Macabre (1980)

a.k.a. - Macabro (ITA)

Lamberto Bava's directoral debut is a slow paced but very unsettling film. Blue Underground US R0 DVD.

The Film

In contemporary New Orleans, Jane Baker waits until her husband has gone to work before leaving her two children on their own and driving off to meet her secret lover Fred in a small flat she keeps. As the children play, Lucy pushes her younger brother into the bath tub and drowns him before making a paniced phone call to her mother's flat, rushing to get home she is involved in a crash and Fred is killed. A year later she is released from a mental institution and goes to live in the old flat, looked after by the blind landlord Robert. He becomes concerned when she refers to meeting men in the evenings, but no-one seems to be coming in or out and he hears her screaming Fred's name...

Co-written by Lamberto Bava and the brothers Pupi and Antonio Avati (who were behind the Giallo mystery La casa dalle finestre che ridono (1976)) and based on a newspaper article, Macabre marks the directoral debut of Lamberto, son of Italian horror legend Mario Bava. Perhaps intentionally, the script is a world away from anything that Mario Bava created and is very much a product of the early 1980s with its Southern US setting and micro-cast that seemed to be highly popular at the time, most notably in Lucio Fulci's The Beyond (1980).

Macabre also seems to borrow its pacing from Fulci's gory classic and is incredibly slow throughout with very little actually happening from the 'year later' caption until the denoument. It does manage to build some very unsettling atmosphere but any viewers expecting horror or Giallo stylings will probably be disappointed by what might be best classified as a pyschological drama. Fortunately the film does reward viewers with good characterisation building to an effective climax and conclusion.

Bava had gained plenty of experience behind the camera working for his father and had helmed sections of Bava Sr's final film Shock (1977). He brings a solid hand to the production here and helps to keep the pace from dragging even in the slowest parts with some creative direction. Most of the filming takes place on a beautiful house set which has a great amount of detail and there are enough real Louisiana location shots to keep the Southern atmosphere feeling authentic. A suitably downbeat soundtrack from composer Ubaldo Continiello (Uomini si nasce poliziotti si muore (1976)) provides a good backing for the film.

As was becoming quite regular in Italian genre films at the time, Macabre boasts a tiny cast with Bernice Stegers as Jane and Stanko Molnar as Robert taking the vast majority of the screen time. Both have very challenging parts but perform very well - Molnar is highly convincing as a blind man while Jane excellently plays the emotionless disturbed woman part.

Lamberto Bava's directoral debut proved that he had a good hand behind the camera, but the storyline was an odd choice - very slow paced, it can not help but turn off any viewers hoping for murder mystery or horror themes and feels like an over-padded television film, it could easily have been trimmed down to 50 minutes without losing anything, but it treats its morbid topic well and avoids the sleazy schlock that a director like Joe D'Amato might have brought to the project while the strong characterisation does pay off at the denoument and conclusion. An interesting film but one that would be hard to generally recommend.

In Brief
Anyone famous in it? No-one of note
Directed by anyone interesting? Lamberto Bava - son of the legendary Italian horror director Mario Bava, Lamberto is probably best remembered for directing the two Argento inspired Demons (1984) films.
Any gore or violence? A couple of brief gory shots but kept to a minimum.
Any sex or nudity? Several female topless and nude scenes.
Who is it for? Of interest to Lamberto Bava collectors and Italian genre cinema in general although its slow pacing makes it hard to recommend.

Visuals Original Aspect Ratio - 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen. Colour
The print is consistently strong with good colours and detail, only minor damage and grain.
Audio English mono - sounds fine.
Subtitles None.
Extras The disc includes:
  • Interview with Bava about the film, short but lots of interesting details. (7 min)
  • Theatrical trailer - gives away the entire ending to the film.
  • Lamberto Bava bio.
Region Region 0 (ALL) - NTSC
Other regions? Previously available in an identical edition from Anchor Bay US. Released by Arrow in the UK with a similar print and a short documentary along with a booklet containing an interview with Bava.
Cuts? Believed to be fully uncut. The print used is English language.



All text in this review written by Timothy Young - 26th September 2011.
Text from this review not to be used without authorization.

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