Welcome to HorrorFest 2009.
Did you see "Audition"?
Don't think about it. Either you did, or you didn't. Either you remember it vividly at the slightest provocation, or you didn't see it. It's one of those movies, and a big part of why it was one of those movies is the performance by one of those actors, a woman named Eihi Shiina.
I find her genuinely loathsome. Detestable. Unnerving. She is a special effect of the same sort as Tony Jaa. It's like she was created in a workshop to specifically freak me out. I thought I'd shaken my overpowering fear of her in the decade since "Audition" was made, but it all came rushing back when I watched "Macabre" at a midnight screening here at Fantastic Fest in Austin, where I was reminded just how powerful the art of minimalism can be.
In terms of narrative, "Macabre" offers nothing new. Written and directed by Kimo Stamboel and Timo Tjahjanto, this is a relentless horror movie about a group of friends leaving for a trip to Jakarta. They encounter a dazed young woman wandering in the rain and offer to drive her home. That offer leads to the systematic torture and murder of most of their group. A final survivor fights back. The end. As I said to a friend at the end of the screening, "Oh, okay, it's 'The Jakarta Chainsaw Massacre.' Got it." That's not a dismissive comparison, either, since I consider the original Tobe Hooper film to be one of the strongest, smartest independent horror films of all time. There is a hopelessness to that film that makes it truly effective. "Macabre" manages to tap that same sense of bleak despair, and there are sequences in this film that are genuinely scary.
[more after the jump]