Macabre (1980)

Director: Lamberto Bava

Not long before Mario Bava’s death, his son unleashed his own first directorial effort (apart from the uncredited stuff he’d done for his old man on Shock), and in doing so also unleashed some of the worst English dubbing of an Italian film probably ever. This review only slightly overstates it: “It’s like Lamberto Bava assigned a team that watched GONE WITH THE WIND and decided that was close enough to what all Southern accents must be like and then tried to recreate it with deaf people speaking the lines.” After a run of Italian films I could watch on DVD with Italian soundtracks, this was some hard shit to swallow. However, the dubbing was only one stumbling block I had with this film; even if I could’ve watched it in a subtitled Italian print, it would still be kind of grindingly slow. Macabre‘s claim to be based on a true story is, apparently, actually not unfair, coming from a news article Bava found about something… well, dubious that happened in New Orleans; Bava says he and Pupi Avati wrote the script as a bit of a joke after reading the story, but the studio loved it and ordered it be made. Essentially, a woman is having an affair with a man, and the latter gets killed in kind of horrible fashion; she spends a year recovering in a mental hospital and upon her release takes up residence the boarding house where she and lover boy used to have their trysts… but are they still having them? Unfortunately the pacing of all this mystery is kind of leaden—nothing much really happens until the last 20 minutes or so—and the “shock” revelation is only shocking if you haven’t seen the trailer, which spoils almost everything (except the very end of the film, which is nothing if not transcendently ludicrous), leaving not a great deal else… This other review praises the film for its taste and restraint, and maybe that taste and restraint is part of the problem; something as, well, macabre as Macabre probably needed a more garish handling than the comparative flatness of Bava’s treatment. Still, as he says in the DVD interview, Mario wanted to avoid influencing his son’s film in any way, and I must admit he succeeded in that…

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