Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Darah (2009)

aka Macabre

Adjie (Ario Bayu), his very pregnant wife Astrid (Sigi Wimala), his estranged sister Ladya (Indonesian horror mainstay Julie Estelle), and a handful of their friends are on their way to Jakarta. On a country road, they find a girl named Maya (Imelda Therinne) just standing around alone in the dark. Maya explains she has been robbed and asks for a ride home. After some hesitation, the group decides to help the girl out, for Astrid is a rather kind-hearted woman and Eko (Dendy Subangil), one of the friends, rather fancies Maya.

Once the party has arrived at Maya's place, a rather large house right in the middle of nowhere, the girl suggests everyone come in and meet her mother, who will surely be thankful to the strangers.

The group agrees. After all, they've already gone that far, and hearing a "thank you" is always appreciated. Little do they know that Maya's mother Dara (Shareefa Daanish) is the head of a little family of slowly aging (human meat has powers, as you'll remember from various other movies like Ravenous) cannibal butchers. Dara, her other two sons - Adam (Arifin Putra) and an overweight guy specialized in the arts of the butcher whose name I didn't get - and Maya don't just slaughter humans for themselves, but are also the meat providers for other cannibals (rich and evil, obviously) around Indonesia, so a carload of young people is excellent news to them, and rather bad news for said young people, who will soon have to fight for their lives and bacon.

Darah, a Indonesian/Singaporean co-production, was made by a pair of Indonesian directors (and writers and producers) calling themselves The Mo Brothers and features an Indonesian cast. It is based on motives and a character from the directors' short film "Dara" that was part of another international co-production, the US-co-produced omnibus film Takut, so I think I can safely assume that 1) The Mo Brothers really liked the character of Dara(h) and Shareefa Daanish's performance in the role and 2) unlike many other Indonesian directors and studios, these guys are interested in selling their films overseas, too.

Another indication for the truth of the second theory (I don't think the first one can be in any doubt at all) is how different Darah is to the endless masses of films brought up by the Indonesian horror boom of the 2000s. Mainly, this is not much of a supernatural horror film, but is rather oriented on the more Western horror sub-genre of backwoods horror/torture porn (two once distinct sub-genres that seem to have become one thanks to Hostel and its followers), so there are - unfortunately - no traditional Indonesian ghosts going around, nor - fortunately - is there much of the extremely low-brow humour on display that has ruined more than one Indonesian horror film.

The Mo Brothers don't go too far with their film's internationalisation, though. The pair is insightful enough to realize that local colour can only distinguish their film from the mass of other films populating their chosen sub-genre, so they have made a film that is a visibly Indonesian interpretation of torture porn, containing the local colour that evokes the kind of sense of place that can (and does) produce a more effective mood of threat and desolation than more generic surroundings ever could.

As should be obvious, Darah is still not a very original movie. I've seen its content (a bit of creepiness fastly turning into grotesque, slightly humorous violence) and plot a hundred times before, yet the Mo Brothers' film is executed so well I don't mind its lack of originality much. After all, the violence is creative, the pacing tight, the Brothers' direction technically pretty great without being distractingly flashy, the acting - from the more traditionally realist style of the victims to the non-blinking scenery-chewing staring of the cannibals - is good, and there's even a bit of characterisation for the victims that does not make them look like the douchebags and idiots that are traditionally the victims in this sort of film.

So Darah might be generic, but it sure is fun.


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