Review – Macabre aka Rumah Dara (2009) **31 Days of Horror**

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre Comes to Indonesia

by Nile Fortner

A young group of naïve kids pick up a hitchhiking stranger and their kindness will lead to suffering and gore. We’ve seen this horror formula again-and-again in films. The 2009 Indonesian horror film Macabre does follow this similar formula and the usual clichés. However, Macabre is worth sinking your teeth into and delivers on the cannibal carnage.

Macabre, also known as Rumah Dara (Dara’s House in Indonesian), follows six friends who are on their way to Jakarta. Adjie and Astrid, are a married couple and they are accompanied by their friends, Alam, Eko, Jimmy and Hammer Girl actress from The Raid 2 movie Julie Estelle playing  Adjie’s sister, Ladya. Ladya doesn’t want to travel, because Ladya blames Adjie for their parent’s death. After they pick up Ladya they see a confused-looking, beautiful woman named Maya on the road. She tells them she has been robbed and is unable to get home. Pitying her, they give Maya a ride home. Maya takes them to the middle of nowhere. The group of young-travelers attempt to escape the murderous family led by the pretty face yet eerie lady named Dara. The film is based on a short film and it’s banned in Malaysia because of its excessive amounts of bloodshed.  It’s the first Indonesian film to be banned there.

The story may not be all that original, especially to horror-junkies. But there is something really special about a movie that follows the all-too-familiar genre, but does it so well. Macabre clearly was heavily inspired by 70s gritty Grindhouse movies and original Texas Chainsaw Massacre director Tobe Hooper. Macabre proves that this formula of horror-filmmaking is not only universal, but timeless.

Within a matter of minutes, directors The Mo Brothers, quickly give us compelling characters with dialogue that makes the viewers actually care and know our main characters. These characters are actually developed, and unlike some other generic horror film, they aren’t just bodies to later on be demolished and make for good eatin’.

Having Astrid, played by Sigi Wimala, being pregnant while the chaos is happening adds emotional depth and a storytelling element that seems to renew the laws of horror clichés and story. The cast does well, even though the character of Adam is acting way over the top to the point where it’s laughable. Dara, played by Shareefa Daanish, is pretty but her eyes are haunting with horror. She doesn’t have too much dialogue, but she is clearly speaking with her eyes. Which I believe it’s harder to pull off a character and emotion with just a look. Dara is sort of like if Bill Skarsgard played an Asian housewife. Julie Estelle, who may be known as “Hammer Girl from The Raid” for the next 50 years plus, is our main character and since ‘The Raid’ movies are passionately brutal, I can see why she was cast in this film.

Thanks to The Raid: Redemption and The Raid 2 director Gareth Evans, Macabre is part of the new wave of Indonesian cinema that has come popular with U.S. audiences. The new wave that gushes out over-the-top brutality and Macabre indeed gushes out the gore.

Macabre is not the usual slasher cut-‘em-up style for horror films, the film includes weapons such as chainsaws, samurai swords, bow-and-arrows, guns, and a lot more weapons to help with the amounts of insanity this film offers. Being drenched in blood is definitely not an issue with this cast, especially Estelle. The blood is red like cherry soda, carcasses have ripped flesh, this family equals human-butchers, the finger on the fork, and if the French kiss that turns into ripping someone’s tongue out there mouth doesn’t make you squeal, then nothing will.

Audiences get very little to no explanation to as why the family is murderous and why they are cannibals. The only explanation comes from old grainy super eight camera footage that teases that Dara may be a supernatural ghoul. This scene does raise some eyebrows and questions. But it does add the suspense factor and keeps viewers on their tippy-toes.

The film does end with some unanswered questions and is clearly taking a page out of original The Texas Chainsaw Massacre movie. The best way I can describe Macabre is a cross between The Raid, Rob Zombie films, and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. If you’re someone who is looking to get into foreign horror then this is a good start. But you’ve been warned, if violence makes you queasy then this is not for you. It makes for a good movie to plop down on the couch and watch Halloween night when the kids are in the other room devouring trick-or-treat candy. Overall, Macabre is a film that will satisfy horror-junkies and its a gory good time.

I am giving Macabre a 4.5 out of 5 Hairpieces!


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