This film is one of those mystery thrillers that throws a lot of twists at you but it’s convoluted in all the right ways. Everything makes more and more sense as the film goes on and each twist works rather well. The overall plan seems to really be a huge stretch by the end as you really would not be able to guarantee with any degree of certainty that it would work but hey the villain is insane so that’s not really an issue. If you’re up for an intense title then this is a good one to watch.
The movie starts off by introducing us to Barrett who is a doctor but nobody in town like him. They all clearly want him gone and so his assistant Polly suggests that he pack his things. She will of course be glad to accompany him but he declines since he wants to marry Sylvia. One day his world is turned upside down when his daughter Marge is kidnapped and the assailant leaves a threatening phone call hinting that she is dead. He gives a cryptic response that hints they only have a little time to save her before she runs out of oxygen wherever she is. Barrett has to try and find her quickly but he has to do it while everyone despises the guy. There are no shortage of enemies here.
Throughout the film we get several flashbacks which explain just why nobody likes him. It’s a bit hard to get into those without obvious spoilers though as these all involve a lot of twists. One thing we can say for sure is that Barrett is just a bad guy though. The dislike from the town is absolutely justified the whole time as you see these scenes play out. I would argue that he already seemed a bit sketchy even before these though like with how he wants to marry Sylvia but doesn’t really decline Polly as directly as you would expect him to.
The guy is clearly someone who doesn’t mind being on the rebound and that is always a very awful trait to have as a main character. Of course his daughter shouldn’t have to pay for his mistakes so you still figure that whoever got her is even worse than this guy. The movie handles the plot well although as far as the kidnapped child storyarc goes, I’ve seen a few that were stronger than this one. This one is distracted with Barrett’s past and a whole lot going on in this town after all.
Meanwhile the supporting cast here isn’t amazing. You have Sylvia who somehow still doesn’t mind being with Barrett. Considering that her hands aren’t completely clean at this point perhaps they fit together but you never end up finding her all that likable. Meanwhile the same is true of Polly. Sure, Polly at least has a conscience and seems like a decent person but you still have to wrestle with the fact that she is trying to make a move on someone she knows is trying to marry someone else. So that’s just way too desperate for me.
The only really decent main character here is Miss Kushins. She does her best to watch the house and has been around the block for a while. When trouble starts she quickly lets other people know instead of staying quiet like Barrett said. The police chief was also solid. He definitely didn’t mind roughing Barrett up a little and was tempted to do more than that. This guy wants to run a peaceful town and it’s tough when guys like the lead are running around.
One thing this film will remind you of is that it isn’t so easy to die of shock. Perhaps of sheer fright like if you have a weak heart and someone jumps in front of you, but just seeing something? That’s not going to be so easy and since there is a certain part of the plan that revolves around this you are going to have some major doubts the whole time. I know that I certainly did. So part of the ending just doesn’t work on that level. We still do get a satisfying ending to the movie though so it doesn’t let you down there. In a way the villain’s poorly thought out plan did come back to get him so that’s definitely how it should be.
In a way the film’s biggest weakness is just that none of the characters are super likable. I named some decent characters above but all of the main characters are annoying at best. So the film’s trying to succeed in spite of the characters as opposed to being because of them and that’s always a bit tricky. A good plot can absolutely pull this off and I would say this film succeeded but with better characters it absolutely would have worked. You don’t even have to change much but make Polly just a friend who is worried about Marge as opposed to being someone who is interested in the main guy. Also fainting after the phone call is a bit much since time is of the essence. You need to at least pass on the message before you faint right?
I’d also have probably grouped the flashbacks together instead of splitting them up although I do understand the reason for doing so in a narrative way. It would just be nice to get right back to the main plot instead of going through a detour each time. At the end of the day the writing is also solid so the movie did have the right building blocks to make this a good movie. It didn’t forget the fundamentals and that is critically important in a movie like this. The core story is strong and having everyone be against the main guy helps with the tension since you can’t trust anyone and with the race against time being a factor there is always a lot of tension.
Overall, Macabre is a good movie even if the drama can be laid on a bit thick at times. There is just so much going on in both the past and the present that the main plot of the daughter being kidnapped has to take a backseat sometimes and I can’t recall that ever being the case for a film like this. Usually that’s the complete main plot with nothing to compete with it. The movie could probably have benefited from focusing on the present a bit more but I would still recommend this one. If you want to check out a well balanced thriller then you will have a good time here.