Thursday, May 18, 2017

A Pocketful of Rye: Formula For A Murder (1985)

Formula For A Murder (7, Hyden Park: la casa maledetta ) (AKA Formula Per Un Assassinio) (Italy/US, 1985)
Rating: ***
Starring: Christina Nagy, David Warbeck, Carroll Blumenberg

Our intro? A guy dressed as a priest handing a doll to a girl, only to give chase and implied to have broken the girl's back during this attack.

Twenty five years later, our opening victim, Joanna, is now a wealthy and wheelchair-bound heiress who plans on using a good chunk of her money opening sports centers for paraplegic people, as well as donate some to her local church. This benevolent goal, however, isn't sitting too well for some people, to the point that they are willing to start murdering in hopes of getting their hands on the moolah. But who could it be? Joanna's live-in caretaker with an obvious lesbian attraction? The motorbike-riding priest who is seemingly unaware that another priest was murdered earlier in the movie? Or perhaps it's Joanna's doctor who seems to know more about our lead girl's paraplegic conditions?

Well, if you stick around about 30 minutes into the film, not only will you find out who's behind the killings, but Formula's plot switches from a potential whodunit to a crime thriller with afternoon soap opera theatrics and a small dosage of bodycount horror.

As a giallo, Formula For A Murder isn't really a good one; while the early curveball definitely threw away any good opportunity of a decent mystery, there is still a good chance the movie could have been more interesting should it deepened its characters and took its plot a bit more seriously, but instead it decided to stick with a straightforward story that really isn't all that original (I believe the whole "scare the heiress dead to get their moolah" shtick was done before in Let’s Scare Jessica to Death (1971) and The Spiral Staircase (1946) kinda did the terrorized disabled lead a tad batter) and campy as heck.

Formula may as well shown some of the ongoing signs that pure breed Italian gialli were slowly losing their touch by the 80s, but it did make up for the lack of strong sleuthing and plot development with trashy exploitation craziness such as murder attempts involving bloodied dolls, TV soap heart conditions that are triggered by extreme fear but not when making love (?!), and unexpected betrayals which ultimately leads to a good old-fashioned 80s slasher stalk-and-stab with a killer that just keeps on going despite the fatal punishments unleashed against them.

Perhaps it is better that these trashier tropes have a significantly stronger presence in the overall final product seeing we pretty much knows who and why all of the gruesome stuff is happening, as at least Formula For A Murder tries to be entertainingly crazy and hammy. It does succeed at that quite fairly and I find myself satisfyingly enjoying the preposterous twists and turns on a what should have been a too conventional giallo. So long as blood works are flowing, the over-the-top villains are plotting, and the tone be cheesing from this film, I am glad to say that I am a part of an audience who are content to have seen this cheddary guilty pleasure and I will have no quarrels seeing again in the future.

1 male had his throat cut with a knife
1 male bludgeoned and hacked to death with a shovel
1 female slashed to death with a razor
1 male dies from his wounds
Total: 4

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