Synopsis: In this horrific tale of murder, madness and perverse passion, a New Orleans wife and mother carries on a torrid affair behind her family’s back. But when a violent accident leaves her lover dead, the woman returns from a mental institution determined to pursue her forbidden desires. Has she found a ghastly new way to satisfy her lust, or is sexual depravity all in the head?
MACABRE (also known as FROZEN TERROR) was the acclaimed debut feature from Italian horror master ‘Lamberto Bava’, who later directed such classic shockers as DEMONS, DEMONS 2 and A BLADE IN THE DARK.
eyelights: its atmosphere. its setting.
eyesores: its anti-climatic and silly ending. its poor overdub. its heavy-handed score.
‘Macabro’ is the feature film debut of Lamberto Bava. After years of collaborating with his father, Mario, on various projects (frequently as assistant director), he decided to go solo in 1980 with this shocker said to be based on a real incident.
Set in New Orleans, it finds Jane Baker stealing away during the day to have an affair, leaving her children supervised only by their gardener. What she doesn’t know, though, is that Lucy, her twisted daughter, knows about her secret rendez-vous…
…and uses that knowledge to set in motion Jane’s destruction.
After a year in a mental institution, rejected by her former husband, Jane returns to the apartment where she and Fred used to meet. There she gets immersed into the recreation of her love affair – despite the fact that her lover is now long gone.
‘Macabro’ is a slow cooker, but it’s a sordid one. Though it’s not as exploitative as its peers, and it shows a remarkable amount of restraint on the whole, it nonetheless delves into some fairly shocking subject matter. It’s certainly not for all tastes.
It’s considered by most fans not only a terrific debut by Lamberto, but also his greatest achievement. It is said that his father, after seeing the picture, was so pleased with his son’s work that he felt he could die in peace. He died later that year.
Personally, I don’t think that ‘Macabro’ is truly that remarkable.
I do like that the horror is derived from mental illness, not creepy killers or weird monsters. I also like that Bava goes with atmosphere above all else. And I very much like the small New Orleans apartment complex that Jane secludes herself in.
But there’s really nothing that stands out other than its twist.
And that‘s a bit silly.
Though some of the cinematography can be quite lovely (especially the moments in which Jane wanders about New Orleans during the day – there are a few gorgeous shots of her going to a misty cemetery), Lamberto makes bewildering decisions at times.
For instance, does it make sense to have Robert secretly peer between open doors given that he’s blind? I understand that this visual cue traditionally builds tension, but wouldn’t it make more sense for him to listen in than look into the room?
Bava’s staging can be heavy-handed, but so are the performances and even the music:
Of course, the performances (especially Veronica Zinny’s as Lucy) aren’t helped by a horrible English overdub, which finds the voice actors in full hyperbolic mode. Sadly, the DVD doesn’t offer the original Italian track with English subtitles.
The music isn’t just overly-dramatic and abrupt, it’s utterly ridiculous at times: there’s this one scene where Jane is partaking in some sexy time in her apartment, and the score goes full throttle creepy, suggesting something horrifying, not sex.
If there’s anything nice that can be said about ‘Macabro’ is that it would be a nice companion to ‘Hellraiser‘, due to its setting, claustrophobic quality and eeriness. It’s not nearly as gruesome or sinister, but it’s still fairly troubling.
Otherwise, ‘Macabro’ looks like the work of a skilled simpleton, the kind that one can often expect with horror cinema. It’s not sophisticated stuff by any stretch of the imagination; it’s merely a good entry in the genre and an okay start by Bava.
It hardly heralds the arrival of a new Master of Horror.
Date of viewing: September 23, 2017