Pleased to announce that my story “The Night Thrasher” will appear in Axes of Evil 2: Rise of the Metal Gods, the squeal to Axes of Evil (see below post to order a copy!). Contract is signed but publication date is not set yet. I am thinking sometime in late November (Don’t hold me to that!). So, for the time being, while my hardcore novel “The Dread Ride” is in its 2nd draft and almost ready to ship off back to my editor Garrett Cook (if you need work done, check him out, his rates are to die for), I have started in on another novel with a subject that is near and dear to my rotten little heart… Italian horror films. I have always loved the Italian concepts of horror and fear, and for those of you who say giallo is only mystery and crime, give it up, they all blend genres and they are all terrifying. The way they suspend the reality of life and death and merge genres is incredible and you never know what will happen. Along with the stories being top notch and in a class by themselves, there are other aspects I love about Italian horror; the weaponry, the inventive death scenes, the soundtracks, the women!!! Naked or not, and hey, say what you want about misogyny, Italian horror does not dislike women one bit! Face it, if it wasn’t for the females in these movies, we would not have classics such as Argento’s Tenebre or Fulci’s A Lizard in a Woman’s Skin! Anyways, back to what I was saying, I am in the process of writing my love letter novel to Italian horror and I thought since I can’t talk too much about what it will be about, I will satisfy my urges (desires?) by writing up my top 10 giallos that rocked my socks off, in no particular order, of course!
Now, get the switchblades flicking and start screaming…
LO SQUARTATORE DI NEW YORK (The New York Ripper) – Lucio Fulci 1982:
Ah, the dirty, sleazy goodness that is The New York Ripper. Directed by Lucio Fulci and released in 1982, this giallo is jam packed with murder, sexy women, and scumbags galore. And the soundtrack by Francesco De Masi, don’t get me started! A New York police detective teams up with a college psychoanalyst to track down a vicious serial killer randomly stalking and murdering young women around the city. What’s not to like? As with all the movies on this list, the twist ending will get’cha! QUACK! QUACK! QUACK!
YOUR VICE IS A LOCKED ROOM AND ONLY I HAVE THE KEY – Sergio Martino 1972:
Director Sergio Martino is underrated, in my opinion. Here we have a master piece about a degenerate writer (Hey! Don’t look at me!) named Oliviero who has the murder of a young woman pinned on him. When more women start to die off, things get complicated and more intense. The story is one of fixation, obsession and paranoia, which Martino films beautify as a sort of re-telling of Edgar Allan Poe’s The Black Cat. Not too many death scenes in this one, as that isn’t Sergio’s style, but when they do show up, look out! The implied terror of it all will have you glued to the screen as the mystery unfolds. Also, a black cat named Satan is always around and sees everything and in a way, I like to think the audience is seeing the movie through the cats eyes. Bruno Nicolai’s score is haunting and trance inducing, fitting the movie perfectly. In the end, Your Vice is both brilliant and perverse, a true staple of the Italian cinema.
DEMONI (DEMONS) – Lamberto Bava 1985:
My first taste of Italian horror came with this gem, directed by Lamberto Bava. A group of people get trapped in a movie theater. Soon, it becomes infested by demons, killing and possessing everyone in sight! This one has it all and I mean all; Blood, nudity, punks, drugs, guns, demons, heavy metal, even a samurai sword all soaking in a techno horror – kick ass soundtrack by Claudio Simonetti featuring Saxon, Billy Idol and Motley Cure! Don’t ask questions with this one, just watch it.
PHENOMENA – Dario Argento 1985:
C’mon, you KNEW he would make my list eventually. Phenomena is my favorite Argento film, probably because it has Jennifer Connelly in it, I don’t know, but the story will take you for a ride into crazy land and that is a fact. A young Jennifer Connelly (uhhuhuhhuhuhuhuh) plays Jennifer Corvino, who is staying at a rich boarding school in Switzerland because she is a bad, bad girl ( at least I assumed she was). Soon, the students start dropping like insects (pun intended) and it is up to her and her newly developed, pubescent powers to help catch the killer before it is too late! Sound track by the one and only Goblin, including Iron Maiden! Fun fact: Jennifer Connelly had part of her finger bit off by the chimpanzee and had to rush to the hospital to get it re attached. Also, the chimp wields a straight razor. Fun for the whole family!
STRIP NUDE FOR YOUR KILLER – Andrea Bianchi 1975:
It’s gritty, It’s dark, it’s ultra-trashy, it’s Strip Nude For Your Killer! A movie so dirty, you need to take a shower after. Andrea Bianchi (not a woman, by the way) directed and wrote this nasty little giallo romp way back in ’75. I think it is fantastic in its sleaze, even rivaling that of my favorite director of all time, the master, Lucio Fulci, and the ending will gut punch ya with shock and awe. Andrea is credited for bringing the trashiness into giallo film making and he does just that with this movie. The story centers around a string of serial murders all happening to a group of fashion models (c’mon, they are people too). Will the police catch the killer in time before all the beautiful people are killed? You’ll have to watch to find out! Also, the photographer playboy Carlo Bianchi played by Nino Castelnuovo looks and acts a lot like Ted Bundy. Now, strip nude for me!
BUIO OMEGA (BEYOND THE DARKNESS) – Joe D’Amato 1979:
Now we are talking, gorehounds! D’Amato is the same man responsible for the crazy-violent ANTHORPOPHAGUS (1980). Buio Omega is D’Amato’s horror drenched, gore splattered love story. Seriously, it is. Frank, a taxidermist, loses his fiancee because of his housekeeper, who is really jealous. He can’t handle life without his wife so he does what every lonely, rich guy would do; he digs her up and stuffs her. Then, trying to find a replacement for her, he goes through a harem of cuties in a bloody and gore packed fashion. Oh, well he ever find the ONE? The soundtrack is by Goblin and needless to say it is incredible. Fun fact: this movie is still banned in Australia to this day.
SETTE ORCHIDEE MACCHIATE DI ROSSO (Seven Blood Stained Orchids) – Umberto Lenzi 1972:
Umberto Lenzi is notorious for writing and directing Cannibal Ferox (fyi: an excellent gorefest), but earlier in his career, he made this gem. In Seven Blood Stained Orchids, the action is fast paced and horrifyingly thrilling. A black-gloved maniac commits a series of murders, leaving a half-moon locket as a calling card. When one of his victims escapes, she and her husband become amateur sleuths and try to stop the killer before the seventh victim is claimed! This giallo, in my opinion, is one of Lenzi’s finest.
TENEBRE – Dario Argento 1982:
This one is a favorite of mine and is pretty straight forward. A writer (why is it always writers?) is stalked and harassed by a ruthless killer who uses his newly published book “Tenebre” as a base for the murders. Tenebre is a classic and many films after tried to imitate Argento’s style and artistry, but none could compare. The boys from Goblin are back for the score and as always, it is funky fresh.
A LIZARD IN A WOMAN’S SKIN – Lucio Fulci 1971:
Out of all the Italian directors, and while I love them all for their own reasons, I have always been drawn and associated with Fulci the most. His movies are not just brilliant, but they have everything in between. And while it is hard for me to pick just one movie (because I can’t), I can pick out one that does stand out; A LIZARD IN A WOMAN’S SKIN. The premise is simple: A woman is accused of murdering her neighbor after dreaming it. From there though, the twist and turns start happening and before you know it, you are not sure what is reality or what is staged. Ennio Morricone’s score is ghostly and it is a perfect complement to the dark, almost psychedelic vibe that Fulci paints. While being both terrifying and thought provoking, A LIZARD IN A WOMAN’S SKIN comes highly recommended from me. Other Fulci films you NEED to check out: Cat in the Brain, City of the Living Dead, The Beyond and Don’t Torture a Duckling.
THE HOUSE OF THE LAUGHING WINDOWS – Pupi Avati 1976:
Pupi Avati (again, not a woman) didn’t make too many horror films but Laughing Windows is probably his best. While it is slow in pace and the story is not a sold one, Laughing Windows sucks you into its arms and never lets go with its strange visuals and supernatural atmospheres. A restorer of classic frescoes is commissioned to save a painting of the suffering of St. Sebastiano, the last known work of the mentally disturbed painter, Legnani. Legnani was known for painting people who were near death to capture the beauty of death itself, but now Legnani is missing. As Stefano investigates his disappearance, his world slowly morphs into pure horror with every fact he uncovers.
Well, that sums it up for now. Hope you enjoyed it. Till next time, keep the lights on and the blades sharp.