Someday I’d like to visit Italy and see if everyone acts the way they do in Argento films, moving all artificially and speaking poor dialogue out-of-sync with their mouths. Probably it’s just a very bad movie. And that’s not even counting the fact that it’s about a rape investigator (played by Argento’s daughter) who gets repeatedly raped (she’s also a cop who repeatedly gets her gun stolen), then it justifies this in the second half by having her become the killer. “He forced his way into me and now I can’t get rid of him.” Worse, I’m not even sure why I watched this. I’d previously read up on Argento and decided which movies might be worth watching (just the ones I’ve seen plus Crystal Plumage, Grey Velvet and Opera), and Stendhal Syndrome was not on the list. Maybe I put it on the netflix blu-queue as a placeholder? Anyway at least the picture on the disc looked fantastic.

The earliest Asia Argento I’ve seen, two years before New Rose Hotel. After being kidnapped and raped the first time she acts prickly towards a creep coworker (Marco Leonardi, love interest Pedro in Like Water For Chocolate) who is relentlessly trying to date her, starts seeing a psychologist (Paolo Bonacelli of Salo, one of the few films more icky than this one), and eventually returns to her stress-inducing family (to relax, haha), where she’s followed by both creep Marco and blood-obsessed rapist Thomas Kretschmann (Argento’s Dracula, also in Queen Margot with Asia).

Then she kills the rapist but keeps insisting he’s still alive, as she carries on his work, taking out the psychologist, her new French boyfriend Marie (a boy with a girl’s name as the movie continually mentions), Marco and a couple others.

Moo Orleans:

And by the way, Asia has the Stendhal Syndrome, which causes you to become entranced by works of art, but the movie doesn’t know what to do with this, plot-wise. It combines well-staged practical effects with the worst computer graphics I’ve ever seen, which is used with Fight Club excess (why, when she swallows pills, must we follow them down her throat?). It’s not just 1996 CGI – it’s Italian 1996 CGI. The movie has story problems (a half hour in, it’s already explaining its first scenes in flashback), missed opportunities (Marco brings Buster Keaton videos to a girl who imagines herself falling into paintings, but we get no Sherlock Jr. clip) and the unsurmountable flaw of having no recognizable human behavior. After reading that interview about invisible acting in The Dirties, and watching well-performed horrors like Hellraiser and The Tenant, this is especially disappointing. At least I could enjoy the paintings, the cinematography and the blatant Vertigo references.

Asia takes up painting:

Things I remembered while going through screenshots: (1) Asia gets amnesia between passing out at the art gallery and being raped by the loony, (2) she kisses a fish in a dream sequence, which looks like the romantic opposite of the zombie-vs-shark scene in Zombi 2, (3) she sees graffiti come alive in the loony’s lair, (4) her dad is freaky.

Asia loves fish:

Two awful thoughts: I wish I’d watched the English dubbed version since the Italian was so badly dubbed anyway, and I wish I’d seen the U.S. edit that chopped out twenty minutes. Or perhaps I wish I wouldn’t continue to waste my time on Italian horror movies in the first place. The few I’ve loved (Suspiria, City of the Living Dead) have been dampered by the many I’ve just hated to death. This wasn’t even a proper horror, just a “giallo” (which is not its own genre, people, just the Italian word for pulp crime fiction).

Opens with a psychic named Helga (Macha Méril of A Married Woman and Night Train Murders) giving her presentation to a sparse audience. “Butterflies, termites, zebras, all these animals and many more, use telepathy to transmit orders and relay information. This is a proven fact that can easily be demonstrated.” She will soon be knifed to death then hung out her jagged broken glass window for Marc (David Hemmings, star of Blow-Up) to come attempt to rescue. It’d be ten years before Argento would change his mind, making a film (Phenomena) with a woman who speaks telepathically to butterflies and termites its star, instead of its first victim.

Marc appoints himself lead detective on the case, even though he’s a jazz musician who barely knew the victim. The actual detective is a jerk anyway. Marc meets a sprightly young reporter (Daria Nicolodi, who had cats flung at her in Inferno) who will be his partner in investigation – and in love. They discuss gender equality (I didn’t know there was such thing in Italy), which leads to an arm wrestling match. DH also tries confiding in his best friend in jazz, Carlo, but Carlo is always too drunk to help.

Daria:

Next some woman named Elvira is killed (along with her pet bird, and I HOPE that wasn’t a real bird, damn animal-brutalizing Italians) – an author who wrote a book on something or other, I dunno. It doesn’t matter. Hot on the case, Hemmings looks for Carlo but instead finds his weird mom (Clara Calamai, star of Ossessione) who sends him to Carlo’s boyfriend’s house. Once we know Carlo is gay, and this being the 1970’s, it’s assumed he’s the killer (he’s not – it’s his mom).

This is how Carlo’s mom dresses in her own house:

Some professor is killed, I dunno, and Marc becomes obsessed with this spooky house with a child’s drawing on an inside wall and a walled-off secret room with a body inside. It’s Carlo’s old house – enter stylish flashback of Carlo’s mom knifing his dad to death. Before we learn about the mom, Carlo is suspected, gets dragged to death by a garbage truck (but Gabriele Lavia will return as Carlo in Inferno). Mom is beheaded when her necklace is caught in an elevator, heh. And at least one other animal (lizard with a pin through it) is tortured for the sake of this movie.

This is supposed to be a slasher but there are only two killings in the first ninety minutes. I don’t need a movie to give me continual bloody mayhem, but this has little going for it storywise besides the mayhem, mostly alternates overlong conversations with everlasting suspense scenes. I loved the keyboardy Goblin soundtrack, but did not like the dialogue editing. I’ll stop commenting that the voices are annoyingly out of sync when the Italians learn how to shoot sound film properly.

Now that I’ve seen some exciting, excellent/horrible Argento movies from his peak period (Suspiria, Inferno) and some depressing, horrible/horrible movies from his more recent period (Giallo, Pelts), it’s safe to say I never need to watch these three all the way through (although I’m still undecided on Mother of Tears), so here’s The Last Ten Minutes of them:

Do You Like Hitchcock? (2005, Dario Argento)
First thing I see is a black-gloved hand. First thing I hear is an unconvincingly delivered line. It’s an Argento movie, all right. Looks like I’ve stumbled into a crap remake of Rear Window. Police chase the black-gloved girl onto the rooftop, where she falls, hanging Vertigo-style from the gutter while the crippled Giulio (Elio Germano of musical Nine) watches across the alley. But a minute later everyone is friends? So there was no killer? Down on the street a shopping cart lady puts on a wig. Huh? Anyway, months later, Giulio watches a hot nude girl across the alley and enters a confusing flashback montage. One of the girls was Elisabetta Rocchetti, who later appeared in something called Last House in the Woods (oh Italian movie industry, how you amuse me).

The Card Player (2004, Dario Argento)
“I’m sorry, I had to kill him,” says a dude with a cellphone (and disappointingly, no long mustache to twirl) who has tied a girl to the train tracks. He cranks up a CD of funky electro music and lies on the tracks with her playing cards on his laptop, while she taunts him instead of smashing the computer into his face like it seems like she should do. He gets run over by a train, and she shoots out his car stereo, mercifully stopping the electro music. Someone in the movie was Liam Cunningham of Wind That Shakes The Barley – hopefully not the card-playing killer, because that guy was terrible.

Phantom of the Opera (1998, Dario Argento)
Oh no, it’s a period piece. Asia Argento is pretty convincing as an opera star until a sewer troll interrupts the performance and handsome Julian Sands (Warlock himself – the description says he’d not physically disfigured in this one, but was “raised by telepathic rats”) sweeps Asia away. It is very dark, and a man with a funny mustache stumbles upon an enclave of dead bodies. Long-haired hero Andrea di Stefano (star of a Marco Bellocchio movie) shoots Julian and escapes the bloodthirsty search party (wasn’t he part of the search party), as Asia screams in horror (she’s good at that sort of thing). This looks a ton better than the last two movies, though it has the lowest rating. Maybe that’s from people thinking they were getting the Joel Schumacher version. The rat-squealing sound effects over the finale got my birds very excited.

First Snow (2006, Mark Fergus)
This dude Vince says he still considers Guy Pearce his best friend, but says that Guy has fucked up and pulls out a gun. Vince goes off with a long, tortured speech then tries to kill them both but only manages himself. Guy Pearce is sad, flashes back to a pretty girl in a cowboy hat as it starts to snow. The writers/director worked on Children of Men and Iron Man, so I suppose this should’ve been good. Didn’t look awful, but I’m not saying I wanna see 90 more minutes of it.

Noise (2007, Henry Bean)
Tim Robbins’ car is making a ton of noise and William Hurt is angry, then he makes it stop, then start again, then he has some kind of noise-epiphany as judge Chuck Cooper smashes his car with a golf club. A Baldwin tackles the judge, who is arrested under suspicious of being Tim Robbins’ anti-noise vigilante. A way unrealistic court scene follows, in which Tim helps Chuck win in order to set precedent that noise can be considered assault and battery. High on his success, Tim considers joining a pimply militant in blowing up city eyesores but chooses not to. He smashes cars Michael Jackson-style as the credits roll. Overall the movie looks pretty fun, if kinda silly. From the writer of Basic Instinct 2.

Lakeview Terrace (2008, Neil LaBute)
Controversially interracial couple Patrick “Little Children” Wilson and Kerry “Last King of Scotland” Washington come home to a mess of a house, then dude goes out back to thank Samuel L. Jackson for helping him for a break-in. But Jackson knows that Wilson knows that Jackson knew the guys who broke in, and now Jackson’s on the attack. Much punching and many gunshots ensue. I wish Samuel L. had the integrity I always imagine he had. Ugh, his character name is Abel. Cops shoot Sam a bunch, the couple turns out semi-okay and family values are protected. Besides rogue cop Abel, the rest of the LAPD force is portrayed as remarkably restrained and competent. Follow-up to The Wicker Man by Neil LaBute’s doppelganger – the one who killed the real Neil and replaced him in 2000, halfway through production of Nurse Betty.

Obsessed (2009, Steve Shill)
Beyonce catches Ali Lartner (Resident Evil 3) in bed surrounded by rose petals, presumable waiting for Idris “Stringer Bell” Elba. Girlfight ensues! So which one of these girls is “obsessed”? I think it’s Lartner, who plays it weirdly affectless. Generic thriller music, fight scene, camerawork and everything. Lartner is killed by a falling chandelier and family values are protected. Idris Elba comes home just in time for the credits, dammit, the only reason I watched this was to see him.

It’s Alive (2008, Josef Rusnak)
Thought I’d peep tha remake since I recently saw the original and more recently saw Splice. Oh it’s the ol’ flashlight-into-the-camera trick from X-Files. This is taking place in a very dark house, not a sewer – the movie probably couldn’t afford a sewer. Father Frank (TV’s James Murray) catches the baby (how? we don’t know) in a trash can and creeps off to a very dark outdoor area, then unwisely opens the can and gets savaged by the baby (played by an out-of-context CG effect). Motherly Bijou Phillips (of Hostel II, here with the horror-in-joke character name Lenore Harker) catches up with them and takes the baby into a burning house where they both perish… or DO they?? Hmmm, no cops – the movie probably couldn’t afford cops. That seemed longer than ten minutes.

Simon Says (2006, William Dear)
Key phrase from the description: “Simon and Stanley (both played by Crispin Glover), backwoods twin brothers with a fondness for booby traps.” That’s all you needed to tell me! Helpless Stanley is being groped by some girl – but he’s got a knife!! She’s got a bigger knife! Did he just headbutt a corpse? Now he’s screaming with a fake southern accent in the woods, wounded and toting a scythe. Could this be the end of Crispin Glover? Yep, got a knife in the skull by a girl who I assume is Margo Harshman (good name). Where’s the twin brother? Maybe there never was one. Oh Crispy is still alive and gets the girl, twist ending. They said “you forgot to say simon says” about four times. I missed the epilogue bit since someone knocked on the door, but I saw a bunch of mirrors and I’m guessing there was never a twin brother, which is disappointing. William Dear, also the writer, once made Harry and the Hendersons.

An awful lot like Inferno, with the ludicrous plot, hysterical acting and silly deaths. But also like Inferno, the visuals are excellent enough that I can forgive all that. I think I actually prefer Inferno, even though this one has better music and funnier death scenes.

Eva Axén went from working with Visconti in classy period pieces to getting stabbed, thrown through windows and hung by Argento:
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Eva up there escapes from a prestigious dancing school, goes to stay with a friend, and is dramatically killed (along with the friend) by an unseen evil which cares little for logic or reasonable dialogue, only for the picturesque posed deaths of young women.

Our heroine in the middle is Jessica Harper (Phantom of the Paradise, Pennies From Heaven). At left is Stefania Casini, an older sister in Blood For Dracula.
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New student Suzy picks up the narrative from there, discovering right off the bat that her school is creepy but not figuring until the end that it’s a front for a coven of witches run by a hundreds-year-old evil mother.

The Mother Of… something:
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One thing the movie’s got going for it: casting Udo Kier. But it loses points for casting Udo Kier in a tiny, talky role, essentially letting everyone BUT Udo Kier overact. Bad call. Maybe Kier was busy in Fassbinder’s The Stationmaster’s Wife at the time.
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While Suzy has fainting spells, deals with a plague of maggots falling from the ceiling, and talks with Udo Kier and some professor (Rudolf Schündler, actor since the 30’s and director in the 50’s and 60’s, also in The Exorcist and Wenders’ Kings of the Road and The American Friend) about historical nonsense, more deaths occur. Her friend Stefania Casini is murdered by the unseen hand in a similar over-the-top manner to the first death (barbed wire, razor stabbing, nails through the eyes). And the blind pianist is kicked out of school and walks through the abandoned square at night. The music warms up, the lighting declares the buildings to be a threat, and suddenly a stone gargoyle comes alive and flies overhead… but in the end, he’s simply killed by his guide dog.

Blind Daniel (Flavio Bucci of Il Divo) getting kicked out of school by mistress Alida Valli (star of Eyes Without a Face, Senso, Il Grido, The Third Man, played a caretaker in Inferno)
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Joan Bennett (30+ years after Scarlet Street), in her final film role, has got some wicked wallpaper.
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Amazing cinematography by Luciano Tovoli (from Antonioni to Argento to Barbet Schroeder to Titus), who shines red and blue colored lights on simply everything. The dubbing is mostly good, and I liked the pumping Goblin music surprisingly well. I dig when Goblin sings along quietly with a sinister “la la la.”

Argento’s debut seven years prior was titled The Bird with the Crystal Plumage.
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OCT 2017: watched the new 4k restoration at the Alamo, wowie wow wow.

I don’t know why I didn’t get L’Atalante upon first viewing. Maybe ’twas the low-grade VHS tape I rented, or maybe I was drowsy or impatient, but now I see it’s almost as beautiful and twisted a love story as Sunrise.

Provincial girl marries a barge captain passing through town then finds that spending life on the boat with his two assistants is less excitingly romantic than she’d imagined. Tension mounts between the captain and the gruff-looking but tender Jules leading the girl to flee the ship to see Paris on her own. But she doesn’t fare well and the captain goes into a depression, so Jules goes and finds her for a tearful reunion finale.

Not the fault of the video, I guess, because many shots were out of focus on the 35mm print. Must’ve been rough to do so much location shooting in 1934. So many other gorgeous shots and ideas scattered throughout that it’s easy to overlook technical shortcomings. Movie holds a poetic, dreamy state throughout, and the ending seems deserved despite the captain being kinda unlikeable most of the time.

Jean Dasté got small roles in Jean Renoir films, and many years later, larger roles in Francois Truffaut films. He was also the sympathetic teacher in Zero For Conduct.
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Dita Parlo appeared in Grand Illusion and didn’t do much acting after the 30’s.
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Michel Simon was more well-known, starring in The Two of Us, Rene Clair’s Faust, Port of Shadows and at least three by Renoir. Jacques Rivette did a 100-minute Cinéastes de notre temps with him in ’66.
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Cats are thrown at people from offscreen, an obvious influence on Dario Argento.
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Happy ending:
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Zero For Conduct, by contrast, was less anarchic hilarity and slightly more tedious than I remembered it. Still a fun boarding school romp with good characters (the dwarf headmaster, the head-standing supervisor played by Dasté who is on the kids’ side from the start) and great portrayal of repressive school life, friendships and rivalries and minor (and in the end, major) rebellions.

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I watched the above two at Emory on 35mm last November but delayed posting this until now because I wanted to go through the rest of the Artificial Eye DVD.

I dug the Cinéastes de notre temps episode by Jacques Rozier (new-wave filmmaker with Adieu Philippine, also shot some of the stuff on the Contempt DVD and the Cinéastes episode on Bunuel excerpted on the Viridiana DVD). 90 minutes of Vigo stories and interviews with the three L’Atalante leads thirty years later. Michel Simon looks the same, and Dita Parlo is very recognizable when she smiles. Now that I know what Jean Daste looked like in the mid-60’s, I’ll look out for him in The War Is Over. Didn’t realize that Jean Vigo knew Jean Painleve… and Painleve has an indirect connection to Oskar Fischinger.

Not much to say about the two shorts. The Jean Taris doc has some cool photography, but I wouldn’t say it’s worth watching over and over. The Nice doc is more creative, has lots of cool photography, and is definitely worth watching over and over.

Jean Taris, swimming champion:
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À propos de Nice
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“A lot of bad shit’s been happening around here ever since we started working on this coat. It’s like it’s cursed or something.”

Yes, this movie is about a cursed coat made from the cursed pelts of cursed raccoons, trapped and killed by (an obviously cursed) John Saxon on some cursed land near some cursed ruins behind a cursed old witch’s house.

Terrible music and bad acting in a silly story. What, did Friday the 13th: The Series use up all the cool stuff that could possibly be cursed, so now we’re down to raccoon pelts? At least Master Argento didn’t write it – guy who wrote the novel behind Michael Mann’s The Keep did.

Meat Loaf makes coats and likes strippers (one in particular). Saxon traps a buncha raccoons and raves over how perfect they are, phones Meat Loaf who picks them up and makes a coat to woo his favorite stripper. Oh, and since the pelts are cursed, everyone who touches them kills themselves and/or someone else in a bloody, horrible way.

Should’ve hired the makeup guy from Hellraiser 2, because in the climactic scene when Meat Loaf walks around skinless, it looks very much like he’s just wearing a gory black shirt.

Contains all three of the big MoH signature elements: naked breasts (boy, a lot of them), recognizable actors doing ridulous stuff (meat loaf, duh) and something nasty happening to an eye (lady in coat factory sews hers shut).

Why do the credits use a goofy comic font?
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Meat “Loaf” Aday being creepy:
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Scary raccoon:
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John Saxon (of Tenebre, A Nightmare on Elm Street, and Mitchell) about to be beaten to death:
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Of course, writing this led me to look up Friday the 13th: The Series on IMDB. Who knew that Atom Egoyan and actor David Morse directed episodes and the writer of Mystic River and The Postman wrote a couple? For that matter, who know that the writer of Mystic River worked on The Postman?!

“Help me. Rats are eating me.”

Rose (not shown here because I didn’t think to get screenshots until after she’d died) lives in a spooky “New York” apartment building above a rare book store run by cat-hater Kazanian. She reads his book about The Three Mothers (which is not such a rare book since he has a few copies in stock). Bumbles around the basement, drops her keys into an underwater room with a portrait of a Mother and some floaty dead bodies, then recovers from that only to be stabbed in the neck.

Kazanian hating on some cats:
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How to die in this movie, in three steps:
1. a hand injury
2. (optional) animal attack
3. stabbed in the neck

Rose’s mustachioed brother Mark is in Rome studying music with his buddy Sara, when he gets a mysterious letter from Rose referencing the Three Mothers book.

Mustachioed Mark, seen here whispering into a hole:
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Mark runs off, freaked out by a cat lady who appears in class, so snooping Sara reads the letter.

Cat Lady, seen here in music class:
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Sara picks up a copy of the not-at-all-rare book in Rome, and stumbles immediately upon another of the three evil buildings that the book mentions. She runs away from an evil alchemist and befriends a man in the elevator who soon gets stabbed in the neck.

Sara’s elevator buddy, seen here under a heavy blue filter:
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A monster catches Sara and dispatches her with a broken window to the neck. I am not kidding.

Snooping Sara shortly before getting her stupid self stabbed:
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Mark goes to “New York” to find his sister, meets her hot neighbor Elise. Elise helps get him caught up on the mystery, then she gets tormented by having stagehands throw cats at her from off-camera, and stabbed to death.

Elise on the set of INFERNO:
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Also in the apartment are an evil nurse who wheels around an evil old man, a nondescript woman (not shown), and a loyal butler.

Mark hassles poor Kazanian, who is later tormented by cats in his bookstore. Kazanian loads the cats into a bag, takes it to the river to drown them, falls down and is nibbled by rats before being stabbed in the neck. His own fault, really.

Back at the mysterious apartment building, the butler is probably evil (aren’t they always?) but I don’t remember for sure… anyway, his eyes are gouged out, breaking the knife-to-the-neck rule set forth by INFERNO in order to keep the “an eye must always be gouged out” general law of Italian horror.

Butler near a birdcage:
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If the butler isn’t the mastermind behind all this evil, it must be the old man, who lives like Phantom of the Paradise in the cellar with his listening devices and his robot microphone.

Phantom of “New York”:
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Wrong again! It’s the nurse who wheels him about! I think the movie is saying that she’s one of the Three Mothers and that she is very evil, but I’m not sure how far her evil extends, or if it’s even dangerous to people who don’t live in this apartment or attend music class or hate cats. But oh my god, when Mark goes downstairs to face her, the movie’s theme song plays with lyrics sung in Latin, and that is great.

One Evil Mother:
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The nondescript woman sets the place accidentally on fire (it’s an “inferno”, if you will), and the Mother is either delighted or horrified by this, hard to tell since at this point she is wearing a rubber skeleton mask, but anyway she throws her hands in the air and Mustache Mark escapes, the end.

My favorite part of the whole affair is the interview on the DVD, where a weary-looking Argento talks about what a difficult and personal film this was, and how he and assistant director Lamberto Bava (dir. DEMONS and DEVIL FISH) and his father Mario Bava (dir. Black Sunday and Diabolik) struggled over this effects shot where a woman dramatically crashes through a mirror and comes out wearing a fakey skeleton costume. Yep, it took the three greatest minds of Italian horror to come up with that one. If only they could’ve got Lucio Fulci (Zombi 2, The Beyond) and Umberto Lenzi (Cannibal Ferox) to make her a better rubber suit.

The underwater bit isn’t bad, which is the same thing I said about Zombi 2. Maybe the Italians should make a whole horror movie underwater.

At least I was so busy marvelling at the silliness of the whole thing that I didn’t notice the dubbing.

Implications of this movie:
– women (or maybe actors in general) are just set dressings to be put in pretty poses and then threatened and stabbed.
– there is something evil, and it’s been around forever, and it is easily defeated by unknowing incompetents, though honestly it’s better off being left alone since it’s not much of a threat to anyone.
– alchemists are scary, cats are evil, architecture is evil

I think Eyes Wide Shut was based on this movie. The atmosphere and pacing, the camera zooms, the drowsily agitated characters, the fake New York, the singing in Latin… it all adds up.

Total Film mag and the They Shoot Pictures List call this one of the best horror movies of the ’80’s, but those people are tripping.

This is a semi-sequel to Suspiria, and Dario Argento’s brand new film Mother of Tears is a sequel to this one starring his daughter Asia (as a woman in trouble) and Udo Kier. Mustache Mark never amounted to much… Rose appeared in Puppet Master and Watchers II… Sara was in something with Marcello Mastroianni and Tom Berenger… Elise has been in all the big Italian horrors and will appear in Mother of Tears… the nurse was in The Beyond… Sara’s blue-tinted friend dubbed the title character in the Italian release of V For Vendetta… the old wheelchair man appeared in The Seventh Victim in 1943… and Kazanian was the husband in Last Year at Marienbad!

A not-too-good Masters of Horror installment by not-too-good filmmaker Argento. I knew the ending three minutes in, and just waited patiently to be proven right. An insultingly crappy story, in which TV veteran Steven Weber (currently in that Studio 60 show) saves Jenifer (some girl with lotta makeup) from a crazy man who is trying to kill her. Kills the man, brings Jenifer HOME for some reason, wife and kids disapprove, Jenifer eats family pet and has amazing sex with Weber. Now Weber wants to keep her, so she keeps eating neighborhood people and dude’s family moves out and finally he moves out into the country and gets a simple stockboy job and all is well until Jenifer kills the store-owner’s son and now Weber tries to kill Jenifer but she’s SAVED by a hunter who kills our man and rescues her and so on.

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Not all bad – the Jenifer character is disturbing enough with the crazy face and the eating people’s guts, but not too good either. Katy didn’t watch and wouldn’t have liked.

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Saul Symonds in Light Sleeper points out all the ways this one fits in with Dario Argento’s other work: the circularity of plot, the duality of Jenifer’s character, the “strange shifts of direction”, and exploring “the manner in which a central protagonist is devoured by darkness”.