Lo spettacolo dell'orrore italiano: Paganini Horror

Happy Halloween, folks. We come to the end of another glorious month of blood, gore, supernatural threats, silly plots, and fun. Early on in preparation for The Italian Horrorshow, I was focused on the big names and the big titles from Europe’s boot. But, it didn’t take long to regress to the mean. This site’s bread and butter is bad cinema, and the final film of the Horrorshow reflects that. Oh, boy, does it.

From writer/director Luigi Cozzi comes Paganini Horror, a story about a pop band that gets more than they bargained for when they use a previously unknown composition by famed violinist and composer Niccolò Paganini as the basis for their new song. Continue readingLo spettacolo dell'orrore italiano: Paganini Horror”

Lo spettacolo dell'orrore italiano: Metamorphosis (1990), aka Regenerator, aka DNA formula letale

George Eastman, aka Luigi Montefiori, is one of the legends of Shitty Movie Sundays. His long career as an actor and writer spanned six decades before he hung them up in 2010. He’s worked with some of the giants of Italian cinema, including Mario Bava and Lina Wertmüller. He had a long professional collaboration with schlock director Joe D’Amato. He’s acted in, and written, spaghetti westerns, crime flicks, giallo, horror, post-apocalyptic sci-fi, and smut (although I don’t think he’s ever taken his pants off in one — I could be wrong). His face has been a constant presence in the types of movies featured in Shitty Movie Sundays, but he only has one solo directing credit in his oeuvre — Metamorphosis, from 1990. Continue readingLo spettacolo dell'orrore italiano: Metamorphosis (1990), aka Regenerator, aka DNA formula letale”

Lo spettacolo dell'orrore italiano: Witchery, aka La Casa 4 – Witchcraft, aka Witchcraft (Evil Encounters)

More Italian title trickery! Upon release in Italy, this morning’s film was titled La Casa 4 – Witchcraft, a sequel in name only to La Casa 3 – Ghosthouse. It’s an unfortunately common thing overseas, not just in Italy, for movies to be marketed as a sequel to an unrelated film. Most of the time, we don’t have to deal with that shit here in the States, so we were given the simple title Witchery, although the print I saw used the title for the film’s release in Australia, Witchcraft (Evil Encounters). How silly the business of movies can be.

The good news is, Witchery stars Linda Blair and David Hasselhoff. I’ll repeat that. Linda Blair, adorable teen star of The Exorcist turned prolific b-movie actress, and The Hoff. Continue readingLo spettacolo dell'orrore italiano: Witchery, aka La Casa 4 – Witchcraft, aka Witchcraft (Evil Encounters)”

Lo spettacolo dell'orrore italiano: Body Count (1986), aka Camping del terrore

This is the third film from director Ruggero Deodato to be featured in the Italian Horrorshow, after the unforgettable pair of Cannibal Holocaust and Jungle Holocaust. Both of those films were impressive in their storytelling and shocking visuals. Deodato must have had enough of cannibals after that, and instead turned his talents to an American-style slasher/cabin in the woods flick.

Written by many people, including Italian cinema stalwarts Sheila Goldberg and Dardano Sacchetti, Body Count tells the story of two groups of youths that are brought together by chance, to be chased around a derelict campground by a masked killer. Anyone with even a passing familiarity with horror flicks will have seen this plot, or something damned close, once or twice. This being the fifteenth year of the Horrorshow, on top of a lifetime of watching horror flicks, I figured there would be nothing all that special about this flick. Continue readingLo spettacolo dell'orrore italiano: Body Count (1986), aka Camping del terrore”

Lo spettacolo dell'orrore italiano: Aenigma

From Lucio Fulci’s latter days as a filmmaker comes Aenigma, an Argento-like revenge flick set at a women’s college in Boston, although principal photography took place in Sarajevo.

Written with Giorgio Mariuzzo, Aenigma takes the basic plot elements of a ‘prank gone wrong’ horror flick, combines it with a bare bones setting and bare bones surrealism, and spits out a movie with a superfluous main character, and a purposeful avoidance of exploitation.

At St. Mary’s College in Boston, Kathy (Milijana Zirojevic), daughter of the school’s cleaning lady, Mary (Dusica Zegarac), is being prepped for a big date by her roommate, Kim (Sophie d’Aulan), and her boyfriend, Tom (Dragan Bjelogrlic). They go through the usual 1980’s teen outfit montage trope, before Kathy is finally dolled up and ready to meet her date, the college’s athletics instructor, Fred (Riccardo Acerbi). But, all is not well. The girls at the school despise Kathy’s humble origins, and the date is a cruel prank, set up just so all the girls can gather and laugh at Kathy’s presumption that a hunk like Fred would actually like her. Kathy flees from her tormentors into the path of a truck, and is left in a coma at the hospital. Continue readingLo spettacolo dell'orrore italiano: Aenigma”

Lo spettacolo dell'orrore italiano: Deep Blood, aka Sangue negli abissi

Deep Blood movie posterAccording to the internet, so it must be true, Raffaele Donato, whose work in film had been very limited, decided one day that he would like to direct a movie. As it happened, Joe D’Amato was looking for someone to helm a cheap sharksploitation flick, the only requirement being fluency in English. Donato leapt at the chance, but after filming a single scene, decided life in the director’s chair was not for him. No worries, as the prolific D’Amato was ready to step in and finish beating this dog of a movie to within an inch of its life.

The result was Deep Blood, a Jaws ripoff whose greatest danger to characters was stock footage.

From a screenplay by George Nelson Ott (possibly an alias for D’Amato, as this is his only credit on IMDb), Deep Blood tells the tale of an oceanside community terrorized by a killer great white shark.

The first we see of the shark is rank, amateurish, manipulative filmmaking. A mother, her son, and their tiny dog visit the beach for a dip in the ocean. We know one of these three is going to get eaten. Which is it to be? The shot switches to and fro. It’s not frantic, but it’s meant to keep the audience guessing. Will this movie kill a child? A mother? It surely won’t kill the dog, as, in the hierarchy of film murder, dogs elicit the most groans. It kills the mom, and the plot, what there is of it, is off and running.

Four local, college-aged youths with uninteresting backstories are reuniting in town for vacation, and the shark attack has upended things. When one of them, John (John K. Brune), is eaten in a cloud of blood and no gore, Miki (Frank Baroni), leads the effort to exact revenge on the creature. A whole bunch of character drama is placed in his way. The sheriff (could be Tony Bernard, could be Tom Bernard, could be Tody Bernard — the credits are unclear) doesn’t believe him. The responsible adults in town join in the sheriff’s skepticism. Yet, Miki perseveres against authority and town bullies alike to get us to denouement. Continue readingLo spettacolo dell'orrore italiano: Deep Blood, aka Sangue negli abissi”

Lo spettacolo dell'orrore italiano: Lisa and the Devil

Lisa and the Devil movie posterLisa and the Devil, the 1973 film from Italian auteur Mario Bava, has become one of his more renowned films in the last couple of decades. I first saw it around twenty years ago with a roommate who was watching it for her film class at NYU. Upon release, though, it was a butchered product, with a framing story shot and added after Bava delivered his cut. Of this film, which had been released under the title of La Casa dell’esorcismo (House of Exorcism), Bava said, “La casa dell’esorcismo is not my film, even though it bears my signature. It is the same situation, too long to explain, of a cuckolded father who finds himself with a child that is not his own, and with his name, and cannot do anything about it.”

That’s some pretty strong language. But, he wasn’t referring to the film that was eventually released as Lisa and the Devil. He was referring to a cobbled-together mess insisted upon by the film’s producer, Alfredo Leone, who wanted a whole bunch of exorcism-related material added to an already completed film in order to cash in on William Friedkin’s Exorcist. This year’s Horrorshow is not concerned with that movie.

Lisa and the Devil follows Elke Sommer as Lisa, a tourist who gets lost in the wandering, narrow streets of old Toledo, Spain. She hitches a ride from a rich, married couple, Francis and Sohpia Lehar (Eduardo Fajardo and Sylva Koscina), and their chauffeur, George (Gabriele Tinti). The Lehar’s old limo breaks down in front of a villa, and they are invited in by the Countess (Alida Valli) and her son, Max (Alessio Orano). In a bit of stunt casting, the Countess’s butler, Leandro, is played by Telly Savalas. Continue readingLo spettacolo dell'orrore italiano: Lisa and the Devil”

Lo spettacolo dell'orrore italiano: StageFright (1987), aka Deliria

Ferrari (Piero Vida) is producing, and Peter (David Brandon) is directing the most low-rent and desperate dance theater production ever to hit off-off-off-off-off-Broadway. It’s the story of an owl-headed serial killer who preys in the slums, raping hookers and Cinderalla alike, while Marilyn Monroe serenades the scene with a saxophone from above.

Such is the setting for George Eastman and Sheila Goldberg’s (writers) and Michele Soavi’s (directing his first feature) film StageFright. The film is a classic slasher, featuring a limited cast in an isolated environment, who are chopped to bits at regular intervals, before the whole thing is wrapped up in a bow at the end. There’s not much to set this film apart from the many, many slashers that populate the horror genre. The good news for viewers is that StageFright is a good film, with a swift pace, plentiful gore, believable characters, and a setting that works. Little foibles of Italian cinema show up here and there, mostly involving the motivations of the bad guy and the unlikely coincidence that introduces said bad guy to the plot, but, whatever. This is a fun flick. Continue readingLo spettacolo dell'orrore italiano: StageFright (1987), aka Deliria”

Lo spettacolo dell'orrore italiano: The Wax Mask, aka M.D.C. – Maschera di cera

According to the internet, so it must be true, after Dario Argento saw that Italian film auteur Lucio Fulci was in ill-health in the mid 1990s, he decided to throw him a project. Argento and Fulci didn’t get along that well, however, so pre-production stretched on longer than it should have. Then Fulci died, and the project was passed to first-time director Sergio Stivaletti, who had been an established special effects tech for over a decade. The result was The Wax Mask, which was different enough from 1953’s House of Wax to keep Argento and the other producers from being sued.

The film opens on a grisly murder scene in Paris in the year 1900. A man and his wife have been cut to ribbons, with their young daughter a survivor and witness to the brutal crime. Fast forward to Rome a dozen years later and the girl has grown into a woman. Sonia Lafont (Romina Mondello) has arrived in Rome to seek a career as a costume designer. She gets a job at a soon to be opened wax museum run by the mysterious Boris Volkoff (Robert Hossein), who becomes enamored with Sonia at first sight. Continue readingLo spettacolo dell'orrore italiano: The Wax Mask, aka M.D.C. – Maschera di cera”

Lo spettacolo dell'orrore italiano: Eaten Alive! (1980), aka Mangiati vivi!, aka Doomed to Die

Oh, look, more cannibals! And rape. Lots of rape.

From 1980, writer/director Umberto Lenzi’s initial foray into the cannibal subgenre of horror might be the most exploitative of the bunch. It has everything that I’ve become familiar with during this year’s Horrorshow. There is cannibalism, of course, Stone Age tribalism, an impenetrable jungle, caucasians getting more than they bargained for, nudity, brutal depictions of violence, real animal slaughter, and rape. This flick is a little lazier than the others, as it lifts footage from earlier cannibal flicks for extra punch during gore scenes. Shame on any movie that can’t do all its heavy lifting on its own. Continue readingLo spettacolo dell'orrore italiano: Eaten Alive! (1980), aka Mangiati vivi!, aka Doomed to Die”