Phenomena is an Italian horror film directed by Dario Argento. The plot sees a young American girl Jennifer (Jennifer Connelly), go to a Swiss boarding school to receive an education and be out of her parent’s hair. However, once she arrives she notices that she has a strange relationship with insects, and that said relationship might be the key to solving a string of murders that is happening on campus.
Why can’t Argento make a film that does not have a serial killer or group of serial killers (Suspiria) as the main antagonist? Yes, I know obviously he must have at some point in his career, but of the film’s I’ve watched it is certainly a repeated motif and one that is starting to get tiresome.
I enjoyed the more abstract ideas here; I wish we have dived deeper into Jennifer’s powers and how and why they came out. There is a wonderfully off kilter strangeness to the whole film that is very difficult to describe but it really sticks with you after the film.
I thought the slasher elements were probably the weakest part of the film, though I did enjoy the final fight scene. It reminded me very much of Mrs Voorhees in Friday The 13th I thought it was well done, tense and effective; the face melting scene stayed in my head for a while after the film, the power of practical effects.
Overall, a strange film in a lot of ways, however that strangeness makes it what it is. Good, but I do wish Argento would stop making films about serial killers.
The insect, mystical stuff
The killer stuff for the most part of boring
It had pacing issues and was far too long
Reviewed by Luke
Demons is an Italian horror film directed by Lamberto Bava. The plot sees a group of cinema gowers become the victim of a centuries old mask that turns people into demons.
This is the film that killed the giallo subgenre, the Americanisation is clear to see, this film owes more to films like The Evil Dead then it does something like The Bird With The Crystal Plumage, which is not in and off itself a bad thing, it is just noteworthy.
My main complaint with this film would be that the plot felt confused, I wasn’t quite sure what it was saying most of the time, a lot seemed to be going on and not much of it made any sense. That said I did like where the film ended things teasing a world overrun by these demon creatures and a human safe haven/resistance.
It feels very 80’s in approach, with the music and the tone, but it also feels very forgettable as a result. It blends in with a sea of other 80s based slashers and supernatural affairs. The acting is also quite so so, no one is memorable and most seem to be over acting in an effort to get noticed.
Overall, a sad death of a subgenre
It has a promising ending
It feels generic
The acting is bad
It has lost touch with its roots
It is hard to follow
Reviewed by Luke
A Bay Of Blood is an Italian giallo film directed by Mario Bava. The plot follows a series of murders taking place around the titular bay.
I enjoyed seeing early slasher elements pop up in this film, I thought it was very interesting to see the genre cross pollination. For example the bed spear scene would later be used in Friday The 13th Part 2, as well as the machete to the face kill. If you are a fan of genre cinema or film history that is a really rewarding part of the film.
I thought keeping us guessing about who the killer was, rather than showing us outright was a smart move as I often had my expectations subverted and the end reveal feels satisfying. This is defiantly less of a traditional giallo film as the mystery of who the killer is feels secondary to the body count, which is suitably creative and gory.
I thought it was well paced and none of the scenes felt too long, which is often a complaint of mine. The acting was also strong and all the performances seemed genuine and real, a lot can be learnt by comparing the performances of the teen ‘victim’ character in films like this and in our modern day slasher films; it is night and day, with a less favourable view going to today’s performers. Have our standards dropped?
Overall, if you’re a fan of slasher cinema then you owe it to yourself to watch this film.
Keeping the killer mysterious
The pacing and the acting
It’s a big part of horror history
It is a little dry by today’s horror standards
Reviewed by Luke
Blood and Black Lace is a giallo horror film directed by Mario Bava. The plot sees a series of brutal murders involving models at a Roman fashion house, these murders seem to be in aim of recovering a secret laden diary.
So, this film shifts from the standard giallo to some degree we start to see more of an early proto slasher, complete with white face mask, much like the one Michael Myers would come to wear years later.
I thought the mystery of the film was probably it’s strongest part, with the focus often straying towards the killer being a good thing for the film in the long run. The mystery itself was not obvious or overly simplistic, it kept me guessing until the end, but when revealed felt natural and well built towards.
The acting is strong if a little over the top, but that adds to the charm. None of the performances particularly blew me away, but nor did they bring me out of it.
Though I can understand why this film is important, in genre, to me it just felt a bit too similar to other giallo films I have watched recently, they have all started to blend together.
Overall, though I can see it’s important the strong mystery and over the top slightly campy performances are the only selling points the rest of the film feel very by the numbers.
The genre importance
The over the top camp
Very by the numbers
The characters feel quite thin
Reviewed by Luke
Tenebre is an Italian giallo mystery film directed by Dario Argento. The plot follows American novelist Peter Neal (Anthony Franciosa), who while in Rome promoting his new book becomes wrapped up in a string of murders that seems to have taken inspiration from his narrative.
This film sits somewhere in between The Bird With The Crystal Plumage and Cat O’ Nine Tails for me, which is to say it is somewhere in the middle of those two extremes, it is a pleasant middle ground. This is a clear return to his roots for Argento as it is far less supernatural in delivery then this other late 70’s early 80’s films and goes back to ‘classic’ giallo; though it still does have a religious spirit to it.
I thought the pacing was strong and the mystery kept you guessing up until the last minute. The twist is nothing new, it has been done many times before, but I didn’t see it coming here and though familiar it still had the desired effect and I was shocked.
The kills, which are a big part of Argento’s contribution to giallo, where somewhat anti climatic for me, compared to his earlier films. Yes, they were suitably bloody and theatrical, but it felt like he was running out of ideas here.
The acting is quite strong, Franciosa is left to do most of the heavy lifting which he does with ease, whilst also captivating your attention for the entirety.
Overall, good but not quite BWTCP levels. A break may have been needed.
The pacing and acting
Back to his roots
Weak supporting cast
The kills lack enthusiasm
Reviewed by Luke
The Cat O’ Nine Tails is an Italian Giallo film directed by Dario Argento. The plot follows a blind man (Karl Malden), as he works with the police to solve a series of murders.
Of the Giallo films I have seen thus far this is by far the worst.
This film has awful pacing, some of the most egregious I have seen in recent memory. It goes on and on and you lose interest quickly. It has a large amount of bloat and a lot of the film feels like it is trying to kill time until the next reveal which it meanders then eventually gets to.
Unlike other Argento films, you don’t care about the mystery here. The plot feels very average and generic, there is no style to it there is nothing to set it apart from any number of other films. The killer, and the reveal feels very underwhelming especially when compared to Argento’s earlier film, The Bird With the Crystal Plumage.
Finally, the lead is dull and uninteresting. You don’t care about them and they feel very hard to root for. Clearly the film was going for the buddy cop dynamic, or what would later become that, of later noir films as they team the blind man with a generic police officer partner, but they just serve as another character not to care about.
Overall, a weak follow up in the Animal Trilogy and it is fairly obvious why this is Argento’s least favourite of his own films.
I enjoyed the soundtrack
It is hard to watch
You lose interest quickly
You don’t care about the characters
It lacks but style and substance and the killer feels bland
Cannibal Holocaust is an Italian cannibal horror film directed by Ruggero Deodato. The plot recounters the final days of a group of budding documentarians as they head to the Amazon jungle to try and make contact with the tribes.
So, yes before we get into it, I just want to say that don’t want this if you are easily offended. There is real animal death in this film, and very vicious rape scenes which are both very off putting. I myself had to look away during some of these scenes as I thought that it was just needlessly vulgar. I think an argument can be made that these scenes were only put in the film to add a shock factor that would lead to its infamy, making it more of a must see for a certain type of people.
That aside, I enjoyed parts of this film. I enjoyed how the film subverted our expectation in having the missing teens be the real villains of the piece rather than have it be the savage evil tribe trope again. I thought it was a nice comment on the fact that just because someone is classed as ‘civilised’ it doesn’t mean they are. I read the whole thing as a commentary on colonialization.
I enjoyed the sense of tension especially in the later stages of the film, when it feels like the whole of this world has become hostile and there is this looming sense of death that just doesn’t go away. The frights are physiological as you see the level of human depravity just below the surface.
Overall, not an easy watch, but one that is worth your time as a comment on the past and human nature.
Not using the evil tribe trope
A strong sense of tension
Interesting themes and comments on society
It is not an easy watch
A lot of the more vulgar elements feel done for little more than shock value
Reviewed by Luke
The Bird With The Crystal Plumage is an Italian giallo film directed by Dario Argento. The plot sees Sam Dalmas (Tony Musante), an American writer holidaying in Rome become tangled up in a series of bizarre murders. As the killer creeps closer Sam has to figure out who it is and stop them.
What I enjoyed the most about this film was the merging of noir elements and supernatural slasher elements to create a hybrid of sorts. The killer in this film is menacing and mysterious, almost more so than any of the slashers that would come after them, pair this with the fact they also doesn’t feel out of place in this very realistic world. It is a tight rope walk, but one that this film pulls off well.
Pacing wise this film is a model that other films should strive for, it used its hour and a half runtime well it build the mystery and sense of threat over the course of the film well, never giving it a moment to drop or drag. Moreover, the mystery was never obvious, it kept you guessing, and I appreciated that.
I thought the acting was top notch as well, Musante was a compelling lead who had just the right amounts of vulnerability and capability to never feel anything other than a real person. He is not some invincible force of justice, neither is a terrified victim, rather he feels rounded.
Overall, a fantastic example of Italian genre cinema. A strong mystery adapted well that has more than enough thrills and chills to keep you invested
The leading man
It would have been nice to see the female characters be more than just sex objects and victims
Reviewed by Luke
Suspiria is an Italian supernatural horror film directed by Dario Argento. The plot sees an American ballet dancer transfer to a prestigious German dance school. However, as Suzy (Jessica Harper), settles into her new life she soon comes to realise things are far more sinister than they appear; and a grizzly string of murders reinforces that point.
I enjoyed the dream like quality of this film, the breaks with reality helped in this respect as you were never quite sure whether what Suzy was seeing was real or whether it was some elaborate hallucination/ dream.
I thought though very crude by today’s standard, when the horror was used it was used well and even though the makeup and effects were not hugely scary it still served to unease me. It reminded me slightly of the first Nightmare On Elm Street film, in tone and aesthetic; clearly Freddy and Craven borrowed a few things.
I thought the acting was good, Harper didn’t have a huge amount to work with as most of her scenes would either be reactionary, or her running and or falling to the ground, but that was the way a lot of female characters were written in that time period of horror cinema, so it is not unusual.
Overall, I enjoyed this film I thought the dream like elements worked and it had a fun yet still scary campy horror vibe.
The practical effects
The campy fun
The dream like parts and the accompanying music
A poorly written female lead
Reviewed by Luke