Saturday, October 5, 2013

Halloween Havoc: DARA'S HOME (2009) aka MACABRE

"Jakarta... shit... still in Jakarta..."
I think that was my mouth that mumbled those words. There wasn't anyone else around that I could see. I had to have been me. The air conditioner whirring, chopping the air, drying the beads of sweat that were boiling on my forehead without cooling the fever in my brain. I don't have a mirror, but if I did, it would be smashed. I knew I shouldn't have taken that Indonesian Yuzna. Two doses of tedium cut with cliche and mono-dimensions. It was some heavy shit. Put the monkey on you. A monkey that howls and bites your ears as if to annoy the very depths of your being, leaving marks that will never allow you forget. I never should have done it, but regret is like a two-bit hooker on a back-alley that I can't afford, neither by way of my wallet nor my psyche. I did it and it's done. I watched the first full-length Mo Brother's film and I can't undo that.

You may remember me babbling about TAKUT (2008) an Indonesian psuedo-anthology that contained an excellent short titled DARA by a couple of guys, Kimo Stamboel and Timo Tjahjanto, who call themselves The Mo Brothers. I find filmmakers who give themselves nicknames to be more annoying than a hipster on crack, but the short was stylish, tight, and perfectly played out by the cast. A year or so later, no doubt due to the success of the short, The Mo Brothers decided that their follow up would be a... wait for it... feature film based on the short. Not a sequel, not a remake, but a sort of weird melange of the original actors and vague themes from the short inserted into what appears to be a Michael Bay screenplay. "The horror... the horror." Indeed.

A group of friends are on a roadtrip to Jakarta, from some place that is presumably not near Jakarta, and after an altercation in a restaurant, nearly run over a girl standing out in the rain. Hooboy, you know this will not en...zzzzzzzz *snork* whu-huh? Oh yeah, sorry. Yes, the girl, Maya (Imelda Therinne) is a little weird, but since Eko (Dendy Subangil) thinks she's kinda hot, the group grudgingly decides to give her a ride home. Of course home is a little out of the way and as it turns out, is a ways off the highway. Stop me if you've heard this one before. A group of tweens walk into a house... the house is decorated in animal skeleti and Maya introduces her mother, the unblinking, perpetually smiling Dara (Shareefa Daanish). Dara insists that they all stay for dinner. She has a special meal that she wants to prepare for them, in celebration of the safe return of her daughter, who was like two miles away and not even in danger of getting wet since she had an umbrella.

After much akward dialogue, the group agrees to stay for dinner. Adjie (Ario Bayu) and his pregnant fiancee Astrid (Sigi Wimala) decide to relax in a room, Maya and Eko also head upstairs while the rest eat dinner, only to find out that their wine has been drugged and that they are now tied up in the basement. It's no spoiler to say that one by one the kids are killed off until the remainder can get free and fight back. Besides, a life-threatening wound and the loss of several quarts of blood doesn't stop anyone from getting back in the fight.

Firstly you'll notice that instead of the silky, stylish Argento-esque visuals of the short, we now have the faux-cinéma vérité hand-held, grainy "Texas Chainsaw Cam" mixed with Raimi-esque POV shots. Second you will notice that the whole anti-TAMPOPO food-seduction horror of the short is but a distant memory. The only lingering close-ups we get now are of screaming, crying faces and blood-gushing wounds. Not that the latter is bad for a horror movie, but after a while, it gets rather monotonous when there's nothing else to engage with.

Seasoned video veterans will no doubt identify with the experience of forgetting about seeing a movie in the past and slowly realizing that you have seen the movie before while watching it. That pretty much sums up the feeling you'll have with DARA'S HOME on your first go round. In a lot of cases, we have seen it before... only in different movies. The Mo Brother's reference to Argento is here, instead of the lush camerawork (something that I have no problem with others paying homage to), it is represented by the metal stiletto in Dara's hair that looks very similar to the iconic metal peacock feather used by Jessica Harper in SUSPIRIA (1977) and is, in fact, used to stab someone in the neck. Taking the "if we did it once and it was good, doing it two dozen times, will make it great" line of thought, Dara's little head-cock bit, stolen blatantly from Michael Meyers in HALLOWEEN (1978), and trademarked side-long look was kind of cool once, but for some reason they decided to have her do it in EVERY. SINGLE. DAMN. SCENE. The set design seems to be inspired by the TEXAS CHAINSAW remakes, people are tortured while tied to chairs, Dara's fat son slowly licks the face of his female captive, a chainsaw fight, and the list goes on.

Suddenly, near the end of the movie there is some strangely pointless references to Dara being much older than she appears (we find this out because a policeman stumbles across a film projector, already set up, containing an old home movie of Dara training her kids to kill a man tied to a chair). We also find out (*SPOILERS*) that she has been capturing and killing wayward travelers for over 100 years, selling their meat and cellphones (!), to wealthy people who wish to stay young. Apparently babies are best for this as she gives Astrid a tonic at the beginning of the film to induce premature labor, allowing for a charming scene in which Astrid's water breaks all over the floor. None of this adds anything to the film in the final act, except to make you wish that some of the non-plot about the family being older than they look had been handed out earlier in the film. At least it would give the impression that there was more going on than a by-the-numbers torture porn flick that still thinks they are doing something novel by covering a set in fake blood.

Within the past few years The Mo Brothers have contributed to V/H/S/2 (2013) and THE ABCS OF DEATH (2012) and have been hyping their perpetually "coming soon" new project KILLERS (supposedly 2013), which will be their second feature. The only real plot details that are out there are basically it's two guys who nothing alike (one a serial killer, the other a journalist) coming together and entering on a violent "journey of self-discovery". Hopefully by then, I'll have my orders and can go up river.

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