Macabre | aka Rumah Dara (2009) Review

"Macabre" Indonesian Theatrical Poster

"Macabre" Indonesian Theatrical Poster

Director: The Mo Brothers
Writer: Kimo Stamboel, Timo Tjahjanto
Cast: Julie Estelle, Shareefa Daanish, Imelda Therinne, Arifin Putra, Ruli Lubis, Ario Bayu, Sigi Wimala, Daniel Mananta, Mike Lucock, Dendy Subangil
Running Time: 95 min.

By Jeff Bona

Thanks to Gareth Evans’ The Raid and The Raid 2, the exciting new wave of Indonesian cinema has found its way to a whole new audience. Although Evans is somewhat of the spokesman, it’s movies like 2009’s Macabre (aka Rumah Dara) that remind us how Indonesia was pumping out over-the-top, excessively violent, beautifully crafted gems before The Raid saga took us by storm. There’s been one hell of a film movement going on in Indonesia, and directors Kimo Stamboel and Timo Tjahjanto (aka The Mo Brothers) are part of the cause. Like Evans, these guys have a passion for blood and brutality, and they have a creative way of presenting it.

Without giving anything away, here’s how Macabre begins: An awkward group of friends and family – one pregnant – are enjoying road trip until they come across a frightened young woman who had just been robbed and left stranded on the side of the road. After much speculation, the group decides to give her a lift home. Once they arrive to her destination, the victim shows her appreciation by inviting them inside to meet her family. Once again, the group reluctantly takes her offer and this is where the fun begins…

Just like Kim Ji-woon’s I Saw the Devil, Macabre is visually explicit, possibly even moreso. It’s a movie that has no regard for the basic principles of right and wrong, even in the context of being an over-the-top horror movie. If you think it’s just a slash and dash-type of flick, think again. Some of the weapons showcased include samurai swords, bow and arrows, chainsaws, pistols, shot guns and much more. The film was actually banned in some countries because of its “excessive violence,” which is somewhat understandable. Let’s put it this way: it’s not exactly the type of movie you want to throw on the tube while giving candy to kids on Halloween night.

Julie Estelle (who is on her way to being known as “Hammer Girl” for the rest of her life) is the main character in Macabre. The minute you see her, you’ll fall in love with her sheer natural beauty and acting capabilities. After seeing the way she handles her job in a barbaric film like Macabre, it’s easy to see why she was cast as Hammer Girl in The Raid 2. Talk about a female who has no problem being drenched in blood, nor is she afraid to get down, dirty and physical. To put it simply, she’s a badass.

The Raid 2 fans will also be happy to notice the appearance of Arifin Putra, a charismatic actor who seems to have the knack for playing psychotic characters, despite his handsome features. Visually, Putra is a distinctive combination of Brandon Lee (The Crow), Terence Yin (New Police Story) and Tak Sakaguchi (Versus). If you liked his over-the-top performance in The Raid 2, you don’t want to miss what he has to offer in Macabre.

Macabre isn’t for everyone. I would easily recommend it to horror movie fans, especially those who like the sight of blood and gore. Sure, it’s not original and has its corny moments, but it’s still one of the best films I’ve seen of this kind. Maybe it’s the film’s excellent pacing or exciting build up – or just for the fact that it’s entertainment done right – but I feel like I’d be cheating it if I dismissed it as just another horror film. It surely deserves a lot more credit than that.

Give Macabre, give it a shot. You won’t be sorry.

Jeff Bona‘s Rating: 8/10

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8 Responses to Macabre | aka Rumah Dara (2009) Review

  1. ToryK says:

    Give V/H/S/2 a look. It’s got a collaboration between Evans an one of the Mo Brothers. Fantastic segment and the best of both worlds.

    • I’ve seen it and for some reason, I just didn’t care for it. I may have to re-visit it again.

      • Tory says:

        Ah, well different strokes for different folks. Great review, though, man. Nice to see someone else who’s seen Macabre. I can’t think of a title that could be any more appropriate.

        • I definitely will try to give it another go. I think I was expecting… I don’t know… something more along the lines of The Raid (which makes no sense, considering VHS is the horror genre)…. let’s just say I was caught off guard by what I was seeing. Yes, Macabre is awesome. I don’t think it ever received a North American release. That may change now that Hammer Girl is the new “Gogo Yubari.” Your comments are appreciated!

  2. JJ Hatfield says:

    Excellent review MPM. I haven’t seen Macabre but I think I will have to now after reading your review. I’ll be sure and let you know if I agree with your rating, lol. I always enjoy your reviews and often I learn something new.

  3. HKFanatic says:

    I finally got to see this film for the first time last night since Amazon just added the film to their streaming catalog (I believe it’s about $5 for a one-night rental in HD). I’m about to make a controversial statement: but I think “Macabre” might be even better than “The Raid 2.”

    Sure, “Macabre” owes a lot to the Tobe Hooper and Sam Raimi playbooks, but the movie unfolds with the same roller-coaster intensity and sense of claustrophobia that made the first “Raid” film so memorable. It’s always nice to see a horror movie where the protagonists are able to fight back and, in that regard, you couldn’t ask for a more kick-ass ‘Final Girl’ than Hammer Girl herself, Julie Estelle.

    This is a top-notch first feature from the Mo Brothers and, in a way, makes me kind of bummed that they haven’t been able to come anywhere near its quality in their more recent work. Here’s hoping that their collaboration with Iko Uwais on “Headshot” will bear stronger results!

    • I’m glad you liked it! So you think “Macabre” might be even better than “The Raid 2.” Definitely a controversial statement, but they’re both in the same ballpark as far as quality is concerned. I’ll have to watch it again for sure. Other than its U.S. premier on Amazon, I’m surprised this hasn’t been picked up for a proper U.S. Blu-ray/DVD release.

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