Friday, February 29, 2008

Spider Labyrinth

Man, am I glad to be ending this week with at least one movie that doesn't completely stink. Anyway, much like with Class Reunion Massacre, I had gotten this film as a result of scouring various message boards searching for a new obscure horror thrill. Really, there’s nothing quite like the rush that comes from discovering a movie that nobody else has ever heard of. If this film, then, was not quite as magnificent as it had been hyped up to be (and really, few horror movies honestly could be as great as this was made out to be), it’s still impressive enough that I’m glad I went through so much effort to hunt it down.

It was described to me as Argento-ish, which certainly didn’t hurt its chances with me, and thankfully it mostly lives up to that lofty praise. The film follows an American archaeologist who flies out to Italy to meet with a colleague about some ancient writings he’s uncovered, only to be repeatedly warned by his friend and others that the town is filled with danger, and he must get out before it’s too late. Naturally, after his friend is brutally killed hours after their conversation, he decides that there’s nothing to do but investigate what he had found there and what’s going on with the town. I feel I must interject at this time with a small editorial. When you fly out to a creepy town where everyone openly stares at you like they want you dead, and multiple people tell you that you need to leave immediately because your life is in danger, and the person you are there to meet with is violently killed in a bizarre and monstrous way, you may want to consider heeding everyone’s advice and getting out of Dodge while you can. Also, when someone warns you that most of the town is in on it, and you need to be careful who you talk to, it may not be the wisest decision to then go and tell all to the very first person you see. Granted, then we wouldn’t have had much of a movie, but still. His ongoing efforts manage to uncover evidence of an ancient sect devoted to spider gods, and a decent-sized body count begins to accumulate as it slowly dawns on him that he may well have wanted to take everyone’s advice earlier in the film.

If this movie wasn’t quite as wild and brilliant as Suspiria, it was still suitably creepy and grim as an Italian horror film from the 80s should be. While the townsfolk are able to go over the top with their scariness when they need to, early on they manage to stay frightening on a perfectly subtle level, which really only makes it much scarier than a movie filled with quick jump scares in lieu of real frights. For instance, the morning after his friend is killed, he goes out to eat with a local, and while she’s flirtatiously grilling him about what kind of research he and his friend are there for, he slowly becomes aware that nobody else in the restaurant is talking, but instead are all staring at him. Then when they see he’s noticed them, they all get up and silently file out, as his dining companion keeps idly chatting with him to try to deflect attention away from everyone else. It’s a brilliant moment, in a film with a few of them.

This is not an easy movie to find (I had to get a bootleg from Midnight Video), but if you’re a devoted horror fan it will be worth your while. It’s one of those films like Suspiria or Inferno (or the upcoming Mother of Tears) that just creates an entire dark world just one wrong turn away from our own, filled with monsters and damnation. I live for movies like that.

Rating: *** ½

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