When you have a father who revolutionised the horror industry, if you plan to make movies in the same industry you’ll have big shoes to fill. This is the position that Lamberto Bava (son of Mario Bava) found himself in, as a result his debut feature Macabre needed to be something very special indeed. Mario Bava the director of movies Blood And Black Lace, Bay Of Blood, and Planet Of The Vampires had a unique eye for the camera, he knew how to work on suspense and how to capture a scene perfectly, and while this is not a name that many are familiar with, his influences can be felt in modern day blockbusters like Scream, True Romance and even the James Bond movies. Son Lamberto however never had the same vision as his father and in his 26 year career as a director this has to be one of the highlights.
Based loosely on a true story Macabre follows Jane Baker (Bernice Stegers – To Play The King, Ellis Island, Xtro) a housewife trapped in uninspiring marriage. Jane lives a double life, one half with her husband and two children, the other in a rented apartment where she meets her up with her lover Fred, for afternoons of passion. This balance allows Jane to enjoy her life to the full. But cheating is a chancy affair and on one fateful day balance is shifted forever. While making love with her beloved Fred, Jane’s son Michael tragically drowns; and if things are not bad enough while rushing home a second tragedy occurs as Fred’s life comes to a horrific end. A year on, and after a considerable time needing help mentally, Jane returns to her single life in her apartment apparently fully recovered. Jane’s life is far from at ease however, a besotted blind landlord, a vengeful daughter, and a sinister secret in a freezer all move in on her life, bringing elements of her past back to haunt her.
Macabre is a movie that divides its audiences quite dramatically, the story is in no hurry to reveal itself to the viewer choosing to create a slow build up of tension, allowing you to fully submerge yourself into the lives of its characters, most specifically Jane and her blind landlord Robert. For those that prefer their horror movies more in your face this is one to avoid, because despite the opening and closing crescendo’s of violence the movie is violence free for about 90% of the time. Italian horror is renowned for being in your face, with a massive amount of the more successful titles being completely unavailable in the UK for many years due to censorship issues; this movie steers clear of the usual Italian hallmarks, aiming to be more like the thinking person’s horror movie.
Despite the tragedies that Jane endures your heart goes out to Robert (Stanko Molnar) who begins the movie a much cared for blind man thanks to his loving mother. Robert has never experienced the passion of a woman, or felt the joy of reciprocated love. When you later encounter Robert (after Jane returns from her spell in hospital), he’s alone in a dirty apartment a shadow of the man he was before his mother died. The return of Jane brings about change in Robert, and it’s sweet to see him continuously go out of his way to try and seduce the woman he has always loved. You spend much of the movie in the company of Robert as slowly you piece together parts of the puzzle through rather ironically Robert’s eyes. Robert’s always the victim, a victim of blindness, and a victim to the fact that Jane realises that he’s is in love with her, and rather than dismiss him, she teases and taunts him.
The movie is set in New Orleans, where the events of the so called true story originate from. It’s clear that director Bavawants to do his best to paint New Orleans in a favourable light, spending lots of time showing you landmarks to rather jaunty harmonica music. The musical score by Ubaldo Continiello is one of the more interesting from that era; it’s kind of kitsch and also kind of enjoyable.