Eighties Italo-Horror is my “thing” right now. Those of you who know me personally are aware that I’ve been singing the praises of Italian horror before some of the films I’m posting here were made, but I haven’t always been so interested in the mid to late eighties Italian stuff because, well, it was too familiar and, to be honest, I thought it too campy…ALMOST to the point of being annoying. I’ve had a few decades, however, to give myself some perspective and, you know, develop my “aesthetic wisdom”. Within the last year I watched a movie on Youtube called THE HOUSE OF LOST SOULS, by Umberto Lenzi. It was a part of the same series of TV films that included Lucio Fulci’s THE HOUSE OF CLOCKS (recently posted on my blog) and, after watching it for 20 minutes, a warm feeling of peace came over me. I realized that this is the kind of film that my spirit can find rest in. Playful, childlike, gory, absurd, ecstatic, subtly philosophical, artifical, campy (yes!), filled with LIFE and, perhaps most importantly, unafraid of taking itself several degrees less than seriously, Lenzi’s HOUSE OF LOST SOULS is truly an unintentional masterpiece. Hungry for more, I returned to several low budget Italian films I’d rejected in the past and realized there was a whole world of pleasure that I’d been denying myself.
Unfortunately THE HOUSE OF LOST SOULS, as well as many of my other favorites, are no longer on YouTube, but there are several other eighties Italo-Horror films out there which, though they may be flawed in some ways, produce a parallel magic. I’ve already posted a few of them. Today and tomorrow I’m providing all the rest I’ve found on Youtube, all in one go, so I can focus on other kinds of films thereafter. After all, though I hope my obsessions can translate to others, I realize that is not always the case.
So hear we go:
ROSSO SANGUE aka ABSURD aka HORRIBLE aka ANTHROPOPHAGUS II (1981)
The films of Joe D’Amato (birth name: Aristide Massaccesi) are successful when they are cool, mechanical, visually interesting, and filled with sex and gore. D’Amato doesn’t rely as much as his peers on cinematographic acrobatics or tricks of editing. His films are effective because they appear to be straightforward while planting seeds of excess and morbidity just behind the surface. These seeds grow like mold on a porno film. I posted his best movie, ANTHROPOPHAGUS, last year. His second best is likely EMANUELLE IN AMERICA, but ROSSO SANGUE is a close third. Expect violence.
As a side note, the black metal band Absurd is named after this movie…so that’s something…
Like many other Italian horror directors, Luigi Cozzi has made his living from strange “knock-off” versions of more successful American films. Don’t imagine that means they’re lacking in creativity. Hollywood movies do roughly the same thing, but never deviate from their sources in the inspired, bizarre, over-the-top way that CONTAMINATION does. Drawing from sources such as ALIEN and INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS, Cozzi gives you goofy adventure, glowing eggs that sigh like asthmatic fog horns, New York City street toughs, a kick ass Goblin soundtrack, scientists who know nothing about science but still seem more realistic than the scientists in PROMETHEUS, and a lot, I mean a whole lot, of bloody, exploding people.
CAMPING DEL TERRORE aka BODYCOUNT (1987)
Ruggero Deodato is best known for his shocking classic CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST, but he made several other films in the eighties that are worth checking out for one reason or other. His “slasher in the woods” movie, BODY COUNT, was released in several different hacked to bits versions but the uncut version is currently on Youtube (in English with Japanese subtitles). I’m not sure how to explain the charm of this film. It has moments of artistic elevation, particularly during the murders, but most of the running time is a kind of homage to the slasher genre as it had developed thus far. I really do think it’s intended as an homage, not an emulation, in the style of Quentin Tarantino’s…er…everything Tarantino has ever done. If you go into BODYCOUNT knowing that Deodato is directing with a wink and a nod, the whole thing makes a lot more sense and is a lot more fun to watch.
This was one of the most financially successful European horror films of the late eighties (so I’ve heard). It’s got a scary clown doll, a scary little girl, paranormal killings, time travel through the radio, wild twenty-somethings that do irrational things on a repeated basis, and the usual nonsense you should expect from this kind of film. Some consider this the quintessential late eighties Italian horror movie. It’s not that for me, but it can be a good time if you’re in the mood. It’s no THE HOUSE OF LOST SOULS, it’s not even SUPERSTITION, but it’s got…something…eventually. I’m usually struck by a film right away, particularly the kind that have to “grow on you” before they pay off, but I’m not quite there yet with this one. It’s still growing on me…but I know I’ll get it eventually. You might get it right away, I don’t know. Check it out.
MINNACIA D’ AMORE aka DIAL: HELP (1988)
Another one from Ruggero Deodato. He was proud of this one and quite rightly. It draws from lots of different horror genres but doesn’t really stick to any of them. Meanwhile, we’re overindulged in hilarious and gorgeous late eighties nightclub scenes (best ever), fashion shoots, a chic apartment furnished with oversized sculptures of pencils, and a mysterious empty office building populated by a flock of cooing pigeons. The main plot revolves around angry ghosts killing people over the phone…a Giorgio Armani phone to boot. I didn’t even know Armani made a phone. It’s faaaabulous… A Claudio Simonetti (of Goblin) soundtrack tops it all off…
UN DELITTO POCO COMUNE aka PHANTOM OF DEATH (1988)
It’s only after looking all these up that I realize we have an abundance of Deodato films on Youtube right now. PHANTOM OF DEATH is a strange mix of drama, giallo and science fiction about a piano player who’s suffering from a disease that ages him quickly and drives him insane. Cops are confused because each murder appears to have been committed by a man of an entirely different age. Dramatic conversations intended to allow us to sympathize with the killer’s suffering is punctuated by stylish Argento style murders – kind of a late 80s giallo version of Cronenberg’s THE FLY. We’ve got the fine acting skills of Donald Pleasance (who has appeared in more Italian horror films than any other English actor I can think of), Michael York, and lots of sexy, talented lady actors who’s names I don’t know. This print of the film is beautiful and probably has been ripped from the British DVD release by Shameless. As far as I know a terrible, cut up print of the movie has been available in the US only on video.
To be continued…