Yeah, yeah….. I just know this girl’s gonna have bad dreams for a few nights…. but even so, I still couldn’t resist the siren call of the latest Indonesian horror goodie to reach my mailbox, “Rumah Dara” or as it’s known practically everywhere else, “Macabre”. Well…. Except for Singapore where your Favorite Catgirl finally managed to snag myself a copy… There it’s simply called, “Darah”. Confused yet? Don’t worry… it gets easier.
Our synopsis for it goes like this: “Adjie (Ario Bayu) and Astrid (Sigi Wimala) will leave for Australia the very next day but before that Adjie wants to meet with his rebel sister, Ladya (Julie Estelle). Their meeting does not run smoothly in the beginning as Ladya keeps blaming Adjie for his past mistakes. After persuasion from Astrid, Ladya agrees to send Adjie off in the airport.
The next day on the way to the airport their journey are interrupted when a beautiful woman called Maya (Imelda Therinne) approached them for help as she has just been robbed and she needed their help to bring her home.
After reaching at her home they are introduced by an elegant and mysterious woman called Dara (Shareefa Daanish). And the sincere and good intentions of Dara is only the beginning of a disastrous outcome. Who is Dara actually? And…. will they be able to escape from this “House of Blood” alive?”
This one promised to be a bit more extreme than the usual Indonesian horror effort, and given that I was a little hesitant at first….. You all know what a timid and tender heart lurks inside this lil’ horror movie lovin’ Catgirl, but I told myself: “Awww… C’mon…..It’s Indonesian for goodness sake…. How truly nasty could it really be?”
Ummmm… errrr…. well… pretty darn bloody, nasty and downright mean in a true “Texas Chainsaw Massacre” meets “The Hills Have Eyes” sorta way as it turns out….. So, do ya wanna know if it’s your cup of tea as well? Then all you gotta do is “Read On!!” and find out…..
I must say…. this one most certainly redefines my understanding of the latest Indonesian Horror films being made these days. Gone are my naive assumptions that the Indonesians are just too darn squeamish overall to break out the big industrial sized drum of blood and gore for their movies and go all “Psycho” with it. Directors Kimo Stamboel and Timo Tjahjanto wanted to do a shocking film to expand the ideas of their 2007 original 22 min Super 16mm short film “Dara”, and by all appearances they’ve succeed here. They’ve created a nasty violent lil’ film that is, by all standards, the equal of any made anywhere in the genre today. With a bigger budget and a longer run time it’s a weird little gore-fest that plays as very modern and yet also very Indonesian all at the same time.
An old favorite of mine, Julie Estelle of “Kuntilanak”, is back as our heroine Ladya and our story involves an ill fated trip Adjie, her brother and Astrid his expectant wife convince her to take with them on a long drive from Bandung to Jakarta where they plan to fly to Australia and start their new life. There’s some tension here… seems Ladya still blames her brother for the recent death of their parents in a tragic accident. This decision on his part to move to Australia seems like just another of his perceived “betrayals” and it takes some convincing from Astrid to get her to go along with them and their friends, Alam, Eko, and Jimmy.
This was a somewhat hasty set up, story wise…. and it doesn’t give us any insight to the personal dynamics of Ladya and Adjie’s relationship beyond that feeling of distance between them… a bit more back story would have been nice here, especially given the terrible things these two are going to experience later in the film. But hey… you can’t always have everything.
As might be expected… “It’s a dark and stormy night…” and before our lil’ group can get going, they nearly run down a wet, seemingly confused young woman named Maya. Apparently in shock, she tells them she’s been robbed and asks if they’ll give her a lift home. Naturally it’s waaaay out in the woods, but Eko, the driver wants soooo badly to score points with the beautiful and mysterious Maya that he volunteers them all for the trip. Sigh…. Guys, guys, guys…. Must Neko remind you of that old rule that in any horror movie worth it’s name…. it’s never a particularly good idea to do your thinking with your penis…. Yep.This isn’t going to end well for our lil’ group…. not at all.
Maya’s house is home to her eerily strange and absolutely creepy mom, Dara, and two sociopath brothers handsome but coldly odd Adam and quiet, overweight Arman. Just one look at these guys, and your Favorite Catgirl would have been making a beeline for the door, but not these guys. Nope. They agree to stay for dinner….. not knowing our freaky family are all immortal cannibal cultists. D’oh!! You can just sense where this is heading, right?
Thanks to the old plot idea of “drugging the dinner guests”, our little group soon finds themselves all trussed up and helpless…. except for Adjie and Astrid…. seems Dara has other plans for them and their soon-to-be-born child. As if we don’t have enough plot elements already. Unfortunately… we never get any clue as to whether the child will get raised as one of Dara’s “children” or if he’ll merely become some sacrifice to the “Powers of Evil”, or just a tasty nutritional treat for the Cult…. a real pity, as this could have made for a better ending for the film had they been a tad less coy with this promising plot thread.
Instead, our story plays out with our little group getting tied up… till they escape…. frequently split up as they run around in crazed panic…. and, naturally, killed brutally one by one by Dara and her children. It’s not at all original, but it is very well done, suiting the genre conventions we all expect in a film like this. Given that this is an Indonesian film, it’s surprisingly chilling and vicious… with as much bloody mayhem as you would think necessary. Even watching the Singapore edited DVD, I couldn’t help but be struck by the level of violence “Rumah Dara” packs into it’s 94 minute run time.
Overall the acting is good, but I’m sorry to say Julie Estelle wasn’t given much to do as our heroine this time out, being less an empowered woman forced to become a fighter, instead being reduced to more of just an ordinary lucky “survivor”. While I could root for Ladya, I can’t say she felt like a “real” person to me, being much more a stock stereotype character. Instead, our standout performance has to be by Shareefa Daanish as the super creepy Dara….. she’s got an exotic, oddly disturbing edge to her performance that easily let her steal the show in every scene she’s in. Sometimes it’s the quiet ones you have to watch out for….. Hopefully when time comes for a sequel, (and you just know there will be…) she’ll be on hand to reprise her role…..
My goodness!! This one really delivers on the promise it made to be one nasty lil’ slice of horror movie goodness. Brutal, yes…. but also campy, bloody, and fun, and I thoroughly enjoyed it…. (Yes, yes…. Even if I did have bad dreams all that night….) Your Favorite Catgirl gives it a well deserved 4 “Meows” out of 5 and my definite recommendation that if slashers and cannibals are your thing too, and subtitles don’t worry you, then “Rumah Dara” is certainly worth your time to track down. The Singapore DVD release is edited for content…. but in this case much less so than the official Indonesian DVD release which has all the decapitation and falling head scenes deleted due to their rather graphic nature. The Singapore Theatrical Version and DVD, does contain those scenes that were edited out of the Indonesian version, although any scenes actually showing blades making contact with flesh have been removed, replaced by reaction shots for the second or so of footage that was to be lost to the censor’s knife. Such cuts are minor and trust me… you won’t even notice the difference. The Singapore DVD release is sparse… with only a Trailer and the film itself, but it is done in 16×9 wide screen with excellent separate English subtitles and is readily available for a decent price of about 20$US or so. (Now…. all I have to do is track down the original 2007 short film….. Hehehehe!!)
Trailer? Of course there’s a Trailer…. and naturally, by now, you’re all chomping at the bit for a chance to take a peek…. so here it is!