As filmgoers and fans of the horror genre, there’s a strange, built-in relationship that we have with the horror genre in terms of expectations. Our familiarity with a filmmaker or a franchise, as well as our loyalty to the genre at large, sets a series of expectations that are ultimately different than with any other genre, especially in terms of content. In some ways, these expectations lessen our needs for some areas of the film, such as acting and continuity, and heightening with others, including special effects and cinematography. However, at the same time, when these expectations are defied, there’s a heightened enjoyment that one gets akin to rooting for an underdog sports team, and suddenly, the perspective shifts and the expectations increase as the film goes along, almost like chasing a high.
It’s that relationship that works so beautifully in favor of The Mo Brother’s Macabre, a film that stands on its on merits as a bizarre, bloody masterpiece of madness. Introducing a creepy, lingering sense of dread from the moment it begins, the story follows a group of young people on a trip who decide to help out a stranded stranger and, in turn, find themselves against a clan that is much more, well, macabre. The story is generic, at least on the surface, but there is something much deeper and stranger going on, revealed with a pace that’s parallel to the increase of absolute insanity that gradually happens throughout the film. And as the film progresses and the action ramps up, the focus of the filmmakers never loses it’s firm grip on the horror at hand, which winds up balancing blood and darkness with a fun sense of ridiculous grandiosity.
If anything, this film, the first for the Mo Brothers which is now being released by Bloody-Disgusting and The Collective, is an excellent display of learning horror filmmakers with passion and skill. Although restraint is missing from the film, it’s instead replaced by a mischievous, out-of-control imagination, allowing the violence to look real and brutal while providing a classic good vs. evil story for the audience to root for. While co-director Timo Tjahjanto can be considered the creative mind behind the demented tale on display, co-director Kimo Stamboel provides the technical prowess to keep the film from never appearing amateurish or lazy in execution. The balance between the two filmmakers is clear from frame one, and their sensibilities allow for the film to play with a mischievous grin as the ultimately-disturbing material is shown with a beautiful, steady hand, with much credit to also be given to cinematographer Roni Arnold.
The acting of the film is actually quite solid, especially when the film begins emerging into supernatural territory and imperatively retains the human horror that set the gears in motion. Ario Bayu and Julie Estelle are great as the main protagonists of the piece, going through the wringer both emotionally and physically for a movie that’s determined to break them, and their committed performance is one of the highlights of the film. Furthermore, the rest of the supporting cast all holds their own, each understanding their place in the story and never trying to outshine one another or mug for the camera. However, it may be the performance from Shareefa Daanish that is the most iconic from the film, as her character, Dara, is gloriously horrifying and resonates with such an off-putting, gripping coldness.
In summary, Macabre is a gruesome yet palatable fright flick that trades in sophistication for entertainment, but does so in a way that’s clever, simple and intense. By allowing atmospheric visuals, strong performances and exceptional FX speak for themselves, the unwavering eye of the Mo Brothers never lets the action become too unfocused or too bland and provides one of the most fun, freaky, cringe-worthy gorefests I’ve seen in years. As long as you don’t mistake their love for the red stuff for pent-up nihilism, then you may want to consider inviting Macabre into your home.
Macabre is now available on DVD and VOD from Bloody-Disgusting and The Collective, exclusively at Amazon.com.