Monday, November 1, 2010


Given the history of the giallo genre, it seems a little crazy that a movie like this had never been made before now. Just think, an entire film subgenre that’s called by the Italian word for yellow, and it took Dario Argento almost forty years since his first entry in the genre to think of making one about a villain whose skin is actually yellow.

Argento has been in a pretty major renaissance lately, after his career hit some pretty big snags over the course of the 90s (full disclosure, I’ve only seen two of his films from that decade -- The Stendhal Syndrome had its moments, but was overly long and fairly dull, and Phantom of the Opera was just terrible). Giallo, however, comes at a much better time in his career, following as it did Do You Like Hitchcock?, his two Masters of Horror entries, and Mother of Tears. Quite frankly, he’s been on fire lately, and I’m eager to see what kind of film he does next (more supernatural stuff, please).

Anyway, the plot: a serial killer is going around, picking up attractive foreigners with his cab in Milan, and dumping their carved up bodies several days later. He eventually makes the key error of abducting Celine (Elsa Pataky), an American model, while she is on the phone with her sister Linda (Emmanuelle Seigner), prompting Linda to seek help from the inspector (Adrien Brody) tasked with tracking the killer down. The two of them team up, as inspectors and civilians in gialli often seem to, and it soon becomes a race against time to find the killer before he finishes Celine off.

The film has almost everything you could want in a giallo. It’s got sexy women being cut up and murdered, some astonishingly obtuse clues that lead to the killer (seriously, if that one girl actually wanted her abductor caught, she could have tried not reciting poetry while she was dying), a killer that looks at photos of his work on the girls on his computer while jerking off, some really cool scenery, and just a whole lotta blood. There’s only a couple things it gets wrong, really: the title actually connects logically with the film without even so much as throwing an animal into it, and the killer is both revealed rather early and is largely known solely as a killer, rather than being a seemingly random cast member whose killer status is revealed with five or ten minutes left to go in the movie with no plausible explanation given. Some might say the lack of these two elements was an improvement, but really, if you can’t respect tradition then what can you respect?

If anyone has been hearing about the giallo genre but was worried that it might be too weird or Italian for them, this is a good choice to dip your toe into the water. Argento has long been the unparalleled master of the genre, and while this isn’t quite his best (that would be Opera), it’s definitely the best one to show to a potential new viewer. While Opera was more of a filmed nightmare, of the sort that he frequently made in the late 70s-mid 80s, this one will be more appealing to regular thriller fans -- at least the ones that don’t mind a nice hard R rating. And if they do mind, let’s be honest, there’s not a single Argento movie they’ll ever approve of, the uptight tools.

Rating: *** ½

No comments: