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: 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: 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: The Church, aka La Chiesa

After the success of Demons 2, director Lamberto Bava and producer Dario Argento had begun to collaborate on another project. But, while Bava wanted to do another entry in the Demons series, Argento did not, leading to Bava saying his farewells and Argento bringing in Michele Soavi, who had directed the second unit on a number of Argento’s films. A screenplay for the film passed through no less than eight hands, including Soavi’s. The location changed from a plane to a volcanic island and, finally, to a Gothic cathedral in the heart of a modern European city. Thus, we have The Church, from 1989. Continue readingLo spettacolo dell'orrore italiano: The Church, aka La Chiesa”

October Horrorshow: Video Demons Do Psychotown, aka Bloodbath in Psycho Town

Video Demons do Psychotown movie posterWhat a pair of titles. Video Demons Do Psychotown and Bloodbath in Psycho Town. Both are great titles for a sleazy drive-in horror flick featuring the three ‘B’s’ — Blood, Breasts, and Beasts. Well, there are two of those, which doesn’t make this flick a total bust, but viewers have been subjected to that all-too common feature of shitty filmmaking: the misleading title. Titles like that above promise something extreme, something visceral, something that satisfies the basest desires of the depraved horror movie fan. But, in truth, this flick is just cheap.

Distributed by Troma, mass purveyors of trash cinema, Video Demons comes to us via writer/director Alessandro De Gaetano.

Released in 1989, Video Demons follows student filmmakers Eric and Karen (Ron Arragon and Donna Baltron) as they set off into rural Indiana to make a documentary movie about a town full of psychics, hence the ‘Psychotown’[sic] of the title. Continue readingOctober Horrorshow: Video Demons Do Psychotown, aka Bloodbath in Psycho Town”

Lo spettacolo dell'orrore italiano: Baron Blood, aka After Elizabeth Died, aka Gli orrori del castello di Norimberga

Baron Blood, Mario Bava’s 1972 film, a joint Italian-German production, was a success, making money in both the domestic and international markets. It seemed to tick off all the audiences’ boxes for what gothic horror should be. A castle, a baron, a mysterious legend, some bodies, and a bombshell female lead. Nothing about it feels original, though. Mario Bava is one of the giants hovering over horror films, but the internet seems to agree with my reaction to Baron Blood, ranking it as one of Bava’s more pedestrian efforts. That doesn’t mean it’s a bad film. It isn’t. It just fails to leave a lasting impression.

The film follows Antonio Cantafora as Peter Kleist, the son of Austrian immigrants who has returned to the old country to explore his family’s past before returning to his studies. He is staying with his uncle, Dr. Karl Hummel (Massimo Girotti), who teaches at a local university. Continue readingLo spettacolo dell'orrore italiano: Baron Blood, aka After Elizabeth Died, aka Gli orrori del castello di Norimberga”

October Horrorshow: The She Beast

Young director Michael Reeves only had three directing credits to his name before he overdosed on booze and pills. His final feature, Witchfinder General, aka The Conqueror Worm, is a true classic, gracing many ‘best of’ lists on the internet. A couple of years before, Reeves cut his teeth on Italian/British production The She Beast, which he also co-wrote with F. Amos Powell, longtime Hollywood TV actor Mel Welles, and b-movie legend Charles B. Griffith, all uncredited. Welles also has a substantial role as a sleazy innkeeper.

The She Beast tells the story of a small town in Transylvania that had been plagued by a demon known as Vardella, or Bardella, depending on the source (Joe ‘Flash’ Riley in a lot of makeup). She would kidnap locals and feed on them. One day the townsfolk had enough, tracked Vardella to her layer, strapped her to a ducking stool and drowned her in a local lake. The locals had been warned that this was only a temporary solution without a true exorcism, but their blood was up and they weren’t listening. Continue readingOctober Horrorshow: The She Beast”

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”

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”

October Horrorshow: Night of the Beast, aka Lukas’ Child

Night of the Beast, aka Lukas' Child movie posterNight of the Beast, titled Lukas’ Child in some releases, has no business being as watchable as it is. Conceived by producer and star Robert Alden May, Night of the Beast has little in the way of production value, no gore, and only a few drops of blood. But, what it does have is a monster, and lots of breasts.

Written and directed by Troma stable member Eric Louzil, Beast follows May as Lukas Armand, an aging former freakshow owner from Florida who has moved to Hollywood and founded a devil-worshiping cult.

The cult, under Lukas’s direction, has lured every would-be buxom actress in Hollywood through its doors under the promise of a role in a horror movie. But, it’s a trick. Lukas really needs these young ladies to feed his insatiable son — a demonic, leather-winged monstrosity (played by John Theilade in a rubber suit). Is the son really deformed, or is he an actual demon? The script is never clear on that, but Lukas is capable of some supernatural shenanigans, so the cult is legit. Continue readingOctober Horrorshow: Night of the Beast, aka Lukas’ Child”