Ratings Key

= Excellent. The best the genre has to offer.
1/2 = Very Good. Perhaps not "perfect," but undoubtedly a must-see.
★★★ = Good. Accomplishes what it sets out to do and does it well.
★★1/2 = Fair. Clearly flawed and nothing spectacular, but competently made. OK entertainment.
★★ = Mediocre. Either highly uneven or by-the-numbers and uninspired.
1/2 = Bad. Very little to recommend.
= Very Bad. An absolute chore to sit through.
NO STARS! = Abysmal. Unwatchable dreck that isn't even bad-movie amusing.
SBIG = So Bad It's Good. Technically awful movies with massive entertainment value.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Macabro (1980)

...aka: Frozen Terror
...aka: Macabre

Directed by:
Lamberto Bava

Lamberto Bava, having rather big shoes to fill being the son of first rate director/cinematographer Mario Bava, made his directorial debut here and is successful at building a claustrophobic, tense atmosphere but the screenplay (which he co-wrote with Pupi Avati) doesn't really go anywhere worthwhile and takes its sweet time going there. New Orleans housewife Jane Baker (Bernice Stegers) is not only a bitch, but also a neglectful mother to her two children and is cheating on her hard-working husband (Fernando Pannullo) with another man (Roberto Posse). Her unbalanced, pre-teen daughter (Veronica Zinny) catches mom getting busy with her lover and decides to get back at her by drowning her young brother in the bathtub! While rushing off to the hospital with her injured child, the car crashes, a steal beam flies into the car, and the mother's lover is decapitated. Jane loses her mind, goes to a mental home for a short spell, then is released, only to return to her lover's apartment.
Robert (Stanko Molnar), a friendly blind man who lives in the same building, keeps hearing strange noises coming from her room at night. Turns out the head was never found at the accident site, and mom keeps it locked in the freezer to kiss, talk to and have sex with! The acting doesn't really seem too bad (even though the dubbing is terrible) and it's more restrained than you might expect when it comes to on-screen violence and gore (it seems to be trying for a more low-key psychological approach). No, it's not always successful and there is no good payoff at the finale. In fact, the ridiculous surprise twist ending is one of the worst imaginable... Oh boy, is it ever bad. I usually don't do this, but I'm inserting a big ole Spoiler Warning here, so if you don't want to ruin the big twist you may want to stop reading right here...

So anyway... The lover's severed head itself comes to life and chomps a guy's neck. Yep, a film with no hint at the supernatural suddenly wants to have it both ways at the very end. These kind of endings can actually work if done correctly. In this case, it doesn't. I don't know if this was tacked on by the producers because the film is lacking in shock value or if it was intended to not be taken as is, but either way it just doesn't work. And it certainly ruins the claim in the opening credits that it's all "based on a true story." Bava returned a few years later with the giallo A BLADE IN THE DARK (1982) and would become famous amongst gore fans for his first two DEMONS films (1985-86).

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