Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Carnal Violence: Torso (1973)

Torso (I corpi presentano tracce di violenza carnale) (Italy, 1973)
Rating: ****1/2
Starring: Suzy Kendall, Tina Aumont, Luc Merenda

A serial killer is murdering local girls by strangling them with a scarf before gutting them and plucking out their eyes. Authorities soon notice that all the girls attended the same college, prompting them to warn everyone in campus of the recent slayings.

One of the students, Tina Aumont, thinks she's next because she believes she had seen the killer's calling card, a red and black patterned scarf that she recalls giving to her ex before they broke up. Frightened by this fact, Tina and her friends decided to leave for the holidays and visit an isolated country manor rested atop a cliff for them to relax and have fun in safety. Unknown to them, however, the maniac was aware of Tina's suspicions and seeing it's just a matter of time before she could recall their face, the psycho tracks them down and began killing off any possible witnesses and anybody else in the way...

Torso's concept of babes and blood is taken with a rather sleazy approach for its time as one would expect it to be. As its original title "I corpi presentano tracce di violenza carnale" (roughly translated "The Body Shows Traces of Carnal Violence") might suggest, the violence here is rather bloody, if not messier than what most gialli by its time would come up with, yet not visceral enough in the sense that they were upsetting. In fact, most of these killings are done away in artistic editing (such as an image of a doll's eyes being pushed in by a child's hand in place of the victim's actual eye gouging) with the only gory moment being a brief flash of a blade cutting open a torso and some savage dismemberment scenes that while reduced to a camera trick where the saw's actual meat cutting is hidden obscurely from the camera, a series of upsetting sounds of flesh, bone and metal stepped in for the actual visuals, leaving us a somewhat gruesome variation that works just as fine.

In terms of sleaziness, the film does provide a lot; the skin count for Torso is relatively high, with wide ranges of voyeurism and fetishes including a series of multi-partnered sex scene blurred in the opening, a bizarre gathering where everybody seems to be high and making out, and even a lesbian couple among the lead's clique. Incidentally, majority of the male casts here, may it be a major role or even as a plain extra, are portrayed as sexually repressed and intimidated, a notion that makes any red herrings among them as suspicious and plausible as our killer. Unfortunately, little of them made any strong assumptions, thus we can't really buy into thinking some of these men could carry out the murders.

In a way, Torso features a lot of slasher elements that will later influence the sub-genre in the 80s, mainly the fact that the film utilizes POV shots of the killer to hide their identity. The film's finale also pits a "final girl" against a deranged maniac whose reason for the murders has something to do with a flashback, a common practice slashers are known for since their popularity.

Despite all this, Torso is still breathes the air of a giallo, from multiple red herrings to crazy plot twists. As misogynistic and mean-spirited as it may be, Torso never fails to deliver the good thrills and spills; from surprisingly creative killings to nail-biting stalk scenes, the movie's an enjoyable beauty of a violent thriller, much of it giving a dab of horror but nevertheless as hard boiled as any of its kin, showing a perfect mix of frights and intrigue.The best scene coming from this movie would be its very own climax wherein a surviving lead, sprained from an accident beforehand, is forced to keep quiet and witness what remains of her friends being dismembered by the killer. It's tight in tension, beautifully shot and eerily done in near silence, perhaps one of the finest giallo moment in history.

Torso also boasts some great visuals as well as a sensual score by the De Angelis brothers; but with all these technical and directorial praises, the only flaw that this film have is that its mystery wasn't really that deep. Yes, it does ring into guessing the identity of the killer, but with most of the male red herrings hardly doing anything that would assume them being a ferocious murderer, it could have been anyone behind that mask. Then again, that does improve the reveal even if the killer's motive for the slayings are far-fetched and overridden, so it's not much of a damage in regards to the film's own flow.

Perhaps one of the best, non-Argento giallo to be released in the 70s, Torso's progressive story, lavishing shots and messy blood work is a sure win for all fans of any decent bodycount films. Highly recommended for horror purists!

1 female strangled with scarf, gutted with blade
1 male found with throat cut
1 female strangled with scarf, gutted with knife
1 male repeatedly crushed against the wall with a car
1 male had his throat cut with blade
1 male found murdered
1 female found slaughtered with throat cuts, dismembered with hacksaw
1 female found slaughtered with throat cuts, dismembered with hacksaw
1 female found slaughtered with throat cuts, dismembered with hacksaw
1 boy slips and falls off from a cliff  (flashback)
1 male falls off a cliff
Total: 11

Saturday, August 24, 2013

A Bittersweet Sight: Julia's Eyes (2010)

Julia's Eyes (Los Ojos De Julia) (Spain, 2010)
Rating: ***1/2
Starring: Belén Rueda, Lluís Homar, Pablo Derqui

Hellboy's Guillermo Del Toro only overlooked the production of this estranged yet beautifully haunting foreign thriller, which may not be all that a bad thing seeing how well played this film is with its giallo-esque murder mystery, some bits of slasher violence, and a whole lot of soap opera that did managed to tug some heart strings

Julia's Eyes follows a woman's plight for answers after finding her blind twin sister hanged in her own basement; while the authorities rule it out as a simple suicide, Julia (Belen Rueda from Del Toro's own producer work, The Orphanage (2007)) thought otherwise and begins snooping for clues that would prove her sister was actually murdered. Unfortunately for her, Julia is also suffering from the same ocular sickness her sister had and it is slowly eating away her eye sight. As the stress of her own investigation and sickness starts to blind her, Julia's determined to discover the truth before she completely loses her vision. But someone out there doesn't want her to find out the truth and they're covering their tracks by murdering anybody who got in too close to his modus.

While Julia's Eyes can be a tad overplayed when it comes to portraying blindness as a sickness, but it did captivate this condition with much effectiveness and a bit of understanding as a horror thriller, an idea that's been played before in such other thrillers as Afraid of the Dark (1991) and cheap TV flicks like Blind Fear (1989)

Interestingly, Julia's Eyes is a pretty layered story; for one, the near-two hour plot took its time to get going and once it did, it slows down right in the middle as Julia, finally blinded after the stress of seeing her own husband apparently commit suicide, rekindles her love life with her own social worker who may or may not be our killer. If you're overly familiar with your thrillers, you would have guessed the twist this film was aiming for by then but it at least did provide enough red herrings to keep us astray. These two plot developments divide the movie into two separate tones, the first being a straight face murder mystery with a smart and independent heroine who actually looked like she's going to succeed with her own investigations, but when the disease finally took over, the film shifts to a standard slasher flick down to its woman-in-peril subtext as Julia's been reduced to a desperate victims trying to survive a killer with a weird fetish.

But despite these problems with the film's flow and consistency in tone, Julia's Eyes is still an engaging film in the end. There's beautiful photography and cinematography at play and it helps keep the sullen atmosphere, tension and cringingly macabre moments as beautiful as they are a little downbeat as possible. 

A personal fave shot from the film.

The killings are very few but they're dabbed with enough savagery as the film explores the aftermath of each; you could say the drama on these deaths are really workable, as lovers and family are dying off left and right and there's a sense of realism to these reactions thanks to Rueda's stellar performance and some really dramatic scenarios. In fact, every once in a while, there are some very warm moments that help these characters be worthy of rooting for. A few are awfully bittersweet, but if you can stick to the end, you'll see the biggest slice heartbreak that I'm pretty sure would melt even the iciest of hearts. (I dare you not to shed at least a tear watching that scene. I dare you!)

Drama, suspense and horror, Julia's Eyes is a fine example of a film to fully understand all these and maintained it (as much as it can) to create an effective story. It has enough twists and atmosphere to draw any thriller fanatics to it, and at the same time, offers something more for a seasoned slasher enthusiast other than a high bodycount.

See it if you hadn't yet. Worth every minute!

1 female hanged
1 male electrocuted in tub with a live electric lamp
1 male hanged with belt
1 female knifed to the mouth
1 male found murdered, frozen inside an ice box
1 male had his throat cut with knife
Total: 6

Monday, August 19, 2013

The Dark Road to Perfection: Perfect Blue (1997)

Perfect Blue (Japanese Animation, 1997)
Rating: ****
Starring: Junko Iwao, Rica Matsumoto, Shinpachi Tsuji

Japan really got it made as one of many powerhouses when it comes to animation as their scope of topic widely ranges from the comedic and innocent, to the weird and dark. In Satoshi Kon's directorial animation debut, Perfect Blue's a story of one woman's change, stress and people around her dying in ice pick murders.

Mima Kurigoe is a former pop idol and central singer of the J-Pop crew Cham. She is now taking a career in acting in hopes of broadening her image, but her decision to quit her idol career is met with vicious backlashing from fans, especially from an online stalker who somehow found a way to publicly post her diary.

Still, her friends remain supportive of her choice, eventually landing her a small acting role as a rape victim in a dark thriller film, Double Bind. The stress from her role, as well as the continuous negative fan reactions, soon begins to affect and blur Mima's line of what's real and not, as certain events in her life starts to mirror those from the Double Bind film. Adding to this issue are the strange string of ice pick murders that leave victims stabbed to death and their eyes gouged out. Could Mima had truly lost her mind from the stress? Or has somebody taken their fandom to a whole new and murderous level?

The film did a fine job establishing its central character in a sense of complete and utter realism; behind the curtains, Mima's an ordinary person who's prone to the stress of her job as well as her decision to move away from her idol image. The first third of the film essentially builds from this; attempt after attempt to do more for her life, Mima's bombarded repeatedly with hate letters, harassed in both real and fictional worlds as fans invade her privacy and she's reduced to exploiting herself under the chagrin of her manager to gather attention. More to her disappointment is the fact that her former J-Pop group is doing better without her. These scenes are hard to watch as it not only shows the plausible psychological trauma of someone who isn't used to these roles, but the emotional levity of it is really downing. At some point, the uncertainty of her own beliefs would gradually take effect and it was just a matter of time before the massive stress would really get to her.

Now, the second act is where the actual bodycounting happens; while most are done off camera, one or two murders showcase a level of brutality that, even for a Japanese animation, seems pretty disturbing. It's occasionally hard to make animated murder to have the same realistic effect as the ones done in live action, but the film's build and tone really help anchor the dread from these killings. One killing even went as far as editing in flashes of Mima in provocative positions during one of her photoshoots, a disturbing contrast of mayhem and lurid fantasy.

The film's take on psychological terror and bloody murders easily labeled it as an animated version of an Italian Giallo, murder mysteries done with a touch of horror. And as any gialli, the climax in Perfect Blue showed all the occasional trappings such as pseudo-revelations and bizarre twists, bloody killings and sexual imagery done in an expressionist angle.

Based on a novel, the original idea for this film was supposed to be a live-action film with multiple changes from the book. But due to budget (and a devastating earthquake around that year) the script was applied into animation, something Satoshi Kon would later continue to do with widely acclaimed anime movies such as a Matrix/Inception-esque Paprika and the heart-warming holiday comedy drama Tokyo Godfathers. But coming from this debut film of his, I can tell this man knows how to make anime films that cater to the adult audience. I would even dare say that this film has transcendent into a level of mature entertainment, without wallowing into the otaku culture Japan is partially known for.

For this, I find Perfect Blue to be one of the best examples of a creative take on a familiar grounding; while it may not appeal to the lot who prefer their cartoons to be more "fun", those who're willing to indulge to something maddening and yet beautiful, I urge you to see this title and lose yourself to its prowess.

1 female found stabbed to death (film)
1 male found stabbed to death, eyes gouged
1 female hit by a truck (dream)
1 male stabbed to death with ice pick
1 male hit on the head with hammer
1 male stabbed to death offscreen, eyes gouged out
Total: 6

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Bonking The Biddies: The Dead Are Alive (1972)

The Dead are Alive (L'etrusco uccide ancora) (Italy, 1972)
Rating: ***1/2
Starring: Alex Cord, Samantha Eggar, John Marley

With a very misleading title and video boxart, where it showcased what appears to be a living corpse with half of its face rotting off, I wouldn't be surprised if you were expecting a zombie movie. Well, make no mistake, this is a lie as The Dead are Alive is far from a cannibalizing undead film despite its tagline “There’s No Place To Hide When… THE DEAD ARE ALIVE!” and it is, instead, a purebred Italian giallo. And a good one at that!

Jason, an archeologist with a drinking problem, visits the countryside with his crew to excavate and study an Etruscan tomb. He's staying in the mansion owned by a renowned orchestra conductor named Nikos, and his wife Myra, whom the latter Jason once had a romantic flair with until the relationship went bitter due to his drinking.

On the following day, a couple of teenagers were found bludgeoned to death inside one of the tombs at the dig site, just right before another girl is found killed a little later. All signs point to Jason as a possible suspect, mainly because of his habit of blacking out after binging a bottle and always ending up present near the bodies. However, it appears he may not be the only one getting tangled in this mystery as we also have a curly-haired gay choreographer who has a habit of disappearing after practice, a woman with a past and a horribly burnt scalp, a possible cult, and even the Etruscan god itself (!), all being considered as possible suspects to this series of murders. Whoever is behind the killing are likely to do it again and Jason, running short on time to prove himself innocent, has no choice but to investigate...

While not as outlandish and obscure as director Armando Crispino's more favored giallo outing Macchie solari (1975), AKA "Autopsy", for his debut giallo film, The Dead are Alive is still a riveting Euro-Horror that's high on the mystery and creepiness, albeit its lengthy running time.

Narrative-wise, I like the archeological premise of this film as it's an unusual (if not rarely tackled) subject to focus on, adding the possibility of a supernatural or supernaturally-inclined motive for the deaths. The first act of the film gets rather productive with the characters as they're introduced in depth, letting us know at least a bit of what may be running through their heads and the troubles they're dealing with, leading to some possible red herrings to fuel the twist and turns of its mystery. As it all strolls further along, the melodramatic love triangle between Jason, Myra and Nikos do starts to get it the way in a not to welcome fashion.

Around these parts, the film relies on a lot of exposition and narrative to get the story going, in turn dulling down its main casts into your classic giallo stereotypes of cheating wives and unfaithful lovers, straying down the familiar path of hidden pasts that may or may not point him/her out as the culprit. The dilemma's something we've seen before, thus becoming a chore to watch at some point. Thankfully, by the time another pair of teens get killed off, the third act finally unravels towards a poetic (if not basic) climax involving one of the leads being stalked and hunted by the actual killer.

When it comes to the murder horror aspect of the film, the kills here differ from the usual blade stabbings as the killer uses an archeological probe that was meant to capture the insides of a tomb without fully damaging it. An interesting idea added to these killings is that whenever the killer's about to murder or is at least nearby, they play and leave a cassette player booming away an orchestral composition, as a form of a calling card. The score, both from the red herring tape and the entire movie itself, was provided by Mondo Cane's Riz Ortolani, which did an outstanding job. The film also boasts some beautiful country side shots and some great cinematography; especially during the last act where it's full use of shadows and corners brought up the much needed intensity of the danger.

Looking past the misleading marketing this film has, this is a definite keep for all giallo enthusiasts. While most would prefer the hallucinatory nature of the director's next crime mystery effort, or some would be wondering when will the zombies make their shambling entry, The Dead are Alive (1972) is a clever and beautiful giallo that really deserves a lot more eyes viewing it.

1 male and 1 female bludgeoned to death with probe
1 female found beaten to death
1 male found beaten to death
1 female beaten to death with probe
1 male dies from a drug overdose
1 male gets a glass shard to the gut
Total: 7

Friday, August 16, 2013

All Can Be Swept Aside with Annihilation: Tenebre (1982)

Tenebre (Italy, 1982) (AKA "Unsane", "Under the Eyes of the Assassin")
rating: ****1/2
starring: Anthony Franciosa, Christian Borromeo, Mirella D'Angelo

After a brief hiatus from directing "straight" gialli in favor of his two supernaturally-fueled "giallo hybrids" Suspiria and Inferno, Dario Argento went back to the sub-genre in the early 80s, creating this magnificent Euro-horror. Often welcomed by many fans as one of Argento's finest film, Tenebre is an Italian giallo at its best, dotted along with the most gruesome bloodletting to compete with the brutality of the slasher films of its decade as well as the best twist and turns the sub-genre can offer.

Peter Neal is an American novelist visiting Rome to promote his new giallo novel "Tenebrea", where it gathered quite a name for itself both from hardcore fans and Nay-Sayers. Unfortunately for him, someone had taken their love for his new book to a whole new level by murdering women in a manner based on his works. As the bodycount began to climb, and the killer somehow finding ways to toy with him, Peter has no choice but to try and find the culprit himself before the death threats he's receiving becomes a horrible reality.

As a plot, Tenebre's premises were rather basic for a giallo movie, wherein Argento himself had based this film on a personal experience involving a fan sending him obscure letters. Despite the simplicity of the idea, the film somehow (through a series of twist, turns and visual clues) managed to be an enjoyable and really engaging mystery that dares you to piece together all the events, all the while playing with your expectations. You can actually notice the director's theme of sight and memory played around for some of the film's major plot points; showing how something that should or shouldn't be there could mean differently throughout the story's development, a similar play he did in the climax of Deep Red and Suspiria, as well in his later works such as his underrated 90s giallo Trauma.

Interestingly, Tenebre is apparently Argento's first take into eroticism, with the story focusing a lot on sexual deviancy and gender, a fact that made this film's misogynistic bodycounting more controversial. It's given early on that the culprit has a tendency to enjoy their killings as they take quick snapshots of the bodies as a form of memorabilia with a voyeuristic take on it, the reason for this only hinted in snippets of flashbacks that may explain killer's mindset on womanhood. This was, in turn, exploited rather formulaically in the sense that Tenebre shows its obvious American slasher film influences, featuring nubile and sexually active beautiful women being punished in a more savage manner than their male counterpart's demise.

It's appallingly sexist, but it did forged a rather unforgettable story and a killer to be feared for its sheer madness, so by the time the twist reveal came, the impact of it were made all the more shocking as the culprit was either someone we least expected, or rather one we didn't suspect enough despite the obvious.

In terms of production, Tenebre boasts an awesome visual department, just to show that Argento does have (or had) a keen eye on the artistic. I do notice the amount of white and/or light colors used for the film, a choice of lighting made to emphasize the brutality of the murders as they do get more brutal than the last. On that term, gore is rather restrained around the first act but as the film progresses, it gets messier to the point that it went straight on for the jugular and literally paints the white walls red. We also have the director's signature odd shots including close-ups and crane work that seems to give a macabre sense on the killer's presence and perspective of their murder spree.

Acting-wise, we're still treated to your usual Italian "theatre-esque" acting where everybody seems to be unusually high-strung and/or suspicious, but otherwise, the acting in Tenebre was by far the best among the director's works.

The progressive Italian rock band Goblin provides the film's soundtrack in another collaborative works with Argento since Deep Red and Suspiria. The band's score went ahead as still one of the most recognized musical piece in the sub-genre, showing a beat of prowess and grit, although there were some cues that seems off from the film's tone; while I do enjoy the film's theme music, I find it too honkey to have the same air of mystique and power as the themes from Deep Red or Suspiria. Still, I do find the rest of the soundtrack quite entertaining, with percussion piece "Flashing" and the hauntingly eerie Slow Cirkus being my favorites scores.

If there's going to be any flaws, I would say it's the pacing; while it's a common rule in viewing a giallo that one has to be patient, the way Argento directed the flow of this film had us running with a rather slow middle act where a suspect was murdered, leading our main cast to start their investigation from scratch. I'm not saying it's boring, just that it could had used a trimming in the editing room, so we wouldn't get too lost with the lengthy dialogue. (The last act, though, was kinda worth the wait with its crazy twists)

Tenebre had a lot going for it: insane killings perpetrated by a clearly unhinged culprit, interrelationships of sex and violence, and mirror imaging of both victims and villains on how they both affect one another; if it wasn't for the lengthy running time and inescapable cheese factor getting in the way, it could have been another perfect horror classic for the masses. Nevertheless, horror purists are entitled to see this film at least once before judging Argento for his cinematic atrocities going around these days; one last look back to the good ole' days when he knows what made people tick and glued it to the plot. Back when we know why he deserved the title "The Italian Hitchcock".

1 female had her neck and chest slashed open with razor
1 female slashed to death with razor
1 female had her throat slashed with razor
1 female hacked to death with axe
1 male axed on the head
1 male repeatedly knifed on the gut
1 male strangled to death with chord
1 female had an arm cut off with axe, hacked to death
1 female knifed to death (flashback)
1 female axed on the back
1 male axed on the back
1 male impaled through metal ornament
total: 12

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Some things are just forgotten: Fear (1981)

Fear (Follia omicida) (Italy, 1981) (AKA "Murder Syndrome", "Murder Obsession")
Rating: ***
Starring: Stefano Patrizi, Martine Brochard, Henri Garcin

Michael Standford is an actor with a scandalous past when, at a young age, he knifed his father to death. This seems to be taking a toll to his acting career lately so as a way to relax from his job, he tagged along his girlfriend and some of his closest friends in the filming industry to a weekend with his mum. 

Upon reaching their destination, they meet the mansion's creepily superstitious butler Olivier and learns that Michael's mum isn't all too well, apparently lusting over her son in an Oedipal way ever since he grew up with a striking resemblance to her late husband. (Gay mustache included, as it seems) Stranger things started to happen when Michael refuses to sleep with his girlfriend in the same room and the girl herself experiences a rather gratuitous dream sequence involving plastic spiders, her gown opening a lot and some sort of demonic ritual. 

Not too long however, someone with gloved hands is itching to do some killing, hacking off one guest at a time in the bloodiest of manners.

With Italian gialli slowly being replaced by their grandchildren, the slashers, sometime around the 80s, titles such as this have worked their way around to the newer, younger, blood-hungry audience of the decade, artistically recapturing the artistic style of the 70s giallo and the gloomy macabre of gothic horror, all the while providing some splatter-worthy murders including a nasty axe kill and a bloody chainsaw beheading.

Just as any giallo, Fear spent most of its time trying to build a story on a whodunit angle, littered with plenty of red herrings while playing on the possibility of a supernatural threat with its talks of cults rituals. True enough, the fact that the creepy butler seems to know a lot more than what's happening, Michael's strange mother claiming to have dabbled with the dark arts, and even Michael's own murderous past could have placed them under suspicions for the killings that occurred lately. Sadly, as much as it tries to toil around making us guess who the killer is, the story has its moments of predictability and the twist reveal was fairly obvious.

As much as the film tries to impress, Fear still cannot hide the budget restraints it suffers from as some of the gore effects are cheap (though impressively bloody) and the soundtrack is a chore to listen to sometimes. Then there's this movie's the near-high cheese factor, most of it can be seen at the aforementioned prolonged nightmare sequence where a tormented lass' breasts keeps popping out whenever she moves. Nonetheless, the movie is still a watchable underrated Euro-Horror that really deserves more attention, at least for being beautifully and atmospherically shot and entertaining down to its cheesy core.

An amalgamation of a macabre horror, a giallo whodunit and a very gory slasher, Fear (or as I really prefer calling it, "Murder Obsession") is a must-see for fans of obscure horror, die-hard stalk-and-kill fanatics and Italian horror purists. Rent it or own it, it's worth a space in your collection!

1 female found gutted with Switchblade
1 male gets a hatchet to the head
1 female decapitated with chainsaw
1 male stabbed to death with kitchen knife
1 male found poisoned
1 male knifed on the chest
Total: 6

Friday, August 9, 2013

The Giallo Cat: Your Vice is a Locked Room and Only I Have The Key (1972)

Your Vice is a Locked room and Only I have the Key ("Il tuo vizio è una stanza chiusa e solo io ne ho la chiave")(Italy, 1972)
rating: ***
starring: Anita Strinberg, Edwige Fenech, Luigi Pistilli

Suffering on a writer's block, Oliviero is an alcoholic novelist married to Irana, who's down beaten into a near extreme level of humiliation. He also has a penchant for a certain Mary Queen of Scots (obsessed seems to be a more fitting word as he possesses a portrait and a recreated gown of the queen for some reason), eyes on his black maid and his former student at a local book store, and keeps a cat he inherited from his dear mumsie, named Satan.

When one of Oliviero's mistress was cut to death by a leather-gloved wearing assailant, things seems to become more unhinged for the scribe as he's forced to admit this affair with his wife after the police began questioning him. Nonetheless, Irana still stays with him, only for the situation to go from bad to worse when the killer struck again, this time slaughtering their maid right inside their mansion.

Wanting no more trouble with the local authorities, Oliviero and Irana nonchalantly bricked up their maid's body behind a wall, in typical Edgar Allan Poe-fashion, and went on to their (already abnormal) lives. This attempt for normality isn't going to go for so long when Oliviero's niece comes into the picture. Visiting her uncle, Floriana seems to be the next apple of Oliviero's eye; but how long can Irana stay sane under her husband's abusive relationship? What of Floriana's real agenda with her uncle? And what of the killer? Who was it wielding the sickle that night?

A giallo take on Edgar Allan Poe's short story The Black Cat, Your Vice seems to be more sexually fueled than Director Sergio martino's previous gialli. Dealing with topics like misogyny and incest, the insane tone of the movie came in with cost of some questionable plot holes, like the aforementioned fact that the couple just walled-up their dead maid without a bat's eye, even though the possibility that the killer might still be around, or that one of them might had done this heinous crime in the first place!

There's also some padding issues around the second act, after Floriana came in and complicate matters, but I try not to see this as a necessity to build some character and plot development to the story. Surely enough, things did go a little messed up and furthermore sleazy around these parts; a bit of twist came in early with the revelation of the possible killer running around cutting women with a sickle, along with some psycho-sexual moments that's pure stylized exploitation to the core, but it eventually found its way back into the game by the time one of them wielded a pair of stainless scissors and murders another.

The main three casts are exceptional to their roles; Luigi Pistilli did a good job portraying a near, or rather an already, unhinged writer and husband, whose one way of coping with his lack of inspiration is to torture and molest other beautiful women, as well as hold strange parties involving an all-girl hippie orgy as that from the film's lurid and strange opening scenario. Anita Strinberg plays Pistilli's character's wife Irana, with a sense of unsettling calmness that's bound to reach to a certain boiling point, conniving a way to get even and be free from her abusive life. And then there's Edwige Fenech as Floriana; I'll be frank here, I never seen any other gialli that starred her but she's awfully attractive. Her presence here has this air of mystique, something that made her possibly double-crossing persona a tad obvious, but nonetheless watchable.

It's a rather engaging giallo movie, one that's chock full of taboo and bloody kills, but I can't help but feel it was missing something. Perhaps very little of any likable characters dulled the experience, but the crime drama perspective of it made its fan following understandable. Surely, it's not the best giallo to come out in the 70s Italy, but it is good enough to own and enjoy.

1 female had her throat cut with sickle
1 female gutted with sickle
1 female had her neck cut with sickle
1 male hacked on the neck with fire poker
1 male stabbed to death with scissors
1 male and 1 female killed in motorcycle crash, set ablaze
1 male pushed off a cliff
total: 8
There's that Poe reference again!

Thursday, August 8, 2013

He who of the Golden Violin with a Built-in Knife: Paganini Horror (1989)

Paganini Horror (Italy, 1989) (AKA "The Killing Violin")
rating: *1/2
starring: Daria Nicolodi, Jasmine Maimone, Pascal Persiano

With their new song trashed by their manager, Kate, the lead singer of this unfortunate band, receives some help from her drummer as he offered to give her a piece of an unfinished song written by the fabled Demon Violinist, Niccolo Paganini, which he bought from a codger. (Donald Pleasence in a cameo) Though worrying about the fact that the song might still hold some copyright issues due to its incomplete state, Kate was nevertheless excited and decided to go to Paganini's dilapidated mansion itself to shoot a music video promoting their new song.

However, little do they know, the said piece of music had some unusual connections to Paganini. (Well, he DID made a pact with the Devil) Not too long, the murderous spectre of the Demon Violinist himself comes back from the dead, donning a golden mask and wielding a bladed violin, and began killing off  the band members and crew, one by one as well as doing his own brand of supernatural hauntings.

One part supernatural slasher, one part Giallo (I think), all cheesy insanity; Paganini Horror was one of the last films Luigi Cozzi of the Contamination (1980) fame worked on. Now, I only know at least two of Cozzi's films and I have some level of respect and awe to them, especially Contamination, but I can't help but feel a large sense of disdain for this title. For one thing, the plot makes very little sense from the beginning; the fact that a lot of cheddar was sprinkled all over the supposedly terrifying and intense scenes here (death by fungus anyone?), overall cheapness of the production was obvious (those costumes! oh God, those Costumes!) and the band's so-called music sounds awfully ripped-off (oh wait, they were. Bon Jovi and Electric Light Orchestra should sue), none of it helps making me think otherwise to enjoy this film.

Characters are unbelievably overacted, but looking at the brighter side of this, at least they get killed off in a level of creativity. Maybe too much creativity on that terms, but I'm really digging way low into the barrel here for something nice to say.

There's a twist ending where one of the characters before turns out to be more than what they seem to be. Not that it mattered if the rest of the film was junk. No, it's rather desperate and overdone attempt to do a horror film; too many ideas were played out, none of them fitted with the other.

Thus, my dear readers, I say this to you: watch on your own risk! If you like your horror with its brain through a woodchipper just for it to prove that it can function without one (which rarely works, mind you), Paganini Horror might be the film to delight your evening. Otherwise, I think it's better if you find yourself a REAl giallo to watch...

1 female electrocuted in bathtub with a live hair dryer
1 female knifed (film)
1 female stabbed to death with bladed violin
1 male killed, found with head wound
1 male immolated in car explosion
1 female found flayed alive by flesh-eating fungus (!)
1 female crushed by an invisible wall
1 female stabbed to death with bladed violin
1 female stabbed on the gut with dagger
total: 9

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

August is Giallo Month in StickyRed!

Yes, it's time for me to settle out the Dead Teenager Films for Something more sophisticated yet just as gruesome: Giallo Films! For the Whole Month of August, I'll be posting reviews and stuffs related to the Italian Crime Genre of the Pulp Age. So expect a lot of high class screaming, strange deaths and strobe-lighting effects. Especially the strobe lights!

Saturday, August 3, 2013

When Madness Engulfs: Dark Feed (2013)

Dark Feed (2013)
rating: **1/2
starring: Evalena Marie, Michael Reed, Dayna Cousins                         

From the writers of John Carpenter's The Ward, comes yet again another medically themed mayhem where normal people go crazy and crazy people go crazier.

A film crew is busy making a low-budget horror film in an abandoned hospital where it is said that a mad doctor used unorthodox psychiatric methods to treat his patients, mostly involving a strange black liquid that the hospital itself is leaking with. As the filming went on, the lack of sleep and patience seem to be getting into the nerves of pretty much everyone on board, and the strange evil force that still lurks within the walls begins to influence them into violence.

As people starts disappearing, those who still have their sanity intact have no other choice but to survive and try to escape whatever's happening to them, but with crazies attacking left and right, was there any hope for them living through the night to begin with?

Dark Feed could have been a very deep and disturbing slow-burning chiller under the same vein of films like Session 9 or even The Shining, where normal people suffers through their job psychologically and ends up hacking their co-workers to death with an axe in a case of cabin fever. The problem, however, is that Dark Feed, in comparison, lacks the same air of complexity in terms of scripting, making the characters paper thin, their lines hammy and the actual movie itself is nothing more than a series of scenes that develops very little of the plot. Would have been a better film if it gone a tad deeper within its context of madness, but it's been declared early in the beginning of the film that the maddening is something otherworldly and supernatural, thus it devoid the story some sense of mystique and intrigue. Incidentally despite this fact, we don't actually see the supernatural aspect of the film "in action", as in how it even managed to corrupt our casts so, in a way, the nature of the supernatural is still played mysteriously, resulting to a chaotic climax where everybody just goes ape.

What Dark Feed lacked in plot originality and in real character development, it makes up with what some might find watchable; gore-wise, we do get a lot of nasty set-pieces of bloody red mayhem of self bodily harm to a props guy hacking up leading ladies with a wood saw as the film progresses. It's a real bloodletting and fans of bodycount films might find some great slasher-esque stalk, chase and kill scenes once the shit hits the fan, featuring a group of deranged film crew in various get-ups, which can be a tad cheesy, but unnerving still. The net result for Dark Feed is a little less of a supernatural haunted house kind of horror, and more of your traditional psychologically driven slasher film.

The movie also looked expertly shot and we do get a lot of good frames here that settles with the tone of the movie. An empty hospital is always creepy, but the fact that the entire film took place in the darkest parts of this dilapidated building gives a good sense of dread and atmosphere that works. Talent is questionable here, I'll give you that though. I don't know anyone here and it might be the one-dimensional script, but I got a feeling they could have done better.

Dark Feed is a lot of misfires as a horror film, but for the right audience, it could be a worthwhile watch. I'm not overly hyped for this, but I do respect its efforts so if you're interested in seeing it, just be cautious. Insanity can be Contagious...

1 male drowned in a vat
1 male shot on the head
1 female killed offscreen
1 female knifed to death
1 male had his neck broken
2 females found dismembered with a wood saw
1 male hit on the head with a nailed board, beaten to death
1 male hacked to death with axe
1 male gets a pen to the neck
1 male and 1 female killed offscreen
total: 12