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15th Jun 09
An adulterous middle-aged woman, recovering from the accidental death of her lover, moves into a room at a New Orleans boarding house where the blind landlord becomes suspicious of her carnal activities.
Jane is a middle-aged New Orleans house wife with a well-off husband, two cute kids and lover on the side that she meets regularly at an apartment downtown. One day, while having one of those sordid afternoons, she gets a call telling her of an injury to her son, and in a guilt ridden mad rush back across town, is involved in a car crash in which her lover gets decapitated.
A year later she’s discharged from mental hospital and takes up residency in the same apartment, and she’s immediately lusted after by the blind caretaker Robert, who used to listen to her noisy love making through the ceiling the year before. But when the groans of pleasure start up again, Robert becomes confused. Does she have another lover? Is the first back from the dead? He may be blind, but he’s sure no one is meeting her in that apartment. Why is her annoyingly over talkative bitchy little daughter so interested? And is Robert reading too much into Jane’s flirting, or will he finally get what he desires so strongly?
As you would expect from the title, this movie truly is macabre. The setting of New Orleans (apparently chosen because it’s based on a local true story) is beautifully filmed, with large houses that have large ornate staircases and rooms filled with tonnes of collectible antique clutter – the kind that would be a nightmare to keep clean (imagine all the dusting) but looks great in a horror film. The score is suitably jazzy, matching the cinematography perfectly, and also adding greatly to the suspense generated throughout. But the main thing that stands out about the film, and what makes it work, is the fact that everyone is surely a bit mad.
Jane, played very convincingly by Bernice Stegers (who you may recognise as the mum from Xtro) is clearly still insane despite spending a year in a mental hospital. Robert, the creepy blind caretaker, is clearly mad as he spends all his days indoors fixing trumpets (he can’t play them though) and listening to Jane shagging upstairs. Jane’s daughter Lucy, who exhibits traits of jealousy and venom you wouldn’t expect from a girl that age, is also quite mad – having fired off this chain of events in the first place she’s still got the gall to take her mother’s lover’s severed head out of the fridge and make stew with it. And Jane’s husband? Well, he married her didn’t he? Although by the time she’s released from hospital it’s all over for them and he’s not in it much really.
Sorry, yes, let me reiterate. Jane’s got her lover’s head in the fridge and pulls it out for those bouts of passion that so confuse Robert downstairs (we’re not giving much away there – it’s the cover of the DVD). That is truly sick, although not perhaps as sick as the ending, which is both brilliant and stupid depending on your frame of mind at the time.
So to surmise, Macabre is a real mixed bag. It looks and sounds brilliant, and is actually a really neat, if a bit sick, little story. It’s a bit slow though (thank goodness New Orleans looks so good) and you would be forgiven for thinking that perhaps there isn’t enough story here to stretch out to a full movie, despite the fantastic tension generated from scenes watching the blind guy then the daughter sneak around Jane’s apartment looking for the incriminating head. More than anything though it’s a tidy debut by the talented Lamberto Bava (son of Mario Bava, although most famous probably for the Demons movies) and it’s certainly not the kind of movie you will be forgetting in a hurry. Unless engaging in necrophilia with disembodied heads is not uncommon for you, in which case you’ve probably got better things to do than be reading about stuff like this. You deviant.
Versions The UK Arrow Video release comes highly recommended, with special features that include an exclusive booklet, A Q&A with Lamberto Bava, Introduction to Macabre by Lamberto Bava, Macabre and the Golden Age of Italian Exploitation documentary, trailer and photo gallery.
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