Friday, October 02, 2009

Darah (aka Macabre)

Butchered By Ratings

The first film to be released under the Singapore label Gorylah Pictures set up by Eric Khoo and Mike Wiluan, Darah (or Macabre as it is known internationally) is a one of a kind slasher film from this part of the region, written and directed by the Indonesian duo Kimo Stamboel and Timo Tjahjanto, collectively known as The Mo Brothers, who actually had a short film version of this made back in 2007 which was simply called Dara, also starring actress Shareefa Daanish as the Mother of all Evil.

As a horror film, it did take its time to set up the premise, rather than to jump headlong into flat out boo-tactics. For about 20 minutes, we're introduced to a group of 4 guys and 2 girls, and their relationship with one another, some by blood, some estranged. They meet in a pub in Bandung and are supposed to go on a road trip to Jakarta, until they are stopped by the beautiful yet mysterious Maya (Imelda Therinne), and in playing the Good Samaritan, decided to drop her off along the way.

So there you have it, a nice handful r of people, some of whom you'll grow to dislike, a road trip, a mysterious lady, and a house in the middle of nowhere. Soon we're introduced to the cool and emotionless Dara (Daanish), and the entourage will soon find themselves in a horrific situation where survival is of the highest order. As I mentioned, it does take a while to build up the premise, and you can feel the calm before the storm with the incessant ticking clock in the audio background, as if counting down the moments where first blood gets drawn.

The eager beaver in me though found it a tad excruciating in the wait, especially when you don't really get to learn much of Dara and her family's background apart from some rapid shots. The directors went straight for the action, and Kimo in an interactive session after the film, had revealed that more of the background of Dara, could be explained in the next film, which they hadn't decided whether to set it forward, or backward in time.

Alas the rating of the film at M18, meant that the editing was a tad choppy, where enough scenes were jarring just because they had lingered on far too longer than the comfort zone afforded. This has a slight impact on the narrative flow, as one minute you see the death blow being applied, and the next you're faced with a jump cut that shows the few seconds after. Thick, crimson blood was also the order of the day from set design to makeup, where everyone gets drenched thoroughly in coagulating plasma no thanks to the insanely violent bloodbath. Genre fans should take delight in watching how

Character-wise, the creators went for the rather contemporary female-superiority style, where guys are made to look really bumbling, and sheer tenacity comes from the females instead, such as Ladya (Julie Estelle) who demonstrates extreme spunk and quick thinking to ensure she comes out of each ordeal as best as she can. You're likely to cheer her on as she takes on the villains, and her solo battle with Dara is a highlight in the film. Dara herself too gives you the creeps especially since Shareefa Daanish put in a measured performance balancing composure, and that mad frenzy baying for blood. It's no wonder she was handed the Best Actress award at the genre Puchon International Film Festival not too long ago.

It's not all blood and gore however, as there were ample time devoted to some slight comedy, especially when the cops come knocking. Serving two purposes in providing light entertainment before the going gets heavy, and also to add to the body count, this episode was perhaps the most fun of the lot, and became a catalyst for the bloodbath to follow in a relatively quickened pace, with dismemberment, quick slashes, deep stabs, and strangulation being the norm, with The Mo Brothers keeping things tight.

Darah should appeal to the patient horror fan who can sit through a build up and celebrate when the madness start to descend on the poor victims. It's a little unfortunate though that the real horror was the way this rated version was edited.

Executive Producer Mike Wiluan and one half of the Mo Brothers Kimo Stamboel were in attendance to talk about the film. The session is covered in the videos below:

Part 1 of 2

Part 2 of 2

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