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Showing posts from July, 2011

Tenebrae

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1982
Dir. Dario Argento

Generally regarded as one of Italian horror maestro Dario Argento's finest films (and rightly so), Tenebrae marked the director's return to the giallo genre which he implicitly popularised, after his detour into supernatural gothic horror with Suspiria and Inferno. Based on the filmmaker’s own experiences of an unhinged fanatic obsessed with his work, Tenebrae follows the story of American mystery-thriller novelist Peter Neal, whose arrival in Rome to promote his latest title coincides with a series of violent murders – the perpetrator of which claims to have been inspired by Neal’s latest book. When the author himself begins to receive death threats from the killer he must use his literary know-how to snare the slasher before he becomes the next victim.

Tenebrae was added to the Video Nasty list and banned on video in the UK until 1999, when it was released with severe cuts. The film was finally passed uncut and uncensored in 2002. Now, this definitive…

Who Saw Her Die?

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1972
Dir. Aldo Lado

When the young daughter of Venice based sculptor Franco is heinously murdered, he and his estranged wife begin an investigation to track down the killer. Meanwhile the body-count continues to grow as the crazed maniac bloodily dispatches anyone who strays too close to discovering the truth about their identity.

Set in Venice and featuring the story of a grief-stricken family crippled by the death of their child, Who Saw Her Die? is in many ways uncannily similar to Nicolas Roeg’s startling masterpiece Don’t Look Now, which was released only a year after. Opening with the shockingly frank and brutal murder of a little girl on a snowy mountain in France, Lado’s film really hits the ground running, however while its central mystery constantly intrigues as it twists and turns unendingly, it never really manages to repeat the power of this opening scene. Focusing on Franco’s obsession with finding his daughter’s killer, the film unfolds as in typically glorious giallo …

Your Vice is a Locked Room and Only I Have the Key

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1972
Dir. Sergio Martino

Alcoholic writer Oliviero (Luigi Pistilli, Bay of Blood) and his timid, long-suffering wife Irina (Anita Strindberg, Lizard in a Woman's Skin) live a self-destructive existence in their isolated and crumbling villa. When Oliviero’s mistress is the first victim in a series of vicious murders, he becomes the prime suspect – and when his sexy niece Floriana (Edwige Fenech, Strip Nude for Your Killer) suddenly arrives for a visit, things become increasingly complicated as a series of double-crossings and shifting character dynamics add to the air of stifling paranoia. Irina finds comfort in Floriana’s arms – and bed – and the two decide to bump off Oliviero, Diabolique-style. Throw in a few scenes of Sapphic love-making, an ominous and seemingly ubiquitous black cat, lush gothic trimmings, several vicious murders, and you have a fantastically vintage, sex-charged and moody giallo that rates right up there with the best of ‘em.

Your Vice is a Locked Room and …

Planet of the Vampires

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1965
Dir. Mario Bava

AKA Terror en el Espacio

Two interplanetary ships on an exploratory expedition into deepest, darkest, unchartedest space receive a distress signal from Aura, an unexplored and seemingly deserted planet. When the ships are pulled into its gravitational pull and crash land on the ominous surface, the surviving crew members gradually fall victim to the disembodied inhabitants of the world who begin to possess their minds when they sleep. They also possess the bodies of the dead and use the animated corpses to stalk and kill the remaining survivors in an attempt to get off the planet which is about to go postal...

Based on Renato Pestriniero's short story “One Night of 21 Hours”, Planet of the Vampires is a bit of a misnomer – the alien entities that possess the bodies and minds of the crew are more like ‘body-snatchers’ than blood-thirsty vampires. That’s by-the-by though; the title is as wonderfully kitsch, exploitative and lurid as the film itself. In short …

Behind the Scenes of Dario Argento’s Dracula 3D

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Dario Argento is currently ensconced in shooting his adaptation of Bram Stoker’s classic vampire novel, 'Dracula'. Filming began in Hungary (where Argento previously filmed Phantom of the Opera and produced Michele Soavi's The Church) in June and the film stars Rutger Hauer (as Van Helsing), Thomas Kretschmann (as Dracula), Marta Gastini (as Mina) and Asia Argento (as Lucy). A few on-set photos have found their way online courtesy of Asia Argento… 

According to Alan Jones’s on-set reports, filming has gone well thus far and the shoot has proved something of an Argento ‘family’ reunion. Working with the Maestro again are the likes of special effects artist Sergio Stivaletti (who has worked on the majority of Argento's films since Phenomena in 1985), cinematographer Luciano Tovoli (who also lensed Argento’s gothic masterpiece Suspiria and edgily reflexive giallo Tenebrae), production designer Massimo Antonello Geleng (The Stendhal Syndrome, Phantom of the Opera, Sleepl…

The Pack

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2010
Dir. Franck Richard

For several years now, some of the most extreme, controversial, sadistic and downright innovative contributions to horror cinema have been coming out of France. Kick started by Alex Aja’s influential Switchblade Romance/Haute Tension, other titles in this ‘new wave’ of French horror, or ‘New French Extremity’, have included the likes of Inside/À l'intérieur, Sheitan, Ils, Martyrs, Frontier(s), the Belgian film Calvaire and the work of Gaspar Noé. While The Pack may arguably pale slightly in comparison to the likes of these, it has more than its fair share of twists, turns, grotesquely violent imagery and socio-political subtext to ensure it remains a fascinating, if slightly flawed work.

Beginning as a somewhat typical, though no less tautly wound riff on the likes of The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, Wrong Turn and The Hills Have Eyes, an impetuous young city woman picks up a hitchhiker while driving through deepest, darkest France and winds up a captive of…

Kiss Before the Slaughter

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John Michael Elfers’ feature debut Finale untwisted as a stunningly shot love letter to the Golden Age of Italian horror cinema. The film focuses on a family torn apart by the death of the oldest son - who seemingly committed suicide. Helen, the boy’s mother, is convinced that her son was the victim of a bizarre satanic cult and her investigation not only threatens to tear her family apart, but also her own sanity. As she begins to descend into a dark world of paranoia, death and despair, where the line between nightmare and reality becomes increasingly fractured, she is stalked by a demonic, mirror-dwelling figure and the members of the mysterious cult who seem to have a strange connection with it…

As evidenced in such recent films as Amer, Julia’s Eyes and Andreas Marschall’s forthcoming Masks, the legacy of the Italian giallo movie continues to bleed into the work of contemporary filmmakers. Wearing its influences on its boldly blood-spattered sleeve, Finale drew on the supernatu…