A Movie A Day: MACABRE (1980) + THE BEYOND (1981) If that’s not the lobe of a human ear, then tell me what it is!
Published at: Oct. 10, 2009, 1:37 p.m. CST by quint
Ahoy, squirts! Quint here with the newest October special horror run of A Movie A Day!
[For the entirety of October I will be showcasing one horror film each day. Every film is pulled from my DVD shelf, recorded on the home DVR or streamed via Instant Netflix and will be one I haven’t seen. Unlike my usual A Movie A Day or A Movie A Week columns there won’t necessarily be connectors between each film, but you’ll more than likely see patterns emerge day to day.]
I’m afraid I’m going to spoil this movie something fierce. I usually try to avoid getting into end-of-the-movie spoilers in these reviews, but with Lamberto Bava’s MACABRE I can’t help myself. Almost everything I want to talk about happens in the last 20 minutes of the movie.
In the interest of fairness for those who might not want to be spoiled, I’ll give a short, sweet spoiler-free review before diving headfirst into spoiler territory (marked by a big, red SPOILER tag).
Supposedly based on a true story we have the story of a middle aged woman (Bernice Stegers) who has a bit of a breakdown when in one afternoon her 5 year old son and bohunk mustached affair die. Set in New Orleans, this woman ends up moving into the same boarding house her ex-lover used to live in after being released from a nuthouse. Her husband has their creepy little daughter (Veronica Zinny) and Stegers spends most of her time flirting with the blind manager only to leave him worked up while she goes to bed, masturbating furiously and with great noise.
The flick is a slow build that pays off in a couple creepy reveals. However, like most Italian-made horror of this era the actors are all dubbed (although clearly speaking English) and, in this case, with the most amazing horrible southern accents imaginable. It’s like Lamberto Bava assigned a team that watched GONE WITH THE WIND and decided that was close enough to what all Southern accents must be like and then tried to recreate it with deaf people speaking the lines.
Okay, that’s an exaggeration, but the accents are horrible.
The spoiler-free overall view is that the film is slow, but if you love ‘70s and early ‘80s Lamberto Bava or Lucio Fulci, this film might be a little too slow and without enough good kills to live up to the best of their films, but it shares a similar tone. I don’t know if it’s the film stock of the time or just the Italian horror sensibility (or both), but Macabre fits the tone of those films, the visual signature that’s unique to movies like CITY OF THE LIVING DEAD and THE BEYOND.
Okay, enough of playing it safe.
Let’s let it all hang out, shall we? So, we start off the movie knowing the little girl is bad news. You can’t get more evil than drowning your own little brother in a bathtub because you don’t like that your mom went off to fuck some dude instead of taking you to a movie.
What’s really interesting to me about this movie is in the last act when the mother and the daughter seem to be trying to out-crazy each other with the poor blind landlord (Stanko Molnar… what an awesome name, right?) caught in the middle.
The little girl is trying to drive her mom crazy by placing trinkets around her room, like framed photos of her now dead son. Little does she know her mom is already fucking bugnuts.
When Stegers first checks into her room she spends every night noisily flicking the bean and we come to find out she’s not exactly alone… Even though her lover was decapitated in a car accident she still carries a piece of him. Literally. No, it’s not that piece, but I like where your mind is at you little pervs. That would have been pretty amazing.
No, she has his head, which she keeps locked in the freezer when she’s not making out with it and double-clicking her mouse.
How could I dislike a movie that has all that going on? So, despite the horrible dubbing and slow pace I have to give this one a recommend. That comes with strings, of course… You have to like crazy cinema and be willing to stick through some slow going to get to the good stuff. If you like Italian exploitation of this era then that’s not too hard as your nostalgia sweet-spot will be tickled by the look and feel of the movie. If you don’t, however, I can imagine it’d be a chore to get through the movie. Your call.
My recommendation this week I’ve already mentioned above. I mean… let’s look at a checklist. What other Italian horror film is set in New Orleans and has a blind person in it? Oh, I know!
Lucio Fulci is a favorite of mine. I love Dario Argento, of this time especially, and consider him a better filmmaker than Fulci, but you know what? Fulci swung for the fences every goddamn time and always made entertainment the priority.
There’s a good chance you might have been exposed to this movie via Quentin Tarantino’s Rolling Thunder Pictures releasing which saw the theatrical restoration and release of indie and cult films, the last of which was Fulci’s The Beyond. God, I wish Tarantino could still be picking and releasing these cult movies to get big-screen play again.
That was my first exposure to Fulci back in ’98 when Tarantino premiered this newly struck print at his QT Fest here in Austin.
I will say upfront that this isn’t my favorite Fulci. That award goes to CITY OF THE LIVING DEAD for sheer gut-puking awesomeness. But in many ways THE BEYOND is a better movie. It’s less schlocky, that’s for sure, and goes for a more disturbing tone.
The concept of the movie is that a young woman inherits an old building in New Orleans and moves in only to discover that it rests atop one of the seven doors of Hell. Naturally, sharing a wall with Satan has its downsides and as the film goes on Hell’s influence over this world gets stronger.
What’s great about this movie is the slow-burn as the evil slowly gets a foothold into our reality leading to a moment when all the streets are deserted and the undead rule the city.
Everything’s at work here from direction to acting to cinematography. The dubbing is a little wonky as usual, but you’re so freaked out the whole time you won’t really care.
And the ending is bleak, bleak, bleak. The limbo land between our world and hell is a place I don’t want to end up, let’s just say that.
Super cool flick. Make sure to check it out if you haven’t yet.
Here are the next week’s worth of AMAD titles:
Saturday, October 10th: PRIVATE PARTS (1972)
Sunday, October 11th: ROAD GAMES (1981)
Monday, October 12th: DEAD END DRIVE-IN (1986)
Tuesday, October 13th: PSYCHIC KILLER (1975)
Wednesday, October 14th: THE BODY SNATCHER (1945)
Thursday, October 15th: THE LEOPARD MAN (1943)
Friday, October 16th: WOLFEN (1981)
You may have noticed this column is a bit late. My body clock is all kinds of messed up since returning from Ireland. I woke up late yesterday afternoon and haven’t slept since. I’ll be caught up by the end of the weekend, promise.
Tomorrow we dive into some ‘70s weirdness! See you folks for that!
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