Film Title: Darah
Director: The Mo Brothers (Kimo Stamboel and Timo Tjahjanto)
Running Time: 95 minutes
It has always been my personal opinion that the golden era of horror movies really belonged during the 70s and effectively ended in the late 80s when it began giving way to the gore and blood fest that monopolized the horror genre as we entered the new millenium.
Whilst younger audiences may not appreciate the low-budget (and occasionally cheesy-looking) horror effects, the lack of rationale/motive of the killer/supernatural being, hidden messages and/or symbolism reflecting on societal cultures, and/or the long meandering build-up of suspense before all hell breaks loose, it is often these elements of the horror films of yore that earned many of these horror flicks their place as timeless classics in the "Horror Hall of Fame" and high praise from critics worldwide. Don't believe me? Just have a go at any of the recent remakes of any of the horror film classics (Some of my personal fav classics would include "Pirahna", "Wait Until Dark", "Puppet Master", "Friday The 13th", "Suspiria", "The Howling", "Children of The Corn", "Cannibal Holocaust", "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre", "A Nightmare On Elm Street", "Carrie", "Poltergeist", "Misery", "The Evil Dead", "The Omen", "Whatever Happened To Baby Jane", "American Werewolf In London", "Night Of The Living Dead", "The Wicker Man", "The Shining", "Dracula", "The Birds", "Dawn of The Dead", "Halloween", "The Elephant Man", "Rosemary's Baby", "Jaws", "The Exorcist", "The Silence of The Lambs", "Psycho", just to name a few) and then compare it against the original. Chances are 9 out of 10 viewers would pick the original over the glossier remake, despite its bloodier, gorier and more explanatory premise.
Suffice to say, you can probably guess by now that I am not a huge fan of the more recent horror films. Even the few exceptional good ones that I came across in recent years (e.g. "The Others", "The Sixth Sense", "Se7en", "Final Destination", "Fallen", "Saw", "Vacancy", "The Midnight Meat Train", and a number of Asian favorites like "Dark Water", "The Grudge", "The Eye", "Dumpling", "Naina", "Shutter", "Alone", "4bia", "The Chaser", etc) were still a far cry from the abovementioned horror classics. So you can imagine my glee and excitement when I finally came across a film that I felt could FINALLY match up to the standard and quality of those good ole' fashioned horror movies! Yes, and that film is "Darah" - Indonesia's stab at the gore horror film genre.
As with most horror classics, the story premise is simple. Having been estranged from his sister Ladya (Julie Estelle) for years as a result of inadvertently causing their parents' death years ago, Adjie (Ario Bayu), his pregnant newlywed wife Astrid (Sigi Wimala), and three of their best mates - scaredy cat Jimi (Daniel Mananta), playboy Eko (Dendy Subagil) and Alam (Mike Muliadro) who harbors a crush on Ladya, gathered at the bar where Ladya works, for one last night of celebration, so that Adjie could attempt to resolve his differences with his sister before he and Astrid leave the country and emigrate to Sydney the following day.
Minutes later, after a failed reconciliation between the two siblings, and a bar brawl between Alam and some bar patrons who had tried to harass Ladya, the party of six crowded into Jimi's car, as a torrential downpour ensued, ready to take off to the airport to send the newlyweds off. Just as they were about to leave, suddenly a pale, disoriented and dishevelled young lady wandered out right in front of their car. Identifying herself as Maya (Imelda Therinne), she told them that she was robbed and asked if they could help give her a lift back home. Egged on by Eko who was smitten by Maya, the gang agreed to do so.
When they finally arrived at Maya's home, an old, isolated mansion deep within the woods, she insisted that they all come in so that her mother would be able to thank them personally for bringing her home safely. Initially reluctant, being concerned they may miss the flight, they eventually relented, deciding to wait a while for the rain to subside a little before traveling on.
Once inside the house, Maya proceeded to call upon her mother Darah (Shareefa Daanish). Without so much as even a hair out of place, the astonishingly young-looking and elegantly dressed mother (who looks more like Maya's elder sister, since she appeared to look only a few years older than her daughter) greeted the six guests with a frosty demeanor (complete with fierce, dead-set eyes and a thin, cruel lips) that sends shivers right up ones spine, and monotonously expressed her gratitude to the group and insisted that they stay for a home-cooked dinner that she'd be personally preparing for them to thank them for the help they rendered to her daughter. Only Ladya seemed to sense something was amiss, looking worried especially when Darah began showing more than a polite interest in her sister-in law Astrid's pregnancy, and when she came across Darah's son Adam (Arifin Putra) sinisterly dragging a big, black rubbish bag out of the house and into the woods in the heavy rain.
And she would be right to be suspicious. Because it wasn't before long before all six friends found themselves drugged, trapped, terrified and fighting to stay alive, as they are hunted down, slaughtered and butchered one by one maliciously and sadistically by Darah and her three seemingly unstoppable protege murderer children Maya, Adam and Armand (Ruly Lubis)!
Athough some may argue that the twenty minutes or so build-up to the start of the action to be quite tedious to labor through, I on the other hand personally agreed with the directors' choice in going by the old-school method of spending more time in building the suspense and atmosphere of tension before unleashing terror unto the audiences! I also LOVED how the Mo Brothers managed to extract the winning elements of successful horror films by the likes of "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre", "Vacancy" and "Three: Dumpling", weave them together seamlessly (without appearing to be ripping any of them off), into a non-stop adrenaline churning rollercoaster ride of horror, adding an touch of Southeast Asian mythology, and finishing it off with a delicious twist at the end. And truly, no words can describe what a fabulous job Shareefa Daanish did with her spine-tingling portrayal of the titular character of Darah (observe how she slowly progresses from a cool, calculated murderess at the start of the film to where she FINALLY loses her cool and come after the female protagonist Ladya, stark raving mad and wielding a chainsaw!). It's no wonder she singlehandedly thrashed her competition and brought home the trophy for Best Actress at The 2009 Puchon International Fantastic Film Festival!
5 out of 5 stars (It's definitely one to add to the "Horror Hall of Fame"! In fact, I can't wait to get my hands on the uncensored director's cut edition DVD once it comes out!!!)