Italian horror director Lamberto Bava's directorial debut, "Macabre" (sometimes called "Frozen Terror") is a tale of passionate obsession, murder, madness and some blind guy who fixes saxophones. A mother has a secret love, and the blind man slowly but surely stumbles upon it... which takes a bit longer when you're blind. And when he finds out who it is, things get a little creepy. Okay, a lot creepy.
This film has received some heavy criticism from horror historians Travis Crawford and Jim Harper, and for my review I'd like to address their concerns, as I believe they've made some crucial points.
Crawford is mostly praising in his words, calling this film "a humid hothouse hybrid of Tennessee Williams and Edgar Allan Poe", but questions Bava's ability to create his own work. He points to Bava's own words, giving credit to Pupi Avati, a more accomplished Italian director who co-wrote this film. Crawford says Avati "had a significant degree of input into the overall creation of the film", "shaped the stylistic approach" and even "dictated" the "restrained, subtle technique". With Avati also being the one to find the newspaper article on which the story is based, it seems as though this should be credited as his work, with Bava as more of an assistant or apprentice.
Crawford notes that it would be "cynical" to point out that Bava's best work came under the guidance of an accomplished director, or even to say that his other notable film -- the "Demons" series -- were supervised by Dario Argento. But cynical or not, and as much credit as Bava deserves, it's a fair statement to say that his collaborations are much stronger than his solo career. (With regards to "Demons", the style is certainly not like Argento's other work, so how much credit he deserves is debatable.) Harper is also critical. While highlighting this as "a complex and increasingly bizarre tale", he pins the style as reminiscent of Mario Bava, Lamberto's father. Like Crawford, he also notes that Bava's films went downhill after "Demons 2" (1986), when Bava went solo. Where I agree most with Harper is his labeling of the "unfortunate" ending as the "only truly sour note". I can't reveal what the ending is, but it doesn't fit the film at all and takes what would otherwise be a great film and lowers it to slightly better than average. A shame... perhaps it would have been best to cut the last few minutes entirely.
If you're looking for a mystery that paces itself and has a few very gory moments, "Macabre" is a worthy choice. While not on par with Argento's work, or Fulci's, it's a solid effort from Lamberto Bava and any Italian horror fan will like it. Others may be turned off by the slow pace, poor dubbing and inferior sound and picture quality (a staple of Italian film for some reason). Why won't more Italian films come with subtitles? Enjoyment of this film is a matter of taste. But the rich depth of these characters is a welcome change of pace from the splatter scene.