, something almost NEVER seen in an Asian horror film (y’all too serious!). They get a lot of mileage out of one guy’s decapitated head sliding around the floor, and there’s a great sight gag of our heroes, chained up in a room, trying to avoid being covered in blood that is pooling toward the drain (the killer in the next room is tidying up after a kill). And there are a few cops who show up halfway through (this would be one of the few instances where I felt they were padding it a bit prior to the ending) that are oblivious to what is going on, which of course is always a delight to the audience who knows better.
Also it was projected on film so I’m automatically in its corner.
As with some other Asian films such as Bloody Reunion, it’s not so much that it’s a unique story or anything, but the fact that it’s not yet another ghost/supernatural yarn about a haunted device or a vengeful spirit who is seeking a proper burial makes it SEEM much more original than it is, and it’s always interesting to see how other countries tackle well-worn material. It may not win any awards or anything, but it’s entertaining and coherent, and I think we should encourage our Eastern brothers to try different things more often.
What say you?