6WH: Week 5 – Italian Horror

One thing I’ve noticed has been missing from this year’s Six Weeks of Halloween festivities is, well, craziness. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve watched some weird stuff this year, but let’s just say the batshit insane quotient has been lacking. This sounds like a job for Italians! They may not make any sense, but that’s what being batshit insane is all about. Things kicked off well this weekend, though they gradually got less and less wacky as time went on. Ah well, there’s always next week.

  • The Simpsons: Treehouse of Horror VIII: Fly vs. Fly
  • Kingdom of the Spiders (trailer)
  • Black Sheep (trailer)
  • Phenomena – This is the most bonkers movie I’ve seen in a long time. Let’s count the ways in which this insanity manifests. Ok, so first we’ve got a girl (played by a very young Jennifer Connelly) who can commune with bugs attending a prestigious academy in Switzerland (they refer to this area as the Swiss Transylvania on multiple occasions), a pre-CSI entomologist who uses bugs to date murders, a razor-blade wielding chimpanzee that fights crime, and a scene where someone realizes they’ve taken a poison drug and induces themselves to vomit (a scene that goes on for about 5 minutes). And this is just the tip of the iceberg.

    Crime-Fighting Chimp

    It’s a little slow to get going, but all of Dario Argento’s quirks are on display here. I’ve already mentioned the school, which is a common trope for him, as is the obligatory girl falling through a window death scene. The music is interesting, though a little too tinged by the 80s to be effective, but Argento has always had a way of matching music with his long, slow tracking shots that works well. Again, it takes its time at the beginning, but the last half hour is quite the awesome bit of gloriously loopy stuff. And the whole thing ends with craziest scene of all. The crime fighting chimp, having vanquished its enemies with a razor blade he found in the garbage somewhere, throws away the weapon like he’s fucking Gary Cooper in High Noon. Not really a “good” movie, but I kinda loved watching it. ***

  • Honest Zombie (Robot Chicken)
  • Slither (trailer)
  • Scourge of The Undead (fake trailer)
  • Demons – Ostensibly about a demon who opens a movie theater, invites in some victims, then starts converting the audience into more demons, it pretty much plays out like a typical zombie movie (Italians love zombies). You’ve got the monsters themselves, which are kinda mindless, and they spread by scratching (infecting) their victims. I’m a little unclear on who or what was orchestrating this movie thing, but like a lot of zombie movies, there’s some blatant symbolism going on here. It’s set in a movie theater that’s showing a movie that’s and at one point, a demon literally jumps through the canvas screen and starts attacking the audience.

    Here be the Demons

    Despite the metaphorical possibilities, there’s pretty much no plot here at all. People go to movie theater, get attacked by demons, try to get out of movie theater. Lots of blood and gore, some interesting makeup effects (including a particularly disturbing demon teeth replacing human teeth thing, and the Italian favorite eye gouging gags), but that’s pretty much it. Zombie fans would enjoy it, I found it a little on the meh side, though I was entertained enough. **

  • Lotion in the Basket (Robot Chicken)
  • Suspiria (trailer)
  • Deep Red (trailer)
  • Tenebre – Another Argento mystery thriller type thing, this one was distressingly normal, though as Giallo films go, it was fun enough. This one plays on that old saw of the killer tormenting an author by killing people in the manner described in the books. There is a sorta whodunnit element to the story, though like all Argento mysteries, you really can’t figure it out based on the information you have. Still, there are a couple of nice twists and a bravura crane shot that marks the visual centerpiece of the film. This was engaging enough, but I find I don’t have much to say about it. So there. **1/2

That wraps up Italian horror week. I think next week will end up being a “No Discernible Theme Week”, depending on what Netflix can get me… Stay tuned, still plenty of horror and mayhem on the way.

2 thoughts on “6WH: Week 5 – Italian Horror”

  1. “I want to make a movie about a girl who talks to bugs and ends when a super-smart chimp kills the bad guy.”

    “Sure, Dario, here’s a bucket of money.”

    The 1980s were awesome.

  2. Haha. Indeed. My favorite 80s moment was actually in Demons when a bunch of punks are driving around the city snorting cocaine out of… a coca-cola can. Brilliant.

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