Wednesday, August 18, 2010

The House with Laughing Windows

Did you know that it’s been over a week since I last had an Italian horror movie in the HROHFYSSBYD? Indeed, I haven’t included an actual giallo since Amuck!, which you all of course remember as being the film that kicked off this whole deal. To rectify this great problem, I bring to you now Italian director Pupi Avati’s most famous (admittedly not setting the bar high here) film.
The film follows the adventures of Stefano (Lino Capolicchio), who is hired to venture out to a small town in the Italian countryside to help restore a badly damaged painting in an old church. The painting is a surprisingly gruesome effort for a church (well, for an American church at least, all the European churches I ever see seem to have demons and shit inside them), with a man being repeatedly stabbed while screaming in agony. The artist, he is told, was a bit of a madman, obsessed with the transcendence brought on by death, and to help capture it properly in his art his sisters would help find him victims to kill for his art. Lest the film be too obsessed with past murders, however, he now discovers that people are once more being murdered as his restoration continues. Can he figure out who is committing these grisly crimes before it’s too late?

This one may throw off casual giallo fans a bit, as it’s a good deal more slow-paced and chaste than most gialli, focusing on developing the mystery and establishing the feel and look of the film rather than throwing lots of blood and nudity out at us. Indeed, I was more than a little amused by the astonishingly chaste sex scene early in the film, where the girl strips down to her underwear, then slips under the covers before removing the rest, and keeping herself firmly covered through the whole sex scene. Compare that to virtually any other giallo ever made, where it’s almost surprising at times to find a girl dressed at all while indoors.

This is not to say that it’s a totally bloodless affair, mind you. The film slow builds to a pretty gruesome climax and ending, culminating in murder, rape, and a twist ending that I doubt anyone sees coming their first time through. Indeed, most of the criticism of the film comes from the distastefulness of the rape scene, which absolutely seems like it was included solely due to fears that the film wasn’t exploitative enough for audiences otherwise, but it hardly goes so far as to ruin the film or anything.

It’s a similar level of slow moodiness as his zombie film Zeder, which is not only the only other Avati film I have seen, but which appears to be the only other horror movie he’s ever made. It’s a shame, as he had a real talent for them, though since he’s still making movies to this day (his latest drama, Una Sconfinata Giovinezza, comes out in Italy in October), I suppose there’s always still the chance he’ll return to horror now that he’s in his 70s. It’s just how people deal with growing old in Italy, right?

Rating; ***

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