Tag Archives: giallo

A lorra lorra confusion

blind date 1984


2.5 Stars. 1984/18/106m

“The ultimate hi-tech thriller.”

Director/Writer: Nico Mastorakis / Writer: Fred Perry / Cast: Joseph Bottoms, Kirstie Alley, Keir Dullea, Lana Clarkson, James Daughton, Charles Nicklin.

Body Count: 5

Greek exploitation director Nico Mastorakis turned in this good looking techno giallo, which doesn’t make a whoooole lotta sense.

The ever-amusingly named Joseph Bottoms is an American working in Athens, who is still not over the death of his model ex-girlfriend, but is going out with Kirstie Alley’s …whatever Kirstie Alley is in this movie.

Meanwhile, a shadowy taxi driver is picking up young women, drugging and drawing lines on their nude bodies, and then going at them with a scalpel. Well, supposedly, there’s barely a shaving cut’s amount of blood to be seen. Interestingly, the sole male victim is the only one we see offed.

blind date marina sirtis 1984

One night, Joseph is spying on a lookalike of the dead ex while she’s making out with a guy in a car. They see him, the man gives chase, and Joseph runs into a branch and knocks himself out, waking up blind. The doctors, however, cannot find anything wrong with him and suggest it’s a trauma-induced psychological thing.

Keir Dullea implants a device that will convert signals to Joseph’s nervous system via headphones and Walkman or something, and he sees outlines of everything like an Etch-a-Sketch on dark mode. His stalking with the lookalike brings him to witnessing the murder of another poor soul; the killer sees and gives chase. Joseph decides to later find the killer and manages to steal a car and drive it through the city, despite seeing a bunch of lines like a low-rent version of A-Ha’s Take on Me video.

blind date 1984

Blind Date is a strange one: The police are nowhere to be seen, meaning most of the murders seem surplus to requirements, the victims mostly given no lines whatsoever, just seen topless and pathetic – including Deanna Troi actress Marina Sirtis as a hooker; elsewhere there are gay (?) showtune singing muggers, cerebral Pong, driving around with headphones on, the promise of a sequel that never was at the end of the credits, but also some nice visuals, a sexy cast and all the usual silly coincidences that pepper this subgenre.

Blurbs-of-interest: Bottoms was later in Open House; Keir Dullea was in the original Black Christmas. Mastorakis directed the opening scenes of Darkroom.


the last matinee 2020


3.5 Stars  2020/18/88m

A.k.a. Bloody Matinee

“No talking. No texting. No breathing.”

Director/Writer: Max Contenti / Writer: Manuel Facal / Cast: Luciana Grasso, Julieta Spinelli, Ricardo Islas, Patricia Porzio, Emanuel Sobre, Franco Duran, Pedro Duarte, Bruno Salvatti, Vladimir Knazevs, Daiana Carigi.

Body Count: 9

Hopefully Uruguay will forgive me for the first thing that comes to mind when I think of the nation being that moment in The Simpsons where Homer sees it on a globe and pronounces it: “U R Gay.”

Uruguay gets the last laugh though, as this is one sexy bitch of a giallo slasher.

On a rainy day in Montevideo in 1993, a small single-screen cinema showing a low-end Frankenstein film (actually a real movie directed by actor Ricardo Islas, who plays the killer here) attracts a small number of punters: A couple on a first date, some teens off their trolley on vodka, the Brooke Shields-a-like girl one of them was lusting after on the bus, and a young boy who has snuck in.

the last matinee 2020

Projectionist’s daughter Ana has come to relieve her overworked father, packing him off in a cab and babysitting the reels while studying, much to the annoyance of night manager Mauricio, who’s not paid enough to care about throwing out an angry homeless guy escaping the rain.

Regrettably for all of these people, a slicker-clad lunatic with a bag of grisly tricks has also crept inside and makes quick work of locking them in. He then sets about killing those inside one by one to take their eyes and add them to a jar for later snacking. Eww. There’s a brutal throat-cutting while the victim is puffing on a cigarette, resulting in smoke exiting the next wound in a gruesomely artistic way; two kids making out are skewered together in an eternal kiss, as well as death by projector.

the last matinee 2020 luciana grasso

The simplicity of the plot is one thing, and some of the characters’ names aren’t ever mentioned, but if you’re looking for a film that revels in its aesthetic details – this is it. Almost comic book-like shots play out as the killer hones in on his victims, with 80s-style fragmenting of the space beforehand, daring us to guess where he is, when he will strike, and what he will do.

A great scene utilising this approach occurs when a bored Gabriela decides to make the movie going experience more interesting by giving Horacio an impromptu hand-job; elsewhere two teens are sharing a tentative kiss; the on-screen tension is building…; who will the killer take out? It’s a beautifully conducted sequence, shocking and even a little bit sad.

the last matinee 2020

Ana eventually discovers the killings, although it’s timed nicely with the celluloid breaking and what she believes to the audience booing over the incident is actually someone being knifed to death. From there the survivors try to fend off the killer and raise the alarm. Surprisingly, they get through to the cops for a change, but they also fall foul of the Bad Choice trap where they have the killer out cold but decide to flee rather than bludgeon him to death with the weapon in their hands. It’s a slasher film though, do you really want sensible decision making?

Contenti’s attention to visual detail is the Chef’s Kiss USP of The Last Matinee, truly not the first slasher flick set in an underattended movie theater, but by far the best looking. Almost every frame feels considered and created rather than just cut-in, every shot composed rather than pointed-at-and-shot. The result is an impossibly handsome piece of horror cinema, and the comparable lack of characterisation lends itself well to the bolt-from-the-blue nature of the killer’s attack on a bunch of strangers.

the last matinee 2020 ricardo islas

Beautiful horror.

Gianna and the Giallo

deep red 1975


3.5 Stars  1975/18/126m

“You will never forget it.”

Original title: Profondo Rosso

Director/Writer: Dario Argento / Writer: Bernardino Zapponi / Cast: David Hemmings, Daria Nicolodi, Gabriele Lavia, Macha Maril, Eros Pagni, Giuliana Calandra, Clara Calamai.

Body Count: 6

Laughter Lines: “It’s always a maniac and they never catch them!”

I saw Deep Red for the first time about eight years ago but curiously made no notes whatsoever and couldn’t remember a whole lot beyond the twist with the ‘painting’, the mechanical doll, and not knowing if Gianna died or not. It’s likely I watched a cropped down version, because the one I just rented seemed a whole lot longer and had several cut-ins which were never dubbed into English (despite the actors’ lips obviously speaking in it).

Anyway, serving as the template for Dario Argento’s move from whodunits into his more slasher movie-esque era, the accepted giallo ingredients are all present and accounted for: An outsider, a black-gloved mystery killer, slow moving scenes that fragment the locus so we don’t know where the fiend might leap from any second, psychics, a score like someone had a seizure at the piano… It’s all here! Yay!

deep red 1975

In this case, David Hemmings is Marcus Daly, a jazz pianist/lecturer living in Italy (whether or not it’s Turin where the film was shot I don’t know – they mentioned Rome?) who, one night, witnesses the brutal murder of his neighbour, Lithuanian medium Helga Ulmann who, earlier, had ‘tapped in’ to the thoughts of a vengeful killer during a lecture on telepathy, saying she knew who it was and that she would write out her observations and hand them over to the police.

deep red 1975

Marc finds himself teamed up with Lois Laney reporter Gianna (longterm Argento fixture Nicolodi) to try and crack the case ahead of the seemingly clueless cops – who tell the press their eyewitness can ID the killer, which goes out on the evening news. There’s a tinge of romance between the carefree Gianna and uptight Marc and the re-added scenes largely cover their partnership, involving a recurring gag with a crapped out Fiat 500. After an hour, the killer returns to eliminate a writer who knows about a past crime at a house we briefly saw during the credits as someone was being stabbed to death before the weapon fell at the feet of a child, while a kid’s ‘la la la’ ditty plays. This tune comes up several times and, while not as much of a brain intrusion as Baby Shark, anything by Ed Sheeran, or the Halloween III Silver Shamrock commercial, it does get a little irritating.

With the killer seemingly one step ahead, Marc finds the creepy old mansion and uncovers some more clues. This scene is strangely long – really long – and it reminded me how impatient modern audiences have become. A part of it involves him chipping away at plaster to view a mural beneath it. In a new flick, this would be montaged down with cuts, but in Deep Red we witness the whole process, including him going off to find a piece of glass to hasten his pace.

deep red 1975

In that sense, Deep Red, if re-edited, would probably clock in around 85 minutes there’s so much …waiting going on. But in other scenes it makes sense: The stalking of the interim victims – the writer and a professor – is expertly strung out to tease the audience. We know something bad is about to drop, but from where, and how badly? The mechanical doll shock is still absurdly creepy and weirdly irrelevant, yet remains the most memorable set piece.

Eventually, Marc figures out what he saw way back at the start with ‘the painting’ and the killer is revealed. “It was such a long time ago!” they caw for the flashback/exposition, before a very rapid fight ensues. The twist is neat though, can’t say otherwise and, while I’d probably not choose to donate two hours of my time to sitting through this for, hmm, another couple of decades, it shows that Argento was, even then, streets ahead of his contemporaries.

deep red 1975 daria nicolodi

Blurbs-of-interest: Argento’s other slasher pics include TenebraeOperaPhenomena, Trauma, and Sleepless; Nicolodi was in Tenebrae, Phenomena, and Opera; Gabriele Lavia was in Sleepless.

“…And do I dream again?”

opera 1987


3.5 Stars  1987/18/103m

“Obsession. Murder. Madness.”

A.k.a. Terror at the Opera (UK)

Director/Writer: Dario Argento / Writer: Franco Ferrini / Cast: Cristina Marsillach, Ian Charleson, Urbano Barberini, Dario Nicoladi, Coralina Cataldi Tassoni, William McNamara, Michele Soavi.

Body Count: 8

Laughter Lines: “A maniac is after me. I need your advice on what to do.”

In the days before DVD, this one was a bitch to find. Before he realised his version of The Phantom of the Opera, Dario Argento created this giallo homage to it, allegedly also inspired some way by Michele Soavi’s Stagefright, which pitted a group of stage actors against a savage killer in an unsettlingly creepy bird mask. Soavi makes a cameo here as the detective with a bit of chest pain.

Cristina Marsillach is young opera hopeful Betty, who finds herself thrust into the spotlight when the Diva of Verdi’s Macbeth is hit by a car and suffers a broken leg. No sooner does the ingenue begin her run in the role than a psychotic hooded killer begins creeping up on her, tying her up and taping needles under eyes to force her to watch as he shreds through her friends and colleagues. Could this turn of events relate to Betty’s recurring dream about her dead opera-singer mom? Yeah, probs.

opera 1987

Argento’s trademark excesses rule the roost, with lush photography and an intense score to accompany the requisite gruesome murders: One victim gets speared through the chin, another has her neck cut open with scissors, eyes are pecked out by birds, and there’s a stunning slow motion bullet through the eye. As with some of the other Italian blood feasts though, the one-dimensional characters and contrived plotting devices make things get a bit stupid, even by slasher movie standards. Knowing that the killer always creeps up on her, Betty continually wanders off on her own, while other characters linger too long and too close over the supposedly unconscious killer, or state they’ll “be safe here” when it’s clear they really won’t…

As one of Argento’s most successful releases though, if you can suspended your more superego-biased senses for 103 minutes, there’s a lot to lap up here, most of it coated in a thick gloop of grue.

Blurbs-of-interest: Argento’s other more slashery films include Deep RedPhenomenaTenebraeSleepless, and Trauma. Of those, his one-time wife Daria can also be seen in Phenomena and Tenebrae; Michele Soavi directed Stagefright and acted in A Blade in the Dark and has a small appearance as the motorcycle victim in Absurd.

Hairy Macho Bullshit

tenebrae 1982


3.5 Stars  1982/18/107m

“…Terror beyond belief.”

A.k.a. Unsane

Director/Writer: Dario Argento / Cast: Anthony Franciosa, Dario Nicolodi, Giuliano Gemma, John Saxon, John Steiner, Veronica Lario, Carola Stagnaro, Marino Mase, Lara Wendel.

Body Count: 12

Laughter Lines: “Male heroes… with their hairy, macho bullshit.”

My favourite of Argento’s more slasher-tilted films, reportedly written on the back of his own experience with a stalker.

Franciosa is famed American writer, Peter Neal, who is promoting his latest novel, Tenebrae, in Rome, with help from his kitschy agent Saxon, his personal assistant Anne, and a young intern.

No sooner does he step off the plane than a series gruesome razorblade murders commences, each one based on incidents from the titular book. Peter takes along his young protege to investigate and potential suspect and the mystery thickens to the point where it’s entirely possible that there are several independent killers at work.

The giallo touches are played to the hilt, with archetypal Argento camera work, and the black-gloved maniac creeping around off camera. Memorable moments include a sticky severing of an arm via axe blow, and a gory end to the eventual killer thanks to a pointy piece of modern art.

tenebrae 1982

As usual, beautiful young women are the primary targets for the razor-flashing loon, who cuts and slashes his way through several semi-clad babes, one of whom is a journalist known to Peter, who states that his work is sexist and that women are portrayed only as victims. Her murder, therefore, seems more than a little mean-spirited and a possible dig at feminists who have voiced concerns over Argento’s earlier output.

The slight distractions swept aside, this one is up there.

Blurbs-of-interest: Argento’s other slashy exploits include Deep Red, PhenomenaSleeplessTrauma, and Opera. Of these, his one-time wife Daria is in Phenomena and Opera; John Saxon was in A Nightmare on Elm Street‘s and 3, plus Wes Craven’s New Nightmare, and also Black ChristmasWelcome to Spring BreakThe Baby Doll Murders; John Steiner was later in Camping Del Terrore.

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