Lo spettacolo dell'orrore italiano: Deep Red, aka Profondo rosso

One guarantee for viewers of a Dario Argento film is a gorgeous experience. Argento is a master of the visual, with an artist’s sense of palette and a designer’s sense of space. His films take the ordinary streets of urban Italy, or wherever he has chosen to shoot, and turn them almost surreal, or liminal. The characters that occupy these worlds never seem to notice how uncanny their surroundings are. In Deep Red, Argento, along with cinematographer Luigi Kuveiller, takes the bustling city of Turin and turns it into a lonely, cavernous place seemingly built by giants, and now occupied sparsely by their diminutive descendants. Interior spaces are crowded not with people, but art, and none of it is remarkable to anyone who floats through these spaces. To them, the world might as well consist of blank walls. Everything shown on screen is not for them. It’s for us. Continue readingLo spettacolo dell'orrore italiano: Deep Red, aka Profondo rosso”

October Horrorshow: Feeders

The Polonia Brothers continue to impress, and not always in a good way. Their 1996 movie, Feeders, which they directed with Jon McBride, is a case in point. Shot over the course of a few days in 1994, the production came eight years and five movies after Hallucinations, yet one would be hard-pressed to point out where they have grown as filmmakers.

In plot, they have regressed. In their ability to direct acting talent, they have regressed. Worst of all, in special effects, they have regressed. Continue readingOctober Horrorshow: Feeders”

Lo spettacolo dell'orrore italiano: Demons 2, aka Dèmoni 2… l’incubo ritorna

Could lightning strike in the same place twice? Lamberto Bava and Dario Argento must have thought so. It only took them a few months after the release of Demons to start work on a sequel, hoping to mirror the success of the first film. How did they plan on doing so? By remaking the first film.

Released just a year after Demons, in 1986, Demons 2 sees the return of Lamberto Bava in the director’s chair, working from a screenplay credited to Argento, Franco Ferrini, Dardano Sacchetti, and Bava, himself. The previous film had set up a sequel at the end, where the demon-possessed zombies of the first film escaped the doomed theater and spread across the city of Berlin, and it is implied that civilization itself is collapsing. Bava and company decided not to build on this. Instead, Demons 2 takes place in an apartment building in Hamburg. The events of the first film are alluded to, but that’s about it. Continue readingLo spettacolo dell'orrore italiano: Demons 2, aka Dèmoni 2... l’incubo ritorna”

October Horrorshow: Evil Dead Trap, aka Shiryô no wana

This year’s Horrorshow theme is Italian horror flicks, and by coincidence, today’s non-themed movie happens to be a Japanese film that does all it can to resemble an Italian horror flick…and just about every big-time horror flick one can think of. It’s a good thing it does it well.

From 1988 comes Evil Dead Trap, directed by Toshiharu Ikeda from a screenplay by Takashi Ishii, both of whom had made their bones in adult movies. The film follows television presenter Nami Tsuchiya (Miyuki Ono) and her small crew as they investigate the origins of a snuff video that was sent to their office. Clues in the video lead the group to what looks like an abandoned military facility. After digging into some clues on my own, specifically some faded signage, it looks like Ikeda and company filmed the movie at Camp Drake, a location once used by the United States Air Force’s 1956th Information Systems Group, out of Yokota Air Base west of Tokyo. How’s that for some Google-fu? Continue readingOctober Horrorshow: Evil Dead Trap, aka Shiryô no wana”

Lo spettacolo dell'orrore italiano: Demons, aka Dèmoni

I praised Lucio Fulci for his storytelling in Manhattan Baby. But, truth be told, I wouldn’t mind it at all if every film I watched for The Italian Horrorshow were as wild and unhinged as Lamberto Bava’s Demons, from 1985. Bava proved with his film that it isn’t necessary to have a complex, or even coherent, plot for a horror flick to be a success. In fact, this jumble of sensory overload is one of the most enjoyable films I’ve seen from one of horror’s golden ages. Continue readingLo spettacolo dell'orrore italiano: Demons, aka Dèmoni”

Lo spettacolo dell'orrore italiano: Manhattan Baby, aka Eye of the Evil Dead

According to the internet, so it must be true, director Lucio Fulci did not  like the title of Manhattan Baby, his second feature released in 1982. He preferred the title ‘Evil Eye.’ He had a point. ‘Manhattan Baby’ makes it sound like this movie is just a ripoff of Rosemary’s Baby, and it is not. If there is any horror movie this flick cribs from, it’s The Exorcist. 

Manhattan Baby stars Christopher Connelly as George Hacker, a professor of Egyptology. In an introduction featuring some beautiful location work in Egypt, Hacker is shown heading an archeological dig. A tomb is uncovered, and while Hacker is exploring it, he falls through a trapdoor into another chamber. There, a strange symbol carved into the wall, with a glowing jewel in its center, shoots blue lasers into his eyes, blinding him. Meanwhile, Hacker’s daughter, Susie (Brigitta Boccoli), and wife, Emily (Laura Lenzi), are nearby, having accompanied George for a vacation. At the same time George is being blinded, an old woman with clouded eyes is giving Susie a medallion just like the mysterious symbol George found in the tomb in miniature. Soon after George crawls forth from the tomb and collapses into the desert sand. That’s some setup. Continue readingLo spettacolo dell'orrore italiano: Manhattan Baby, aka Eye of the Evil Dead”

Shitty Movie Sundays: Deadman Apocalypse

What can one say about a movie that made £25,000 at the box office? That it was a blockbuster, that’s what!

Deadman Apocalypse, the first feature from writer, director, and producer Charlie Steeds, was made on the stringiest of shoestring budgets, only putting a £1,500 dent in Steeds’ bank account. That means Deadman Apocalypse made almost seventeen times its budget. Big Hollywood studios would kill, and have, for that kind of return on investment.

Of course, I’m being facetious. Box office returns are not the best measure of a film’s success. It’s the content of the film that counts. As for this film’s content? Well… Continue readingShitty Movie Sundays: Deadman Apocalypse”

Shitty Movie Sundays: Endgame (1983)

According to the internet, so it must be true, Endgame, from writer (alongside Aldo Florio), director, and producer Joe D’Amato, was the favorite of all the films he made. Endgame was just one of seven productions in 1983 in which he received a director credit, and his IMDb page lists 199, most of those smut. The man was prolific. And when he looked back upon his extensive oeuvre, Endgame, a mashup of post-apocalyptic sci-fi tropes, was the movie that made him smile the widest. Well, okay then.

It’s the future! 2025! Sometime in the ’80s or ’90s, nuclear war devastated the planet. Now, civilization is being rebuilt. A new fascist regime has arisen, ruling the rubble with an iron fist, and exterminating mutants that have been born due to all the radioactive fallout from the nukes. These aren’t ghastly creatures with extra limbs or Marvel-type superpowers. These are just regular folks, whose mutation makes them psychic. They are the next step of human evolution. There is also an unfortunate class of mutants who are devolving into lower forms of life, but the hell with them. The good guys dislike them as much as the fascists do. Continue readingShitty Movie Sundays: Endgame (1983)”

Shitty Movie Sundays: Agent Red, or, Die Hard on a Submarine

According to the internet, so it must be true, Agent Red had an initial shoot of two weeks. Director Damian Lee’s assembly cut was rejected by the producers. One of the producers, prolific shitty movie filmmaker Jim Wynorski, then reshot about forty minutes of the movie in three days. That incredible effort still wasn’t enough to finish the film, so it was then stuffed with footage cut from other movies, including ’90s blockbusters Blown Away and Crimson Tide. I’m pretty sure there’s a sequence from Red Dawn in there, as well. Usually, when such extreme measures are taken to rescue a failed film, the result is an unwatchable mess. This dog actually remains coherent. Amazing. Continue readingShitty Movie Sundays: Agent Red, or, Die Hard on a Submarine”

Empty Balcony: The French Sex Murders, aka Casa d’appuntamento

The French Sex Murders, the giallo from director Ferdinando Merighi, opens with a foot chase up the steps of the Eiffel Tower. Plainclothes police are chasing a fleeing suspect, who then leaps to his death, his identity hidden from the viewer. A detective, Inspector Fontaine (Robert Sacchi), peers over the railing, and reminisces about how this case, now closed, began on the first night of Carnival.

Antoine Gottvalles (Peter Martell) is an unsavory sort. He’s shifty and nervous, and has sticky fingers, stealing jewels and gold from a church. He celebrates his ill-gotten gains by visiting a house of ill-repute, run by Madame Colette (Anita Ekberg). Gottvalles made the mistake of falling in love with one of the girls, Francine (Barbara Bouchet), who, in turn, made the mistake of returning, and then spurning, said love. Enraged, Gottvalles slaps Francine around, and the next audiences see of him, he is leaving the house in a hurry. Soon after, a writer, Randall (Renato Romano), discovers Francine’s body, bludgeoned to death with a table lamp. Continue readingEmpty Balcony: The French Sex Murders, aka Casa d’appuntamento”