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”

October Horrorshow: The Alligator People

If one ever wanted to know what would happen if a cheesy 1950’s monster flick had a respectable budget, this is it. The Alligator People is an obscure film that, if one were to judge by its well-worn theatrical trailers, was shot in 4:3 aspect ratio with cheap film stock and lenses. Nope, it’s right there at the end of the trailer in the title card. This sucker was shot in glorious 2.35:1 CinemaScope. Academy award-winning director of photography Karl Struss, who was getting set to wrap up his long career in Hollywood, made sure everything looked great. It was way more than this movie deserved.

Directed by Roy Del Ruth from a screenplay by Orville H. Hampton, The Alligator People tells the desperate story of Joyce Webster (Beverly Garland). Told in flashback in a totally unnecessary framing story (but useful to get this flick to 74 minutes in length), Joyce relates how, while traveling on honeymoon, her husband receives a mysterious wire while their train passes through the bayous of Louisiana. Her husband, Paul (Richard Crane), hops off the train at a lonely station in the middle of nowhere, leaving Joyce frantic as the train leaves the station. Continue readingOctober Horrorshow: The Alligator People”

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”

October Horrorshow: Severance (2006)

A horror comedy would seem to be a contradiction in terms. However, horror fans aren’t watching horror because they like death. Well, most of us, anyway. Horror fans look for the same things from film as everyone else. Escapism. Specifically, the ability to experience places, people, and stories that we otherwise would not. Films evoke emotion, but do so in a way that exists outside of everyday life. Combining genres, especially in contradictory fashion, creates a delicacy of mixed emotions that we could never experience otherwise. In what other place than film could one experience the wonderful flavor profile of a humorous decapitation? Continue readingOctober Horrorshow: Severance (2006)”

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”

October Horrorshow: I Saw the Devil, aka Ang-ma-reul bo-at-da

Receiving much praise from both professional and amateur critics, and moviegoers alike, I Saw the Devil, the 2010 movie from Jee-woon Kim, performs very well on aggregator sites like Rotten Tomatoes and IMDb. The general consensus is that Kim is a very talented filmmaker, skilled in storytelling and photography. With I Saw the Devil, he crafted a disturbing look into a nightmare world of revenge and horror, powerfully emotional, and unrelenting in its depiction of violence. In general, when both critics and audiences are in alignment like this, there’s nothing more to say. I’m going to zag a bit, though.

It’s going to be hard for regular readers of the Horrorshow to believe this, but I think the violence in I Saw the Devil overwhelms the movie. I’ve written often that a certain horror movie could use more gore. That’s because I enjoy the fiction of fun house violence. Truly agonizing depictions of violence work well in something like Hereditary or Irréversible, where the suddenness of it complements the themes of the film, and it’s used in limited capacity, increasing its effect. But if a movie is going to be wall to wall blood and grievous bodily injury, I prefer it to be tempered by being outrageous and/or silly. Continue readingOctober Horrorshow: I Saw the Devil, aka Ang-ma-reul bo-at-da”

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”

October Horrorshow: Mindkiller

Before Michael Krueger horrified viewers by writing the execrable Amityville Curse, he wrote (with Dave Sipos and Curtis Hannum) and directed a shitty shot-on-video horror flick called Mindkiller. In the vein of a David Cronenberg film, Mindkiller follows a protagonist whose forays into psychoscience lead to a strange lovelife, followed by horrific consequences.

Warren (Joe McDonald) has a problem. He can’t get laid. He’s a thirty something with a dead end job in the basement of a library, doomed to spending his days filing meaningless reports, and his nights watching in envy as his roommate, Brad (Kevin Hart, not that one), hooks up with every hottie in sight. It’s all a personality problem. Warren is deathly shy and when he does work up the courage to talk to a woman, nothing but gibberish comes out. It’s a tale as old as flirting. Continue readingOctober Horrorshow: Mindkiller”

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”

October Horrorshow: Scared to Death (1980)

This is the fourth evening in a row that the Horrorshow has featured a low-budget monster flick from the 1980s. I don’t know if this is a burden or a blessing upon you, dear readership. What I do know is that the combined budgets of these past four films, each adjusted for inflation, are less than the cost of a median home in the most prosperous counties of California. I’m not joking. Some quick calculating puts the total cost of these four films — Rana: The Legend of Shadow Lake, Creepozoids, Inseminoid, and Scared to Death — at roughly $1.3 million. That means that, should one wish to make four b-movies, it would be cheaper to do so than purchase a single median-priced home in Marin, San Francisco, or San Mateo counties. Trust me, I got my data on the internet. Continue readingOctober Horrorshow: Scared to Death (1980)”