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Anchor Bay presents
Macabre (1980)

"Lucy was here, wasn't she?... Why did you let her go upstairs? Why? No one, is that clear, no one is to go upstairs."
- Janet Baker (Bernice Steger)

Review By: Mark Zimmer   
Published: May 12, 2001

Stars: Bernice Stegers, Stanko Molnar, Veronica Zinny
Other Stars: Roberto Posse, Ferdinando Orlandi, Fernando Pannullo, Elisa Kidigia Bove
Director: Lamberto Bava

Manufacturer: Crest National
MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (violence, some gore, nudity, sexual situations, disturbing imagery, highly deviant sexual practices)
Run Time: 01h:29m:38s
Release Date: May 29, 2001
UPC: 013131152890
Genre: horror


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
C+ B-B+C+ C-

DVD Review

If it weren't for the title of this picture, you might never guess you were in for a horror film. Despite a vicious murder and a bloody accidental death early on, much of the film plays as a straight drama, with a cockeyed little romance (and plenty of nudity) on the side. The final third, however, degenerates into an abyss of bizarre madness that has seldom been equalled on the screen in any movie not made by Jorg Buttgereit. In retrospect, perhaps the most unsettling part is that the nastiest aspect of the film is allegedly based on a true story.

New Orleans housewife Mrs. Jane Baker (Bernice Stegers) sneaks off to visit her lover, Fred, leaving behind her two children. Psychopathic daughter Lucy (Veronica Zinny) acts out by drowning little brother Michael in the tub. She then telephones mother to tell her that there has been a terrible accident. Insane with grief, Jane has Fred speed her home....but they miss a curve and he is killed when a guard rail goes through the windshield. A year later, Jane is released from the mental hospital, and returns to the flat where she formerly rendezvoused with Fred. There she builds a shrine to his memory and fantasizes about him, which inevitably devolves into sexual passion. Her downstairs neighbor, Robert Duval (Stanko Molnar) is a blind musical instrument repairman who has a crush on Jane. He is understandably puzzled by the sexual noises coming from Jane's room, when no one is entering or exiting the building besides the two of them. Bad seed Lucy comes to visit and pokes around Jane's apartment, where she finds a padlock on the freezer of the refrigerator. Use your imagination beyond that point.

This was the first solo directorial effort of Lamberto Bava, son of Mario Bava (Black Sunday) and director of Demons and Demons 2. His novice status is plain from the rather basic camera moves and fairly static story. Those who delight in gore and horror will find the going rather tedious for the first hour or so, but rest assured that matters become plenty weird, gross and disgusting before the end. Bava would have been better served by including something to hold the interest (beyond the copious full nudity).

Bernice Steger gives a good performance as the adulterous Mrs. Baker; through the latter part of the film her eyes have the look that there's something not quite right going on behind them. A particular standout is twelve-year-old Veronica Zinny, who apparently made no other films. She radiates a calm menace even when she is ostensibly behaving herself. Stanko Molnar is decent as the blind repairman, pathetic in his attempts to impress Jane with his highlight of continental cuisine, Campbell's chicken noodle soup. He carries off the blindness believably for the most part, although he seems able to navigate Jane's apartment a little readily (though this may suggest that he has spent significant time lurking up there while she was in the mental hospital). The New Orleans setting is mostly ignored; Steger occasionally slips into a badly fake southern accent and the rest of the cast don't even try.

In all, a marginally decent picture with a few moments not for the queasy. The final shock is just plain silly, however.

Rating for Style: C+
Rating for Substance: B-

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio1.85:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicyes


Image Transfer Review: Considering this is a very low budget horror film from 1980, the anamorphic picture looks far better than we have any right to expect. Colors are vivid, detail is excellent and black levels are for the most part very good. Occasionally the blacks are in the grayish-green area, but overall a very pleasing presentation. Edge enhancement is seen a few times. However, it is rather sparingly used and probably will not be noticed by most viewers.

Image Transfer Grade: B+

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishno


Audio Transfer Review: The audio is a respectable Dolby Surround track in English only. Most of the actors appear to have spoken their lines in English, so the dubbing is of a rather better level than the usual Italian product. Hiss and noise are hardly noticeable. The music score comes through with acceptable range, with a few moments of slightly tinny sound (possibly the use of library tracks?). Directionality is mild and not distracting.

Audio Transfer Grade: C+

 

Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 28 cues and remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
Production Notes
Packaging: Alpha
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extras Review: A decent array of extras is provided on this release. First off is an anamorphically enhanced trailer for the film, which gives away all of the movie's secrets, so don't watch it first. Next up is a featurette, A Head for Horror (7m:47s), which mostly consists of spoiler-type clips from the film and current interview footage of Lamberto Bava. He discusses the basis of the story, its writing and Steger and Zinny. Ultimately it's a little brief, but better than nothing. Copious production notes and photos are included on the reverse side of the keepcase cover, an unadvertised extra which may not be noticed by many purchasers. Chaptering is very generous, and the full motion menus contain some intriguing imagery which manages not to give away too much of the movie.

Extras Grade: C-

 

Final Comments

Although slow going in the middle, Macabre has an effective opening and a grisly, nauseating climax. Given an excellent video transfer by Anchor Bay, with a few interesting extras, it's worth a look for fans of depraved Eurohorror.

 


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