Posts Tagged ‘giallo’

Who are you to kill my mom?

Dario Argento returns to the murderous nature of art and music in SLEEPLESS where a haunted musical instrument serial killer returns after years of silence. Max von Sydow shuffles through his scenes with an over-aged bumble. While excellently filling out the faulty memory of the retired inspector who first tracked the case, he has little to do and the pain of his affliction is inconsistently displayed. He remembers, then he doesn’t, its a flaw in the scripting more than anything else.

The Dwarf Killer is on the loose again, killing with cut out farm animals and using silly contrapasso means of dispatch. There are some fairly effective scenes of tension and gruesomeness, but the gore is fairly light. Plus the sheer meanness of the killer is not as pronounced. Which might have something to do with the fact that Asia Argento is played by  Chiara Caselli, in this one.

The lighting is not as richly artificial as other, more effectively disconcerting, Argento pictures. Nor are there many of the off-putting out of reality rooms or other spaces that establish so much of the nightmare dread. SLEEPLESS happens too much in the real world, which makes the problems with the plot and time line all the more glaring.  Still, the loose ends and red herrings aside, we have seen this solution a few other times in giallos, but it is a pretty good reveal in this one too.

Overall, I would recommend this a a fine giallo, but a mediocre Argento, easily skipped over.


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I just want to make love.

This is a filthy little movie. Part naked lady soft core Eurotrash porno and part inexplicable giallo. The movie really reveals in the Freudian “hysterics of overly sexed ladies.” In fact, its whole conceit is based on it.

The movie begins after naked Mararet Lee is wracked in sex spasms of sleep, watched by the creepy shadow killer. Clearly, she has problems! Then we are cut to a frantic car ride where a blonde woman suddenly loses control of herself and attempt to steer the car into a terrible crash. Wanting to kill her husband is understandable, according to the dialogue, but killing herself, this does not make any sense. Thus the necessity of her going to treatment at the titular Hotel! Her psychopathic desires manifest so quickly, as she attempts to smack a doctor with a two by four. Great stuff.

By the time we are introduced to the other patients at the asylum, it is obvious that all of them are going to spend a lot of the movie scantily clad. There is the nymphomaniac played by Rosalba Neri, there are the lesbians (a morose Jane Garet and her nursey massage lover Monica Strabel), the wealthy heiress kept against her will, and the brilliantly posed Klaus Kinski, as some sort of revolutionary psychologist.

His methods are strange. They involve cold showers, getting high, nightly cocktail parties, chain smoking, seducing the patients, and croquet. And a lot of nudity. Oh so much nudity.

There is a lesbian massage and bath scene which culminates in the silliest dance scene this side of THE WICKER MAN. There is a lot of rolling around on beds with suggestions of masturbation.  And there is at least one sex scene in a green house, no gardener can resist the nudity of Neri!

The killer sulking around is rather stupid and almost inept. His heavy breathing prefigures Jason and the giallo dark mask and black gloves are in full plumage. Though, I suppose, it is rather apparent why the killer chose this asylum to  undertake his spree, the whole place is rife with medieval weaponry – even a working iron maiden!  There is a cross bow through the neck, there are stabbings, beheadings, broad swords, hatchets, and scythes.

The ending feels tacked on, as if when the production realized they ordered too much ketchup for the catering, someone came up with a bloodbath rampage. The unmasked killer rampages through the nurses dorm stabbing and hacking at a group of poor ladies huddled in the corner. Silly and surprisingly out of place.

Ultimately, this is a great Kinski piece of acting. His whole persona is a slightly fey brush of his hair as he smokes and poses in every scene. Basically, collecting a paycheck for his name and his reputation as a bad guy to throw a red herring into the mix. Because, he is not the killer. Unfortunately.

My idea of psychotherapy!

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Not creepy at all.

I have to admit that it is very difficult to keep this movie straight from THE BLOOD STAINED SHADOW. The plots are strikingly similar – a priest is the killer, there is a cast of miscreants who are offed in very contrapaosso ways, and the main characters are kinda jerks.

WHO SAW HER DIE? is a mean little movie that leers, judgmentally, at a cast of sleazy characters in such a way that their desperation and loss is seen as unrepentant self-interest. The movie wanders around in a complex labyrinth of guilt, perverts, deviants, cheaters, fake priests, and child murderers.

The movie opens is a particularly nasty set piece of a child killed in the snowy woods after having wandered away from her nanny. The opening is powerful and frightening. The rest of the movie pales in the comparison. The gore is non-existent, the plot convoluted and filled with red herrings, and the reveal sturdily predictable.

George Lazenby (a one film James Bond) plays a sleazeball with tremendous relish. His daughter arrives for a visit from his estranged wife’s, he spends a good day entertaining her before leaving her to play outside while he makes it with his mistress. A mistress who could have easily complicated the plot in a very uncomfortable and interesting way after the murder, if she had not simply disappeared from the movie after the sex scene.

Instead, the movie veers off trying to up the emotional ante by having the estranged couple – Lazenby and Anita Strindberg! – reunite over the death of their child. Which is pretty boring, actually, even if the acting is pretty alright.

As Lazenby becomes more obsessed with unmasking the killer, he enters into the decadent and wild underbelly of upper crust Venice. There is a suspected pedophile, stabbed in his walk-in bird cage. There is a sexy secretary strangled in the cinema.   Not to mention the wharf chase scene, where the suspence is built upon misdirection and a lot of tomfoolery. Great stuff. Lado is a real director, mostly.

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A BLADE IN THE DARK is a silly take on the Psycho reveal. A pretty composer tries to unravel the mystery of some girl who shows up to use the pool, almost seduces him, disappears, but leaves behind a clue and an incomplete diary. He has a very hot but total loser aspiring actress girlfriend, who is really mean to him. There is a sweaty grounds keeper, complete with the girly centerfolds in his boiler squat. There are no police anywhere. And the whole affair smacks a bit of a trapped room nightmare plodding. So the story is thin and the murderer is pretty predictable, I mean we know what’s coming in the first 3rd of the movie.

But Lamberto delivers some jolts and, as he says in the commentary, a woman dies every thirty minutes. The movie was structured for episodic television broadcast, though I wonder how much of the jarring brutality would actually have made it on television.  The most brutal sequence is the bathroom attack. After being stabbed through the hand and illustrating why crucifixion nails were not typically hammered into the palm, a woman gets a plastic bag over her head as she is slammed against the bathroom sink. Its the blood on the teeth that made the scene so graphic. The fact that the movie kills off some of the characters it does manages to establish the only tension in the movie, no one is truly safe! Unfortunately, this tension is not established until the last reel.

But I am a BOY!

There is a great subtext in the movie as the composer is working on a horror film’s soundtrack in the movie. The movie begins with a sequence in which a group of little boys taunt and tease and generally peer pressure poor little Giovanni Frezza, the go to kid of the Italian horror industry, into descending into a creepy basement, alone. To prove his manliness. What emerges from the basement are some scary screams and a blood soaked tennis ball. The best fetish object ever introduced by a giallo, a genre rife with them. If the ending of the movie is not immediately apparent to you at this point, well, I guess…I dunno about you.

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Another straight forward Fulci masterpiece. And by masterpiece, I actually just mean competently plotted, interestingly locations and not horribly dubbed.

Without spoiling the highly predictable plot, this is a silly story of a rich lady who thinks she can see into the past, but can really see into the future. Her future…bum bum baaaaaa.

Having said that, there is not really much suspense. But the movie tries. As the plot reveals the various aspects of O’Neill’s trance like vision, the audience is meant to react in horror and interest. But it is very difficult to care about where the crime is going since there is no real mystery here.

And the cast of colorful characters are not as flamboyant as other gaillis – there is the ditzy secretary who’s brilliant research solves many of the movie’s potential holes, for instance, she just happens to have tracked down all the cab drivers who where driving a yellow cab 8 years ago. Okay, good job. There is O’Neill’s sister-in-law who has some new outrageous courture get-up in each scene. There are the bumbling cops, a lot of suspicious looking red herrings, and basically a whole lot of filler. Then there is the paranormal therapist, who might have been in love with O’Neill’s character, or something.

There is a hilarious chase scene and very light gore, which is surprising for a Fulci. There is only the mommy-off-the-cliff suicide that opens the movie, supposedly establishing the “psychic” ability of the title. And the smooshed head of the old lady. Oh yeah, and that other guy falls down. No eye popping. No skin failure. No streams of goopy blood.

This boils down to another retelling of Tell-Tale Heart. But at least, Jennifer O’Neill gets to wear some great outfits.

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Franco Nero is best when he is playing losers or loners bent upon their own destruction. Part of this is that directors seem to have a sadistic urge to torture the pretty boy actor, bloodying his face or casting him as unsympathetic heroes who’s downfall is just as enjoyable to watch as his, ultimate, successes. Fifth Cord is no exception. Nero plays the loser alcoholic newspaper man implicated in a twisted set of murders.

He’s got an icy relationship with his baby mamma, he has a fleshy mistress with a sexy swinging causality, and a blistering headache from a bender that never seems to let up. The best part of the movie is the fact that Nero’s hangover is a relatable character.

The worst part of the flick is the pacing. Months are passing between murders, a fact that is central to the stupid Zodiac excuse for a motive, but a fact that is never communicated to the audience. What I thought was happening over the course of a few days, maybe a week, might have been due to the inattention I sometimes give the movies I am watching; or more likely is the fault of the movie’s plot which suddenly needed to be resolved at some point.

The murders are fairly tamWho's there?e by giallo standards. There is another bathtub drowning – this one mainly an excuse for nudity, there is a prostitute throat cut, and a heart attack. The center piece of the movie is Rosella Frank’s very creepy murder. The bedridden Doctor’s wife crawls along the floor, toward objects of potential rescue (phone, wheelchair) that suddenly disappear as the killer mocks and plays with her before she is strangled and dumped over the railing onto the stairs that mocked her effective getaway.

Aside from that scene, which is effectively staged, creepily shot, and soundtracked to increase the suspense and frustration, the only other truly interesting aspect of this fun little piece of trash is the Nietzsche-inspired voice over of the Gemini Killer. Its particularly nasty monologue about power and killing and the power of killing. You know standard stuff that should have ended up sampled by some hardcore band in the 1990s.

Pretty par for the course – womanizing hero solves the crime the cops can’t get their heads around because the killer is a sexual deviant jerk.

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Great hair cut.

Let’s just get this out of the way, the priest did it. With his steely blue eyes and Grand Moff Tarkin smirk, he gives himself away the first time he saunters on screen, thanks to Craig Hill’s stiff performance.

Well, he at least did some of it. There are multiple murderers, a whole complicated black mail plot for motive. Based around the machinations of a scheming medium who uses her seances to uncover the small village sins for her own gain.

This is a slow moving romantic mystery giallo, as Stefano and Sandra fall in love, they are compelled to try to get to the bottom of the murders.

Why? Because Stefano is plagued with neurological damage from a repressed memory of watching his brother strangle a school girl so many years ago. And Sandra’s mother is one of the victims. Or something.

Still this flick manages to sneak in some real freaky degenerates – the queer piano teacher who is molesting the little lord fauntleroys of the village, the electroshock damaged manboy kept in the attic of the abortionist’s house, not to mention the murderous priest who stuffs an old lady into the fireplace face first!

There is a great boat chase scene, where the good doctor is escaping  his attacker by hanging on to the side of a passing boat, only to be run down by the killer’s own speeding boat.

And the scene where the buff Christ on the Cross jumps from the wall to attack the priest in a failed attempt to silence him. Seriously that was one heck of a statue.

The only other notable thing about this, otherwise, unremarkable giallo is that Lino Capolicchio looks strikingly similar to Mark E. Smith of THE FALL. It was distracting.



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