Sometimes, one can tell the objective quality of an Italian horror flick by looking at its title upon release in the old country. Night Killer, from 1990, is a case in point. It was released in Italy with the title Non aprite quella porta 3, which translates as Do Not Open That Door 3, implying that this is the third in a series. The first film to use Do Not Open That Door in Italian theaters was The Texas Chain Saw Massacre. Night Killer is not related to Tobe Hooper’s classic in any way, but producer Franco Gaudenzi hitched his wagon to Hooper’s regardless. If there is one thing I’ve learned from watching all these Italian horror flicks for the Horrorshow, it’s that trademark law must be different in Rome.
Written by Claudio Fragasso with an uncredited assist by Rossella Drudi, Night Killer is one of the more scatterbrained, nonsensical, and poorly acted horror flicks many viewers will come across. The quality of the acting I can lay at the feet of Fragasso, who also directed. When every performance, from leads to those with single lines of dialogue, is either over-the-top or feels like a first take, that’s the director’s fault. The storytelling foibles of this flick I can blame on Gaudenzi, who took Fragasso’s psychological horror flick and had Bruno Mattei add a bunch of gory kills in reshoots. These kill scenes are scattered throughout the film like disruptive guerilla attacks on the film’s pacing, doing little more than making things confusing for the viewer. As gore shots, they aren’t that convincing, either.
Tara Buckman stars as Melanie Beck, a writer living in Virginia Beach. After surviving a brutal attack at the hands of the film’s masked serial killer, she suffers from a bout of amnesia. After she is released from the hospital she comes under the control of Axel (Peter Hooten), a sadist who locks Melanie in his hotel room and turns her into his sex slave. What an awful run of events for Melanie. Axel, as shown in the film, may or may not be the masked killer terrorizing the seaside city.
The scenes Buckman and Hooten share together are a chore to get through. Buckman’s character is emotionally distraught, which is understandable, yet there is a lot of Acting, with a capital ‘A.’ Hooten, for his part, adopted a strange cadence to his role that slots it, strangely, into the uncanny valley. This is either a sublime expression of sociopathy, or just poor acting. Readers will know which way I’m leaning. Picture a low-rent Paul Newman trying to hide a stutter.
The comings and goings of the characters, interspersed with Mattei’s gore shots, fail to string together into any convincing narrative. I wouldn’t say there were plot holes. Rather, no one in charge seemed to care about continuity. No one seemed to care about anything, for that matter, as the film, despite having a large speaking cast, only lists seven performers in the credits.
Everything about this film seems lazy and thrown together at the last minute. Both Fragasso and Mattei, no Lina Wertmüllers when it comes to filmmaking, were still better than this crap. Every scene makes one scratch one’s head, or exclaim out loud, “What were they thinking?!” There is no in-between. The film then wraps up with a final twist that, in real life, would have gotten everyone involved thrown in jail.
Night Killer, no matter the title, is a dirty dog of a horror flick. For shitty movie fans, it’s like watching a 93-minute long train wreck, and being helpless to stop it. Then again, would we mutants really want to?
Night Killer falls into the bottom half of the Watchability Index, displacing Psycho Pike at #340.