Condado Macabro aka Massacre County (Review)

CONDADO MACABRO

 

THE SETUP

Firstly, I’d just like to say thank you to Co-Directors, Andre de Campos Mello and Marcos DeBrito (who also wrote the screenplay) for giving me access to an online screener of their 2015 Horror/Mystery film, “Condado Macabro” aka “Massacre County”. Massacre County is a Brazilian made horror film that follows the aftermath of a series of murders that recently occurred in a mansion by the forest. Inside an interrogation room, traveling street clown, Cangco (played by Francisco Gaspar) attempts to plead his innocence to key investigator, Moreira (Paulo Vespucio). With blood stained hands and a hazy memory, Cangco must convince the authorities that someone or something else was in the house that night. The film also stars Bia Gallo, Leonardo Miggiorin, Rafael Raposo, Larissa Queiroz, Fernando de Paula, Marcela Moura and Olivia de Brito. The language spoken in   the film is Portuguese but the screener contains hard-coded English subtitles.

THE GOOD

Right off the bat, Mello and DeBrito informed me that Condado Macabro was somewhat of a homegrown love letter to American horror films, that and they were attempting to fuse it with their own sense of humor. The film primarily centers on five young adults. Siblings, Theo and Mari (played by Miggiorin and Queiroz), their friends, Lena and Beto (Gallo and Raposo) and last but not least, fifth wheel, Vanessa (Brito). Naturally, being a horror film, these individuals make up the genre of stereotypes required for a weekend getaway to a private mansion. Theo is your shy, oblivious and less than protective brother. Mari is the level-headed, beautiful and confident one that keeps the group uniform. Lena, the promiscuous popular girl, and Beto, the not so smooth, douche bag jock. I suppose I shouldn’t forget Vanessa (even though the group always does). She’s a heavier girl with a questionable taste in music, and unfortunately precariously positioned in the middle of two potential pairings for most of the film. I know a lot of people are sick of seeing the same elements and sets of rules applied to the slasher genre, but there’s a reason they’re there. It’s a formula that’s worked for so long and it gives its hardcore fan base what they expect.

Mello’s camera work is fairly solid considering the films small budget. Most of the framing looks nice and there’s a couple of effective tracking shots throughout. My favourite sequence of shots are at the beginning of the film. There’s a great one of Lena in her underwear lying on the bed, followed by a series of sharp quick cuts as she grabs her belongings and leaves the house. The in-car shots were done quite well too. Roger Lima’s music structure doesn’t always work but it’s at its best when the carnival style music cues during scenes between Cangaco and his sidekick, 8-Ball (played by Paula). Some of the pop rock music the group plays on their IPod sounds alright as well. Overall, the acting is okay. About what you’d expect from a low-budget slasher film with non-English actors. I thought Bia and Francisco delivered two of the better performances in the film, though it helps that Gallo is easy on the eyes (especially that booty of hers). Mello and DeBrito have obviously seen their fair share of horror content, namely Tobe Hooper’s “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” and don’t shy away from eluding (often through dialogue) to what keeps fans of the genre entertained. Beto even mentions “The Devils Rejects” and “Nekromantik” in relation to how graphic things have to be in order for him to really enjoy it. The first bit of gore comes just 20 minutes into the film and it involves a pig. It looks quite graphic and bloody (so here’s hoping it wasn’t a real pig). There’s a sizeable amount of practical blood spray during the climax of the film and a commendable decapitation a bit earlier.

THE BAD

Massacre County has quite a long running time for a movie of this nature, too long. It clocks in at just over 110 minutes and could have quite easily had 20 minutes trimmed off of it and not lost anything. Big chunks of the subtitles don’t translate as well as they could, a lot of the phrasing is out of sequence (probably to be expected from a foreign film). The attempted humor didn’t appeal to me at all, it mostly consists of immature sexual innuendo and these “kids” are clearly too old to be acting the way they do. In fairness to Mello and DeBrito, they did say that the comedy might not translate as well to English audiences. The washed out color grading looks to have been molded on that of the aforementioned Texas Chainsaw Massacre, to boot. Specifics such as that, on such a small budget, usually only hinder the quality of the overall product. Most of the internal scenes, particularly at night, look better than anything shot during the day time. The broken film reel filter and static marks that they use to transition in the edit don’t really fit the design of the film and just loom as convenient. Even with the film boasting a heap of practical effects in the latter part, the CG manufactured blood when present, looks really patchy. Picking up a hitch hiker (albeit a street clown this time), the sowing of dead skin, wielding of a chainsaw and a bloody girl on the street are just a few examples of things on display in Massacre County that come straight out of either the original TCM or the 03′ remake. I don’t mind a nod here and there but it’s got to be done right and in this case I don’t think it warranted it.

Some of the finer points of the script and continuity in regard to characters actions could have used some editing. Theo and Beto present as best friends, but personality wise they’re about as different as you can get. Theo’s more reserved, quieter and far more mature (reminds me of myself) and Beto acts like a 15-year-old trapped in an adult’s body. He’s constantly talking about sex, hitting on two out of three girls at every chance and basically making a complete fool of himself. Theo doesn’t seem at all phased by Beto’s sleazy advances on his sister, Mari. I didn’t really believe that they could actually be friends because they’re so different. There’s a couple of continuity issues both of which involve Lena in action scenes. At one stage she thwarts an assault from Cangaco and kicks him numerous times, unfortunately there’s no force in her movement and it comes off looking visibly staged. Toward the end of the film, one of the property owners (without spoilers) is shown sneaking up on Lena, whose facing side on in a small dwelling with no other doors. We see the owner approach her front on, yet when Lena looks up the owner’s not there, and then suddenly lunges at her from the side, it doesn’t make any sense logistically. In the second half of the film, DeBrito chose to revisit a handful of previous sequences from in an around the house, only now showing them from different characters points of view that we didn’t know existed. On one hand, I give him credit for trying to introduce something new to the narrative, but in this case the entire pacing ends up suffering because of it. The most disappointing thing about Massacre County is that fans have to wait over an hour to see their first kill (and it’s off-screen), and another fifteen minutes on top of that to finally see one shown in detail.

I believe that Condado Macabro, aka Massacre County is my first foray into South American horror. Andre and Marcos were upfront about their passion for the genre and the intent behind their film. The characters and location were intentionally established with the parameters of your conventional horror film in mind, and that’s bound to give viewers a clear picture of what they’re in for. The camera work, audio track and music were all serviceable given the crews limited amount of experience. The acting wasn’t bad, I certainly enjoyed watching Bia Gallo and Larissa Queiroz in all their glory, and the two sets of antagonists and different points of view were refreshing in a way, though they do drag the momentum down. There are a number of kills utilizing practical blood and gore but the drawback is that you’ve got to wade through a lot of fluff to get there. The subtitles are irregular, the comedy juvenile and the coloring and editing somewhat amateurish. There’s a handful of continuity issues, which isn’t uncommon, and the movie is a little too  influenced by The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. The overly long running time and stale progress of getting to the killing that most fans want from the outset, hurts the re-watch ability factor of Massacre County. I still think that hardcore fans of the genre might enjoy this one and let’s be honest, how often do you get to see a Brazilian horror film? Check out the trailer below!

My rating for “Condado Macabro” is 5/10

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