#TBT: The “Happy Birthday, Dario Argento” Edition

Happy Birthday to that maestro of Italian ho-rror, Dario Argento!

From his very first picture back in 1970, Signor Argento has been haunting our collective nightmares with some of the most maddeningly beautiful ho-rror films in the world. I mean, the dude puts the “gore” in “gore-geous”! With jaw-dropping camera work, fabulous visuals, and his frequent use of startling colors,  Dario Argento brings a painterly beauty to the canvas of cinema. Among his masterworks are Deep Red, site favorite SuspiriaPhenomena with Jennifer Connelly, and 1987’s Opera.


In ho-nor of this mad artist’s birthaversary, we dug up this groovy documentary on the man. It features interviews with ho-rror legends, including John Carpenter, Alice Cooper, and Jessica Harper. Enjoy, Kreeps! 🙂

Happy Birthday, Dario! Stay scary! 🙂

Goon Review – Madhouse (1981)

(Submited by our Ho-rror Ho-mie, Mr. Andrew W. Peters…Thanks, Madman Magee! 🙂 xoxo)

Ovidio G. Assonitis, like most Italian film directors, had a wide variety of films he’s directed, including the Jaws cash-in Tentacles and the Exorcist cash-in Beyond the Door. Hey, it’s Italy in the late ‘70s/early ‘80s and cash-ins or rip-offs were their thing. He’s also produced a number of films like Piranha II: The Spawning, The Curse, the excellent and often underrated The Visitor, as well as American Ninja 4 and 5. Needless to say the guy knows horror and he also knows movies, so I was psyched when Arrow released Madhouse, an overlooked slasher film from 1981, in a brand new 2K restoration.

However, upon revisiting it, I understood why it’s possibly overlooked. It’s not that I hated, in fact I’m probably one of the few people that rather enjoy it, but I can see why people might find it so underwhelming and that’s because, well, it is. It’s a well made movie and it does have a very interesting premise, but for an Italian made slasher flick, it’s actually kinda tame and falls into cliched trappings and then there’s the reveal of the killer… hoo boy, it’s pretty obvious from the get-go who the killer is and you really hope they don’t “go there,” but, yeah, they do. It’s not only that it’s painfully obvious, but there doesn’t seem to be a clear motivation and honestly it kinda dampers what they were setting up. I gotta say and sorry for sounding like a broken record, but for an Italian made slasher in the early ‘80s, this film feels kinda like it’s playing it safe.

I keep calling it a slasher flick when Italy was more commonly known for suspenseful giallos and while Madhouse toys around with the idea of being a giallo, it doesn’t commit to being one. The same can be said about it being more of a character drama between two twin sisters, one evil and the other good. There’s a fine variety of different ideas here, but the movie can’t seem to decide on which one it would rather be and ends up being a moderate, ho-hum horror flick and for being Italian produced film, a country known for reveling in gore, it’s pretty tame. I don’t know if this was due to budgetary problems or perhaps Ovidio G. Assonitis thought it would make his film more suspenseful and to his credit, it is wonderfully shot and full of dark shadows, so it at least has a very ominous mood.

It opens up interestingly enough; two young girls sit still and silently in blackness as the camera pans in until one starts smashing the other one’s face in with a rock. Alright, movie, you have my attention. I’m interested in finding out what that was about, but unfortunately, we never do. At least, not really. Fast forward years later and the girls are all grown up and you could say they took different paths. One grows up to be a school teacher for the deaf and a stone cold fox, Julia, played by Trish Everly. Who’s Trish Everly and what else has she been in? Exactly. According to IMDB, this is her only credit and she never forayed into the world of acting again which is a shame, because she puts in a terrific performance.

Her sister Mary, on the other hand, has been less fortunate, living her life in a mental institution with a skin disease that has left her disfigured. Talk about drawing the short stick. Mary is under close observation by Father James, a friend of the family who Julia refers to as Uncle. Father James seems a little too pleasant and a little off kilter, so if you know anything about slasher films, I’m sure you’ll be able to see what direction they are taking this character. About halfway through the film, after the reveal of the killer, his character takes quite a silly turn as he’s nonchalantly hauling a body bag into a basement and chasing Julia’s landlady around the her building, skipping and singing children’s nursery rhymes. It’s kind of a whiplash in tone of character and I’m assuming it’s because people are under the impression that just because children’s songs are in a horror movie that makes it’s creepy, but they forget it needs to have context. That’s not the case here. It seemingly comes out of nowhere and I found more puzzled instead of interested and laughed at this reveal. If anything, this dampens the Father character’s motivation for everything happening. In fact when questioned about it, he just giggles and spouts a nursery rhyme that has no bearing or meaning on the situation. It explains nothing or maybe it does. Either way, it doesn’t ever explain why he’s doing what he’s doing.

 

The big red herring or twist of events happens when Julia receives word that Mary has escaped the asylum just in time for their birthday. The birthday doesn’t really play into the main plot, but give a reason for something to happen (I guess), but it just echoes of desperation for the film to take place during a holiday or event to mirror something like Halloween. To the film’s credit, the slasher does have a very interesting weapon of choice; a rottweiler. Yeah, I bet you’d never see the day a slasher film uses an animal as their knife. I was worried for the dog’s health and safety when remembering this is an Italian production, but luckily Ovidio here takes the dog’s well being into consideration. You figure a dog tearing apart the victims would result in a blood bath and mangled body parts, but if there is one thing really disappointing about the film, it’s that it lacks gore. I know gore doesn’t make a horror film, but spectacularly bloody deaths in a slasher makes a better viewing. At most, it’s blood smeared all over someone’s face and the most shocking death in the movie, the death of Julie’s favorite student, takes place off screen, but there I actually feel it gives it more of a punch, especially when she has to break the news to the other students at school. It’s a scene, however, that involves the dog being put into a headlock by Julie and putting a power drill through it’s head that this film is most likely notorious for. Even with a noticeable puppet in use, it’s still a rough scene to watch listening to the dog squeal.

During the finale of the film, I couldn’t help but think of Happy Birthday to Me (a slasher film I like, but find it a tad overrated) and that may be because Madhouse feels like it’s borrowing from other popular slasher movies of that time rather than try to be something original or experimental. That’s kind of surprising for being an Italian horror film, in a way, because while they were more known for ripping a film off, they still took the idea in a wild direction and made it it’s own beast. This feels more of the American cash-in variety where it takes no risks and spends no money on the gore budget. To the film’s credit, it’s the finale where you see what is most likely the goriest moment in the movie where a character takes an axe to the back, spraying chunks of flesh and squirting blood. You can’t help but wonder why this approach wasn’t taken during the rest of the movie. Maybe Ovidio wanted to make not necessarily a classier horror film, but maybe a more suspenseful one with more dignity. It’s unfortunate that’s not what happened.

Along with this being a new 2K transfer, Arrow also includes a new audio commentary with The Hysteria Continues. That’s sort of confusing as to why they would have the people from a comedy/horror podcast do the commentary for the film rather than the original cast and crew when they were able to get new interviews with them. You can also check out the alternate opening if you’d like and the theatrical trailer. I think the show stealer in this whole package is the newly commissioned artwork by Marc Schoenbach. Seriously a talented artist and that’s one hell of a spooky cover.

It’s not boring, but rather predictable and subdued. It is at least pretty to look with some creepy cinematography and it doesn’t hurt that it was filmed in a supposed haunted house in Savannah, Georgia. It’s more upsetting seeing what this movie could have been and what it turned out to be instead of it being an actual bad movie. It showed so much promise with a murderous twin angle and the classic black leathered gloved giallos and the end result is so disappointing. It’s tolerable and worth watching for a typical ‘80s slasher, but don’t expect anything beyond that.

Goon Review: The Bird With The Crystal Plumage

(Submitted by Andrew Peters…Thanks, Mr. Goon-y Goon! 😉 xoxo)


I do believe that Dario Argento, director of such stunning and inspiring movies like Suspiria and Phenomena, gets plenty of recognition, but I’m not sure if he gets all the recognition he deserves. I dunno, maybe he does, but I feel like we should be talking about him a lot more. Some argue that the giallo genre was shaped and molded by Mario Bava and I totally agree with that, but I believe it was when Dario Argento got his black leather gloves all over it, he perfected it.

Before his films were known for being brightly colorful comic book images come to life, Dario Argento worked more with shadows and lights. There’s something so chilling about the way he shoots a black leather glove, outlined by moonlight, tracing the contours of a knife. I could go on forever about how visually impressive his movies are, but I think visually being able to tell a movie is something that is being lost. Ironic, I know, but consider everything we can do to make any frame of a movie you are watching look fantastic. Obviously, it wasn’t always that way and it took creative people with a stylish, artistic vision to bring it to life.

The Bird With the Crystal Plumage is Dario Argento’s directorial debut and the only comparison is Reservoir Dogs and Quentin Tarantino. Coming out swinging and swinging hard, sister. When you look at the core story of The Bird With the Crystal Plumage, it’s quite simple. I believe most of the greatest films are simple stories, but it takes a great director to tell that simple story. When you take a step back and look at it, it’s nothing more than a guy who witnesses a murder and helps with the investigation. Not too complicated, but once you introduce some interesting characters, a few sexy sirens, a killer that not only lurks in the shadows, but has taken an interest in the film’s protagonist who has reluctantly decided to help the police seeing as how he’s a material witness (because, you know, that’s totally acceptable). Argento will also start his notorious trend of the main character solving the murder by recalling clues through memory. It’s interesting how it’s used here, with no sound, playing over and over like a nightmare and seemingly getting closer and closer to the truth. As a viewer, you begin to feel like you yourself are reliving that horrible moment and I found myself on the edge of the seat, leaning in and intently staring at the screening, hoping to find some detail or clue Argento has left for his hero. And for us.

The answer is right in front of you the whole time, but you’ll never see it. When the film ends, it will become so obvious, but until then The Bird With the Crystal Plumage is an energetic thriller that has more than enough surprises and for the most part is easy to follow along. But before the end, you obviously have to start at the beginning, a theme that Argento’s giallos typically follow. Tony Musante plays an American (because that name screams America) ex-writer named Sam living in Italy who accidentally witnesses a murder on his way home one night. I just realized that the phrase “accidentally witnesses a murder” is an oxymoron, seeing as how I don’t think that’s anyone’s intention. And he was two days away from retirement, dammit, or in this case from moving! Seeing as how the inspector has taken Sam’s passport, he won’t be moving in the foreseeable future, so he may as well insert himself in the investigation and solve the case. Because, ya know, that’s something witnesses can do. It’s okay to meddle in police business and put yourself – the material witness – in danger.

By following some evidence, a left handed glove with cigarette ash on it, they connect this attempted murder to three other women that have been murdered, but there must be a bigger connection. Honestly, I don’t think there is between the victims or at least nothing that I recall. Partnering with his hot-to-trot vixen of a girlfriend (played by Torso’s Suzy Kendall, the film that is arguably one of the first slashers), they don’t necessarily connect the dots, but come across an interesting clue; the killer had bought a painting of a man killing a woman from a woman he murdered. Confused? Don’t be, it’s not as complicated as it sounds, but the way it fits into this puzzle as a whole may seem like a bit of a stretch, but I think it’s more of an interesting way to tie it all together. It also helps fill in the gaps when Sam isn’t being stalked by a figure in a trench coat and a fedora, like when he’s walking down a foggy street, totally unaware he is being stalked until he has a meat clever swung at his head! It’s a good scene and a cool shot, but I wouldn’t call it tense seeing as I don’t think the movie would try to kill our main character before is halfway over. This isn’t Executive Decision here.

The closer they get to discovering the identity of the killer, the more threats they receive, which is arguably understandable. At least from the killer’s point of view, anyway. That’s pretty much your movie right there, but like I said, it’s pretty simple at its core, but Argento throws in some interesting pieces to make it seem different or more complicated than it actually is. I do have to say that I wouldn’t say the ending is a twist since that’s pretty standard for giallos, but I will say regardless of the obvious red herrings, I didn’t see it coming and it was a hair raising revelation when Sam recalls the events correctly that night and identifies the killer.

Usually a director’s earlier works are noticeably weaker, but not Argento’s. This film looks just as beautifully directed as his later works, like Deep Red or Suspiria. The Bird With the Crystal Plumage is a strong, solid film that has a moderately suspenseful story with interesting, but not over the top characters (accompanied by great performances), sexy girls and amazing cinematography. The only thing it seems to be lacking is gore, something Argento would later increase with Deep Red and Tenebrae. The film isn’t a violent, bloody mess like you would expect from a murder mystery, in fact there is very little blood. Luckily, this isn’t a Fulci film, so it’s not like you’re expecting it or viewing it simply to watch people get their guts spilled or eyeballs tortured in some way. Then again, that’s where the two filmmakers are noticeably different; Argento was more about mood and style and Fulci – at times – was about atmosphere and gore.

The Bird With the Crystal Plumage joins the ranks of other great giallos put out by Arrow Video and I’m happy the first time in about ten years I viewed this film was on a brand new 4K transfer that looked sharp and colors were vibrant and wild that it was like viewing a catalogue of models and trends in the ‘70s. Being an Italian film, you do have the option of seeing it with its original Italian audio track (with optional English subtitles). This release also features a new audio commentary from Troy Howarth, author of So Deadly, So Perverse: 50 Years of Italian Giallo Films, The Power of Perception, a new visual essay on the cinema of Dario Argento by Alexandra Heller-Nicholas, author of Devil’s Advocates: Suspiria and Rape-Revenge Films: A Critical Study, new analysis of the film by critic Kat Ellinger, new interview with writer/director Dario Argento, new interview with actor Gildo Di Marco (Garullo the pimp). This release also features a reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Candice Tripp, as well as a double-sided fold-out poster and 6 Lobby Card reproductions. I think the bonus fans will enjoy the most is the limited edition 60-page booklet illustrated by Matthew Griffin, featuring an appreciation of the film by Michael Mackenzie, and new writing by Howard Hughes and Jack Seabrook. Lots of cool information to be found there.


The Bird With the Crystal Plumage is a classic, not matter if you see it as a giallo, horror or even as an Argento film, it perfectly represents all three. It may not be his best or bloodiest work, but it’s a great little thriller that doesn’t try to be bigger than what it is and still keeps you intrigued every step of the way.

#WerewolfWednesdayTheater: Werewolf in a Girls’ Dormitory (1961)

Ho-wdy, Ho-rror Ho-mies! The moon may not be full and bright, but we got a hairy hair-raiser to fill you with fright! Our featured creature feature is Werewolf in a Girls’ Dormitory and it’s a real ho-wler! Now, with a title like that, you’d probably expect Animal House with a real animal, but it’s actually a monster mystery. You’ve heard of trying to find a needle in a haystack? Well, stay with us now, and you’ll be part of an investigating team whose mission is not to find that proverbial needle… no, their task is even harder. They’ve got to find a werewolf in a reformatory! And they don’t even have a Rod Serling to narrate!

Werewolf in a Girls’ Dormitory is, believe it or not, a precursor to the Giallo film! Yes indeedy, Kinky Kreeps! Before Bava gave us The Girl Who Knew Too Much and Argento started puttin’ on those ol’ black gloves of his, this gave us the mysterious killer and endless red herrings we associate with the genre. What solidifies this connection is that the script was written by Ernesto Gastaldi, the screenwriter behind Torso, Your Vice Is a Locked Room and Only I Have the Key, and many other Giallo classics. Gloves off to ya!

Surprisingly, this weird wolf tale has some legitimate chills to offer. If you can get past the… questionable dubbing, there’s some decent terror to be had. The Werewolf himself is not as bestial as one would hope, but he looks decently psychotic. As for the culprit… well, I wouldn’t want to spoil it for you, but it’s a pretty decent reveal.   See it … solve it … but don’t tell!
One last thing to note is the De-Frightful tune that plays at the beginning of the film. It’s called The Ghoul in School and it’s a ’60s go-go ghoul scream! In no way does it match the film, but it’s pure voodoo magic! Any song that has a random Peter Lorre impression is a winner in my book of shadows! Far out, groovie ghoulies!

To find out which wolf is the werewolf, check out the full fright film below. 🙂 xoxo

Goon Review: Cat in the Brain (1990)

Lucio Fulci left his mark in 1979 with Zombie, a film that many quickly dismissed as a Dawn of the Dead rip-off, but they would be wrong. It’s a cash-in, duh. Dawn of the Dead hit the scene hard and made an impact in the horror world. The imitators came out by the truck load and everyone wanted some of that sweet zombie cash, kinda like how it is today. Anyway, Fulci, although never fully getting the respect that he demanded, still made a name for himself that would sit along the likes of Dario Argento and Mario Bava. Having already done a few giallo and sexploitation films himself, he decided to venture further down this gory path in horror films and made other greats like City of the Living Dead, House by the Cemetery and what some consider his magnum opus The Beyond. Being labeled “The Godfather of Gore” (a nickname he shared with Herschell Gordon Lewis), he was targeted by critics as being sadistic. Crews often said he was unfair toward the women and his films were looked at by normal crows (you know, non horror fans) as being cruel and mean and that only a sick mind could create such a thing. What’s a director to do?

Take all the negative things people have ever said about you and make it into a joke. A dark, but hilarious joke. And it may be a joke that not everyone will get and that’s ok. For those of us that do, we get a good chuckle and it’s like we’re patting the director on the back and saying, “I feel ya.” For him, he gets to crook a little smile for his accomplishment. Those who ridiculed him and misjudged him are the butt of the joke without knowing it. Perhaps I am over analyzing what most look at as strange, gory horror film with comedic elements thrown in for good measure. But there are plenty of elements in Cat in the Brain that could be over analyzed. We won’t go into them all, but it may be a much deeper film in disguise. Could that mean we are the sickos, so desensitized to the violence that we don’t notice? See, there I go again.

The film literally opens with a cat in a brain. Fulci’s brain to be exact, as he’s typing away at his typewriter, coming up with gory demises for characters, because as we all know this is the only thing horror directors think about. Oh, that’s right… Fucli not only wrote and directed this piece, but he stars in it as well! The film then cuts to a scene from one of his other films, Touch of Death (another great dark comedy horror film) wherein a man is cannibalizing a woman. Fulci seems to be thinking about this while shooting his new film and continues to think about it even more when he tries to order at a restaraunt. The thought of consuming steak tartare repulses him and he leaves. His appetite now gone, he heads home only to be continuously haunted by visions of violence. His neighbor cutting wood with a chainsaw soon becomes blood soaked and coming after Fulci, as the director takes an axe to red paint cans. Is our good director losing it his mind?

Have no fear, Dr. Egon Shwarz is here! Having recently attacked a female journalist, tearing off her clothes and nearly sodomizing her because of a scene he recently filmed for a nazisploitation film, Fulci checks in to the local shrink to get to the bottom of it. However, Dr. Shwarz has plans of his own. With Fulci in a hypnotic state, the doctor tells Fulci that all of the violence he sees in his head he will believe not only that it’s real, but that he is also committing it. Geez, what a dick! And all because he is having marital problems and hates women! Hey, wait a sec… could this be a parody of how people are seeing Fulci? Perhaps. Either way, the plot has gone into full gear and the madness is about to begin. With Fulci not being the patsy, Dr. Schwarz manages to take a number of victims while wearing crazy eyes and the creepiest grin you will ever see. A decapitated hooker is found near the set on a night that Fulci walked home, but that’s not the only case. More and more bodies turn up near the set and Fulci begins to vividly hallucinate more frequently and much more extreme. Is he really losing his mind and committing the murders or is it the doctor? Well, it’s not so much of a mystery as it is a joke.

So, is all the footage from his other films part of the joke, because the Italians were notorious for reusing footage from other movies to pad out run time and save money? Well, you make that decision. The film also includes a lot of aforementioned gore and some nudity that may seem like it was inserted pointlessly, like when Fulci is staring out his window and he seems a woman in leggings topless and feeling herself. Along with the murders of women, Fulci was possibly taking jabs at everyone calling him misogynistic. You know, I’ve been going on about Fulci in the lead role and have yet to comment on how good his performance really is. Of course, the English dubbing is, well, it’s what you expect from Italian horror films. Let’s leave it at that.

Previously available on DVD, Grindhouse Releasing has released it on Blu-ray for the really sick horror fans out there. The first thing I noticed is that the film has a somewhat softness to it and to be honest, I didn’t notice a big – or any – difference in video quality from the DVD. Not to turn you off from this release seeing as it has plenty to offer. The slip cover is cool and glows in the dark and the Blu-ray case itself is reversible. There are plenty of other features too, like in depth interviews with director Lucio Fulci and Brett Halsey (star of Touch of Death), the Italian theatrical trailer and best of all, in traditional Grindhouse Releasing fashion, a bonus CD soundtrack!
Your unfamiliar horror fans or average movie goers could argue that the film is part glorified clip show, using bits and pieces from some of his other works, Touch of Death and Ghosts of Sodom and the rest is typical misogyny from a sick and twisted old man, filled with nothing but grotesque violence toward women. They would be right, in their own sense, but I think they would be wrong. I would argue that it’s a clever, possibly misunderstood man satirizing himself for the sake of good humor and having a blast doing so. Either way you look at it, it’s a fun experiment and I think the humor and parody work where they are supposed to while the gore isn’t too extreme as his previous films, it is pretty over the top and possibly played for laughs. Cat in the Brain, also called Nightmare Concert, is a fun little experiment from Doctor Fulci that I would say won’t be entertaining to your average horror fan, but those of you looking for something a little more twisted, check this out.

Goon Review: Phenomena (1985)

(Submitted by Mr. Andrew Peters…Thanks, my radass Ho-rror Ho-mie! 🙂 xoxo)

Dario Argento broke into the eyes of moviegoers with Deep Red, which was not his first film, but the first to really get him recognized. He then followed it up with what many consider his best film, a masterpiece, Suspiria. I can’t argue with that. Suspiria is without a doubt one of the most beautiful looking films, looking very bright and vivid like an older comic books thanks to the film’s Mario Bava stylized lighting. The film is also absolutely terrifying, utilizing atmosphere and mood. The surroundings seem dreadful and you fear what might be lurking in the shadows. Some say he peaked there and while it may be his best film, it’s not my favorite. I know, I just committed a cinematic crime, but don’t get me wrong. I love the film. I adore the film. It’s one of my favorites, but if I were to pick my favorite Argento film, it would be Phenomena or as the butchered to hell US version was called, Creepers.

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Even though I prefer the title Phenomena, Creepers makes more sense as the movie is about bugs! Gross! Icky bugs! Poor bugs, always getting the bad wrap. In horror films, they are always the problem. They are always the pest. They are always the ones devouring living people, but not in this movie. In Phenomena, they play a crucial part to the antagonist’s role; solving a series of murders. That’s not all. They are given a much lighter, friendlier side, seeing as the heroine of the film can communicate with insects. Even though Argento has explored supernatural elements like witches, this is kind of a bizarre territory for him to travel and it does share something similiar with Suspiria; both take place at a unique school, only in Phenomena, I can’t recall what is unique about the school other than it’s an all girls school. Sounds like the perfect place for murders to happen!

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Phenomena wastes no time establishing what’s in store for you. The film takes place in Switzerland and a young school girl misses her bus and wonders through a windy field with nothing, but a chilling breeze and Goblin track to accompany her. She eventually ends up at a house and invites herself in as people are to do in these movies, but something in chains breaks free and chases her, stabs her to death and decapitates her, sending her head floating down a river. How’s that for an opening? Several months pass and Dr. Loomis, I mean Professor John McGregor (yes, it’s Donald Pleasence), a wheelchair bound entomologist with a chimpanzee assistant, examine the severed head and discussing with the local police how girls seem to be going missing. This is about as far as the movie goes into slasher territory and now it takes a turn to the supernatural with Jennifer, played by Jennifer Connelly, a new student at a boarding school for what I can only presume is spoiled rich girls since they all act bitchy. However, Jennifer has a talent she’s not fully aware of; she can telepathically communicate with insects. An entomologist with a monkey and a girl who can talk to insects? I smell a sitcom!

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Jennifer happens to be the daughter of a famous actor, Paul Sorvino, which quickly gains her roommate’s friendship. The headmistress immediately takes a disliking to Jennifer, so I guess she’s not a fan of her father’s or maybe it’s because she doesn’t like Jennifer’s sleepwalking habit. It’s not all bad though, as Jennifer’s sleepwalking brings her to the chimpanzee who leads her to McGregor who notices that his insects are responding to Jennifer and quickly learns of her abilities. Upon telling her, she seems to take it rather well, like she’s the Professor X of insects. McGregor believes with her help, they can catch the killer and put a stop to it, seeing as how another sleepwalking adventure leads her to a glove covered in maggots that seem to be feasting on decaying flesh. Jennifer can also see what the insects had seen while she is sleepwalking, which leads her to believe that her roommate disappearance was actually a murder. Naturally, the headmistress thinks she’s crazy and allows the children to pick on her, so Jennifer conjures up a storm of flies. That’ll show them who’s crazy!

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The headmistress now has Jennifer committed to be tested as she believes that anyone who can summon up a hellstorm of flies is the devil and Jennifer is evil. I also didn’t realize just anyone could have you committed for being crazy, but Jennifer escapes and calls her father’s agent and demands to leave the school. The news saddens McGregor as he believes they are close to catching the killer and apparently the killer thinks so too as a shadowed figure, in true giallo style, visits McGregor in the night and puts an end to him. Jennifer, now realizing she is in a lot of trouble, readies to leave the school, but the killer isn’t ready for her to leave just yet. The ending is full of surprises and great makeup and special effects, as well as some over the top kills as Jennifer has to fight for her life… with the help of her insect friends.

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Phenomena is a different kind of Argento film. For starters, it’s going back to his earlier works, using little to no bright, colorful lighting, but most noticeably, the cinematography is different for someone like Argento. It uses a lot of heavy shadows and darker colors, such as blue and greys. The camera often uses the now popular slow creeps on characters and they even make use of a wind machine to help hype the supernatural element. It’s like he wanted to experiment and shoot the movie like a music video. Hell, the film even features heavy metal songs on the soundtrack, accompanying Goblin’s score. This is the first time I think he ever used metal on his soundtracks and for the most part, they play out really well with the scenes, but there are a few moments where they feel like they are out of place, like when the police are wheeling out a body on a gurnee and Motorhead is playing over the scene.

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I know some people aren’t exactly keen on the film restoration movement, believing that restoring a film ruins the look of it and to some extent, I agree. Some films don’t look right when they are all polished and cleaned and they lose their grittiness or it makes them less frightening. This isn’t the case, however. Synapse films does it the right way; restoring the film to its natural beauty. To make it look as pristine as it did when it was first shown in theaters. Synapse’s brand new 2K transfer is truly remarkable. All the right edges are sharpened, but some of it is still left looking like it’s in a soft focus, so the film doesn’t lose its dream like quality look to it. The colors are sharp and the black shadows are really brought out and add some depth to it. Upon seeing it, it was like I watched the movie for the first time, remembering why I fell in love with it. This goes for all three cuts of the film that are available on the disc, which is the cut, the uncut and the US Creepers cut.

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The film is packaged in a very cool Steelbook and comes with some special features, like audio commentary from Argento scholar and author Derek Botelho and film historian, journalist and radio/television commentator David Del Valle, a full length commentary called Dario Argento’s World of Horror (a must see), theatrical trailers for both domestic and international, as well as some radio spots and also a soundtrack CD so you can enjoy that Goblin score whenever you feel like it.

PHENOMENABURST

Being my favorite Argento film, I couldn’t be happier that the folks at Synapse are also fans and care enough to painstakingly restore Phenomena to look as remarkable as it does. Not only that, to offer three different cuts, throw in some cool bonuses and put it in a cool package. Phenomena is an interesting and perfect blend of a supernatural slasher and giallo with interesting characters and a monkey that goes apeshit with a straight razor. Name another movie where you would see that! This release is limited to 3000 copies and is going pretty quick and I know a $39.95 price tag might scare some folks away, but this is totally worth it for all the hard work and care they put into an beautiful and truly amazing film. I can’t wait for their 4K release of Suspiria!

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Goon Review: Dr. Butcher, M.D/ Zombie Holocaust (1980)

(We’re all about Science today here at Kinky Ho-rror…Big hugs and thanks to Mr. Andrew Peters for contributing this highly educational post. Yay Science!! 😉 xoxo)

The Italians sure love their rip-off and cash-in films, especially the ‘80s zombie and cannibal movies, sometimes mixing both with varied results. I can’t think of a better example than 1980’s Dr. Butcher M.D., better known as Zombie Holocaust from Marino Girolami and what can I say about it? It combines both zombie and cannibal genres, and although it does successfully combine both together in a narrative sense, it also feels confused while doing so, and (seemingly) being ineptly made. Along with something like Pieces and Burial Ground, it’s pure exploitation made specifically for the real and down dirty, sleazy audience. A perfect fit for you Kinky Horror fans. (“Haha, Yay!! Tell us more!!”– D.P.)

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Dr. Butcher, M.D. is ironic in the sense that it feels like the result of some mad doctor’s experiment gone awry. Like I stated in the previous paragraph, the film does explain ever so briefly as to why both zombies and cannibals appear in the film, but they don’t mesh the two together very well, like, “hey, you got zombies in my cannibal film!” “No, you got cannibals in my zombie film!” Sounds like it would go well together like chocolate and peanut butter, but instead it’s like getting mayonnaise and paint. They try to stitch it all together with the mad doctor angle and even then it still doesn’t make much sense, but you tend to excuse it when dealing with a film of this caliber, which is kind of a sad excuse. To make up for it, the movie offers up a smattering of gore, and like the tone of the film, varies in quality. With all that said, is it any fun? Oh god, yes.

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Right from the start, Dr. Butcher, M.D. knows it has to get your attention and immediately pander to the crowd, while creating a brief mystery; someone is cutting off body parts of the cadavers at the hospital and doing who knows what with them. Thinking it’s more than some frat prank (because I don’t wanna know what dude bros would need with extra body parts laying around), the doctors catch their thief one night who turns out to be a character – since no main characters have really been established yet – you haven’t seen or don’t know, so the suspense is not there, but dammit they are trying. Escaping his captors, the thief jumps out the window, splatting on the ground and his mannequin double’s arm flies off only to be reattached in the next scene. Man, this must be the most efficient hospital ever. Dr. Lori Ridgeway (Alexandra Delli Colli) takes notice of the symbol on his chest that looks like the proto design for Hurley and realizes he must be a cannibal from the island of Keeto. Recruiting the help of her co-worker Dr. Peter Chandler (Fulci’s Zombie alum Ian McCulloch) and his Italian go-to-career-trope-to-move-the-plot-along of reporter and girlfriend Susan, who is kind of annoying, they head off to the island to meet Dr. O’Brero, who often shoots glances at his right hand man Moloto and in no way indicating the two are evil. I don’t consider this a spoiler since all of the trailers reveal the good doctor to be evil. It’s genius marketing, really.

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Now that they are finally on the island and Moloto is trying to obviously deceive them at every turn, the movie throws cannibals at you. Why are there cannibals? Because it’s a “group of white people and non speaking English people who are constantly afraid of the jungle and its secrets”-type of situation. All the red shirts start to die, so there is no emotional attachment, but it serves as a appetizer in this meal of gore. So why are the cannibals attacking? Honestly, it washed over so quickly, you’ll miss it. I think they said something about for some reason (that will become clear) there is no food, so they resorted to eating people. This makes no sense when you stop and think about it, because you can constantly hear animals in the background and, this part is important, it’s not like this is a tourist island, so visitors are few and far. But who cares…Gore! The cannibals even kidnap Dr. Chandler’s girlfriend Susan, which he doesn’t seem too broken up about. He just kinda is annoyed by it and moves on. I don’t know whether I should blame Ian McCulloch’s performance, which is low key at this point, or the terrible writing. Eh, I blame both.

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It’s soon discovered that Dr. O’Brero has been experimenting with brain transplants, by putting other people’s brains in other people’s bodies, thus creating zombies! Yeah, you buy that? Well too bad, that’s what we’re going with. Poor Susan is seen on his table with his scalp missing, but upon later finding her scalp, Dr. Chandler is like, “eh, whatevs.” It’s really an emotional scene, you guys. Seriously. So, the zombies attack the two, because they are basically like servants to Dr. O’Brero, but the cannibals kidnap Lori for some sort of sacrifice and… look, it’s never explained why. Point is, boobs. You finally get to see some boobs and zombies, okay? Dr. Chandler is hauled away by the zombies and Dr. O’Brero exposition dumps the hell out of him as the film’s way to try and explain everything as stupid as it is. And trust me, it’s really, really stupid. What it boils down to is because science. (“A toast to science!!” ;))

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The new release of Dr. Butcher, M.D. by Severin Films also includes the Zombie Holocaust cut of the film, which I feel is superior. For whatever reason (when the film was re-edited for US release), the Dr. Butcher cut of the film sports a new opening that is originally from an unreleased film and ties into the actual film in no way, andincludes a several minute scene that looks more like Upstate New York in the Fall rather than a jungle and is seven minutes shorter. I have to say it has a rather cool title card going on for it, though, so there is that. The Blu-ray has its share of special features, like numerous interviews, one of which includes an interview with star Ian McCulloch and another with the makeup effects artist. There is even an interview with The New Gladiators director Enzo G. Castellari talking about his father (the man who directed Zombie Holocaust). There’s even a look at the locations then and now, some trailers and few other goodies to pack two discs full.

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Dr. Butcher, M.D. aka Zombie Holocaust is by no means a good film. It’s poorly made, not that well acted and the plot is dumb to the bone and doesn’t make a lick of sense. But the film does have a lot of gore, cashing in on two popular genres, which is really all it was going for, so I guess I can’t really be upset about it. Don’t get me wrong, this is totally a fun movie and is great for all the wrong reasons. It’s a you-have-to-see-it-to-believe-it kind of film and will leave you thinking, “this actually got made?” Well, yeah. They just reused sets from Fulci’s Zombie (and even some actors) and made it quick and cheap to throw in drive-ins and make their money back to do it all over again. There are better Italian zombie and cannibal movies out there and there are far worse. This film is somewhere in the middle, but I give it a pass because of how fucking unintentionally funny it is.

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Goon Review: Blood and Black Lace (1964)

(Submitted by Andrew Peters…Thank you, Ho-rror ho-mie!! 🙂 xoxo)

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Mario Bava’s films are well known for having colorful, bright lighting, a powerful element he utilized to create mood and atmosphere, so it’s baffling as to why he was advised not to for the film. Good thing he didn’t listen to them, seeing as how the visual element of a Bava film is an experience, being both beautiful and threatening. Blood and Black Lace or as the original title translates to, Six Women for the Murderer, is one of the earlier examples of a giallo film (the first being credited to The Girl Who Knew Too Much) and boasts a body count in the title. I’m sure now that it’s focused on women being victims in the title, it could be considered misogynistic, but that was usually a misunderstood element in these kind of films. That has me thinking, maybe this is a precursor to the slasher genre?

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As the title implies, the story focuses on six women that all work at the Haute Couture, a fashion salon that is exactly what it sounds like. Girls just model stuff all day. Hot, sexy girls in that high ‘60s fashion just strutting around all day… Oh yeah, Cameron Mitchell (as you MST3K fans may remember as “Captain Santa Claus” in the Space Mutiny episode) plays Max Marian who runs the joint. He just kinda sits back and smokes cigars. The whole situation feels like he’s a few moves away from renting his ladies out and becoming a pimp, and he already seems to fill that role. Shortly after the opening, one of the girls is murdered during a rainy night, and at first it seems like a totally random act. That is, until one of the other girls finds a diary she left behind. But what secrets does this diary hold? Oh, only names and amounts of money owed to certain people, so it would be a perfect blackmailing device. Now everyone wants their hands on it, but what will they do in order to get a hold of it?

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Everyone is eyeballing the diary being held in a black purse by one of the girls, so anyone would do just about anything to get it. Unfortunately for her, as she finds out, some are willing to kill for it. Someone dressed as if The Shadow and Blankface from Dick Tracy had a love child corners her in an antique shop, smashers her face in with a medieval weapon, but to their surprise the diary is missing. Seems another one of the girls managed to slip it out of her purse in order to cover up her own secrets that may be hidden in the diary. However, this makes her a target for the killer, but is too late as she has burned it. Our killer is into some ironic justice as he burns her face off with by pressing it up against a boiler! Man, haven’t these people ever heard of Livejournal? Is that still a thing?

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Alright, so who exactly is the killer? The police seem to think it’s the work of some sex crazed maniac, which is an odd conclusion considering that the girls weren’t sexually assaulted. Even after they apprehend all the male characters in the film, the police believe that the girls should be safe. How foolish of them, as another one is knocked off the list, but as to why now that the diary is destroyed… now that is a question that will be answered later. With a few girls left and the promise of six bodies, the culprit – with some clever twists, I may add – is finally revealed, but are the intentions for better or for worse? Like with any Bava giallo, everything isn’t as black or white as it seems, so while you think you have the answer, there are more layers and surprises to it.

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Believe it or not, Blood and Black Lace is a low budgeted film, only made for about $150,000, which wasn’t all that much, even for a film back then. Due to the film’s low budget, rather than compromise the cinematography, Mario Bava decided to get creative, like any good filmmaker would do. Using nothing other than a child’s red wagon, he was able to achieve beautiful looking tracking shots during certain scenes that would have otherwise appeared dull. For instance, during the fashion show, the camera moves from right to left as one of the characters stops to talk to all of the girls, then back to the right as she rushes to do something else. It’s uncut, uninterrupted flow feels so smooth because of that innovation. One of my favorite shots – possibly in any movie, not just restricted to this film – is when one of the girls who had just been drowned is placed in a bathtub and has her wrists sliced open to make it appear like a suicide. Her bright blue eyes are wide open in the white tub as the red cloud of blood begins to fill the bathtub. It’s a really beautiful shot for something most directors wouldn’t realize what to do with it.

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The cast that has been assembled here also helps to elevate it from the normal cast. Everyone is innocent to some extent, but also played sleazy. This could be because of the elements their characters are tossed into but, like with A Bay of Blood, all of the characters seem to be just a bit selfish and if they are looking out for others, they are being used by someone. Like Frank, for instance. He’s into drugs and preys on one of the girl’s niceness to constantly score him drugs and probably use her for other things. They all are backstabbing, cowering and selfish, yet for some reason you really want to root for them, except for the police and the inept detective who prove to be nothing more than useless, as per all of these films.

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Proving that bright colors, when used properly, can create moments that seem more threatening and terrifying, Mario Bava used shadows and lighting to make Blood and Black Lace a sexy, yet frightening thriller. Even if you know the answers or figure out who the killer is, you’re still in for some twists and I especially like that no matter how innocent the characters may seem, there is something they are guilty of, yet not deserving of the terrible fates they meet.

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Arrow Video’s 2k transfer is absolutely gorgeous, very little grain or scratches and the colors really pop and make the scenes have a little more impact than in previous faded VHS or DVD releases that I have seen. There are also quite a few special features here, like a new documentary called Psycho Analysis which is a new documentary on Blood and Black Lace and the origin of the giallo, a neo-giallo called Yellow and of course panel discussions, interviews, Q and A’s, trailers, an alternate US opening, a booklet filled with more interviews and reverse cover art, of which one side has newly commissioned work by the extremely talented Graham Humphreys.

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Although not the first giallo, Blood and Black Lace is one of the staples of the genre. With a killer in a fedora and trenchcoat, surrounded by darkness, the film being beautiful and colorful makes the murders seem that much more violent, yet something entrancing to watch.

Goon Review: A Bay of Blood (1971)

(Submitted by Andrew Peters…Thanks, Mr. Giallo Goon!! 🙂 xoxo)

If there’s any director out there that I feel doesn’t get enough recognition, it’s definitely Mario Bava and it’s a shame, especially considering that so many filmmakers, like everyone’s precious Quentin Tarantino (“Careful now…Dem’s fightin’ words, son!!” -D.P ;)), use so many of his techniques and style. There’s no doubt that Mario Bava changed not only the look and style of cinema, but may have possibly introduced us to what we think of as the “modern slasher” film. His works kicked off the giallo genre, related to the slasher genre in some way, often depicting a killer shrouded in darkness with intense kills and his films often using bright, colorful lighting. They are some of the most distinct and unique films even to this day.

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Somewhere between all of his gothic-esque horror films and crime thrillers lay his giallo films, specifically I am talking about A Bay of Blood, sometimes known over here as Twitch of the Death Nerve, but also known as Blood Bath or any of the other several dozen titles it goes by. It doesn’t matter what title it’s under, I have to argue that it’s one of the most overlooked horror films and no doubtedly kickstarted what you may think of the “modern slasher” as I stated earlier. It’s objective to say what film actually started the slasher genre. Some would say Psycho, others would argue The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, but most would say Halloween or Friday the 13th, especially when you see how the genre took shape. I have to agree with those that give credit to A Bay of Blood for giving shape to the genre for what it is today. Hell, Friday the 13th Part 2 outright copies two kills, even shot in the same way.

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In a typical Mario Bava style, the film opens with an old rich woman being murdered, via hung by a noose. With the lighting and shadows, it’s a particularly haunting scene. The killer is immediately revealed to be an older gentleman, her husband, who plants a forged suicide note. Then with in true Bava fashion, a true twist in horror, he’s stabbed in the back a number of times by an unknown assailant. Who did it? And why? Being a rich, old lady, she would leave behind a huge inheritance for some lucky person at the bay, so this basically makes everyone a suspect and it doesn’t help that they are all kind of weird and act mad. The front runner would be her son, Simon, who spends his time in a Pamela Voorhees sweater and chomping down on live squids, then you have the neighbor who collects live bugs like he’s the weird kid at school who also eats his boogers and his fortune teller wife who’s trying to out-drink Robert Shaw and then of course there is her husband’s daughter and her husband who is apparently on a short leash and does whatever his wife says… even murder! Even the lawyer shows up to take care of all the legal matters, but could he be up to something more sinister? There’s also a pack of four young adults stopping by to party at one of the abandoned cottages, but unknown to them, someone doesn’t want them intruding.

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And this is where the film really starts to become less of a giallo and more something new, like the then undeveloped slasher film. The four young adults really serve no real purpose in the script, which is kind of odd for a Bava film, but it’s not jarring. It sets up the stage for the grandiose murder pieces and copious amounts of sleazy nudity. The redhead strips it off and bares it all for a swim only to have her throat slit. Another gets a machete through his face, which Friday the 13th Part 2 would rip off and the last two get speared through a bed while having sex, another kill Friday the 13th Part 2 would steal. Hell, not only are they the same kills, they are also shot extremely similar. After viewing these few scenes, you’ll start to notice that this film feels slightly more gory and sleazy than any previous Bava film. The film was also released in 1971, horror films (specifically drive-in style films) were changing. Regardless of the reason, most horror fans now may be comfortable with it while fans of Bava’s older works may be turned off. Either way, those kids are dead, so now what to do with all these greedy intruders?

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Sure enough, they start getting picked off one by one in some pretty violent manners, including a blood soaked decapitation, everyone further becomes a suspect. By now, the film is being less mysterious about who killed who, but that doesn’t mean there is still a mystery behind why they are committing these heinous acts or who is behind the various other deaths around the bay. Killers and their own selfish motives are revealed and it seems like everyone is using everyone to play into their own personal gain, but why and are they really guilty? To say anymore would reveal too much. Before M. Night made the phrase “twist” something to groan and dread in a horror film, Mario Bava was masterful at it, playing with your expectations and baiting and switching you along the way. It all seemingly will wrap up and ends on, well, not quite another twist, but more of a “well that happened” moment. At first, it may seemingly come out of nowhere, but really the whole film has built up to it. Some may hate it, but most will like it.

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As A Bay of Blood creeps along, you can’t help but wonder who is next and how will they die? Oddly enough, the strange thing is that you don’t want most of them to die. It’s like you’re rooting between a bunch of inspiring felons and you’re either gonna side with the meanest or most sympathetic and the characters in the film certainly play to those stereotypes, but some of them will turn it upside down on you and surprise you with their motives, revealing their true nature. It’s a true murder mystery and even when the murder – or murderers – is revealed, there’s still the puppeteer in the shadows pulling their strings. I have to applaud the performances here, seeing as everyone plays a convincing cliche, but never going over the top with it.

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When put side by side with other slashers, A Bay of Blood may not be the goriest, but it does shed some blood and even when it is a bloodless kill, it manages to be quite visceral. Like when a woman is choked to death, the camera hangs on her horror stricken face, cutting back to the killer’s rage filled face for comparison and the veins popping out of his hands as he strangles the life out of her. The film then cuts to a flashback of her involvement in the story and when it’s done telling that, it cuts back to her lifeless body, eyes wide with terror, on the floor. The killer has just finished and you’re left feeling like maybe that was a bit too much. That’s not the only clever edit with the murders, however. The decapitation scene, for instance, shows the neck spurting blood, but cuts to a porcelain doll head falling and crashing into pieces on the floor. It makes it seem much more violent than if Bava were to show the actual head hit the floor. Edits like this aren’t restricted to the violent scenes. For example, as one character is hanging up the phone, the film will cut to another character hanging up a gas pump. It’s a clever little editing trick that makes otherwise dull and unnoticeable moments appear very interesting and clever.

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I think every slasher fan owes it to themselves to watch A Bay of Blood at least once, if not only just to see the beginning of the genre. You can see a shift it not only the times and the change in the film’s tone when compared to other horror films, but also it’s something a departure of what would be considered a traditional Bava film. As a horror film, it’s intriguing, it’s mysterious and has some messy, violent kills. It may be a product of its era, the clothing and hair styles along with the hippie/bongo type soundtrack certainly date it, but that doesn’t mean it loses its punch. A Bay of Blood is every bit as important as films like The Texas Chainsaw Massacre or Halloween, and just as influential.

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Goon Reviews: Tenebrae (1982)

(Submitted by Andrew Peters…Thank you for the Giallo Goodness, Mr. Goon. 🙂 xoxo)

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Dario Argento is without a doubt one of the most influential horror directors of all time, even if he never gets the full credit he deserves. Filmmakers like Quentin Tarantino often use his style or cinematography and lighting or storytelling elements, which were always used to convey some sort of dark, ominous mood and create tension much in the style of Mario Bava and Alfred Hitchcock. Tenebrae is often considered to be his finest Giallo flick, coming back to the murder mystery genre after a couple supernatural horror flicks, Suspiria and Inferno, and consider it a return to form.

Synapse Films has finally, and painstakingly, released the film in what I think is one of the finest transfers of a film to date. I say “finally” not as impatient, but “finally” as in someone has at last taken proper care of the film to give it to fans to show them how amazing this film looked the day it was released in theaters and for a Dario Argento film, this is absolutely necessary considering his film’s camera and lighting work. The film is presented in a brand new 2K transfer that was well worth the wait, because just like I said with The Mutilator, it was like experiencing the film again for the very first time.

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Having dealt with similar issues with a stalker (although not quite to this extent), Dario Argento decided to return to his Giallo roots with Tenebrae, tell the story of a writer whose work is being mimicked by a lunatic who promises to kill him once he’s done killing the others. It’s much more complicated than that, however. It’s never that simple in an Argento flick and that’s why we watch them; for the mystery and the near Hitchcock-like suspense. Tenebrae opens with mystery, wasting no time, and keeps it rolling throughout the duration of the film to the last minute. The story tells one of a novelist Peter Neal, joined by his assistant Anne (Daria Nicolodi) who is on his way to Rome to promote his new book of the same name with his carnival barker of an agent, Bullmer, played by A Nightmare on Elm Street alum John Saxon. Unfortunately, somebody plans on making his stay a bloody memorable one as random women are being murdered in horrific fashions, like having pages of the book stuffed in their mouth and slashed to ribbons with a straight razor.

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The body count rises as does the suspects. The police (who seem to be Peter and Anne’s doppelgangers) seem to think it’s Peter, Peter himself has a sneaking suspicion it’s an oddly obsessed TV reporter, Anne think’s it could be Peter’s ex-wife who has followed him to Rome from New York. Quite a long way for a stalker. Of course, there are more red herrings, but you can see the predicament the audience is put in and this is the fun of the movie. You’re always going to be guessing – and second guessing – who the killer is. Motives are always questioned as Peter, Anne and their other assistant Gianni sit around in a hotel with a map and pages from the book, playing detective and possibly pinpointing who the killer is. Meanwhile, someone in the shadows is having nightmares of a women sexually humiliating him, but who could this person be and could they be the killer?

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Unlike Deep Red, there isn’t any seemingly intention slapstick type humor, as the film seems to take itself more seriously, which I have to admit that it’s better for. It keeps the tone of the film at an even balance, but also like Deep Red there are very long tracking shots (most notably the one that tracks around the house for nearly three minutes) to create a sense of dread as you know the killer is stalking an individual. Obviously in the time between Deep Red and Tenebrae, Dario Argento has had time improve the tension he wants to create, which at times then felt a little dragged out. Tenebrae offers many moments of false security and can put you on edge, like when one of the characters is dropped off in the middle of nowhere only to be chased for quite a while by a dog… then lands her right into the den of the killer.

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If I talk anymore about the film, I feel like I’m going to give too much away, but I feel like you now have the basic idea of it. Without going into them too much, there is also an underlying theme of water which seems to be present before and after a scene with the killer and hints that this film could take place in a semi-quasi fascist future, like how everyone seems very upscale; seemingly rich and aside from the hobo (who comes out of nowhere and is there for no reason other than to creep you out), there is no signs of money struggles. Some of the technology hints at this too, like Bullmer’s video screen in his office. I got off topic a little bit, but I had to give examples of how complex Tenebrae can be under the surface. It’s not a straightforward murder mystery. It has a lot of twists, turns and surprises that’s sure to keep even the most die hard fan second guessing.

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All of this mystery is backed up with some glorious, bright red blood colored murder. The victims who at first seem to be random and then halfway through the film are then important characters that seem to be killed for a reason, are dispatched in some pretty graphic ways. You have your traditional throat slashes and what have you with an occasional axe to the head, but the real show stealer here is when a woman who is waiting in terror for the killer to come for her has her arm hacked off to spray a geyser of blood until the killer hacks her up. The tension is drawn out so well, I’m always at the edge of my seat when viewing this scene, probably making it one of my favorite kills of all time. Oh, and what would a Dario Argento film be without a collaboration with Goblin? Once again, it’s their score that really amplifies the intensity of scene, whether it be somebody creeping along or being butchered brutally.

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As I mentioned, Tenebrae was just re-released by Synapse Films in a brand new 2K transfer from the original negative elements that looks absolutely gorgeous. I’m still an awe over how wonderful it looked and to top it off, it’s boxed in a cool collectable steelbook. However at $40 a pop, that can seem a little steep, even if it is in a collectable steelbook. Not to say it’s not worth it, mind you. The film includes quite a few features, like featuring both English and Italian tracks with newly translated subtitles for both languages (hey, this is kind of a big deal for us Italian horror fans), an audio commentary from film critic and Argento scholar, Maitland McDonagh, an original theatrical trailer, rare English sequence shots that can be inserted into the film with seamless branching (and also restored in HD, I might add), original Unsane end credits sequence, the alternate opening sequence and my personal favorite, the feature length documentary Yellow Fever: The Rise and Fall of the Giallo, which chronicles the genre and the influences it had on modern slashers and includes interviews with the greats, like Dario Argento, Umberto Lenzi, Luigi Cozzi, Richard Stanley and a whole lot more. And to top it off, there is a booklet inside with liner notes by Derek Botelho, author of The Argento Syndrome and additional technical notes by Don May Jr. and Vincent Pereira. So, yeah for $40, they make sure you get your money’s worth.

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Tenebrae is an amazing experience for Giallo fans as a film and Synapse’s new release of the film is a masterpiece. Fans who have seen it numerous times will be experiencing it for the first time and for those who have never seen it will be in for one of the finest Giallos.

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