Fantastic Fest: Macabre

Indonesian horror hits a deep vein of social commentary

Fantastic Fest: Macabre

For a nation that has mostly remained off the cinematic grid, Indonesia has a history of stripped-down and cheerfully gonzo horror and exploitation. Macabre may put the Southeast Asian nation on some gore hounds' maps.

Making their feature debut, directors the Mo Brothers (actually non-sibling Kimo Stamboel and Timo Tjahjanto) take some of the concepts and much of the cast from their 2007 short sharp shocker Dara for their tale of a road trip gone very awry.

Adjie (Ario Bayu) and his pregnant wife Astrid (Sigi Wimala) plan to spend one last night with his estranged sister Ladya (Julie Estelle) and some friends before they move to Australia. After discovering – in fact, nearly running over – a shivering young woman in the rain, they offer to give her a lift home.

Unfortunately for them, her home is a sprawling remote mansion, where an eerily ageless and aristocratic mother (Shareefa Daanish) looks after her three equally eerie children. After offering them a meal, the family then sets about quite literally butchering their guests.

The beatdowns vary from brutally effective to coolly executed, and this may sound like pure splatter. In fact, there's a thick marbling of class commentary in the narrative meat, reminiscent of 80's horror/social satire Society. But where auteur Brian Yuzna painted his set with a sexual goo, the Mo Brothers would rather open a vein and paint the screen red. This may be the bloodiest film of the festival, which in its own right is a pretty high plaudit, but it blends some whip-smart commentary in with the chainsaw mutilations.

Macabre screens Tuesday, Sept. 29, 11.40pm, Dara screens as part of Short Fuse: Severe Fantastic Fest Shorts, Sept. 29, 9.15pm.

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