Tuesday, 27 November 2007

All the Colors of the Dark


In opposition to the financial drain of being addicted to DVD's, there are plenty of pluses. See, a gambler will keep betting because he thinks the next bet will get him the big pay off, and this almost ever happens. Those with DVD obsessions experience something similar, with the major distinction being that pay offs happen far more frequently. This is all aided and abetted by the availability of previously hard-to-see genre flicks.

I've always thought of myself as a top notch horror movie fan. My earliest movie memories are of being scared at the theatre when I was two years old. Later, I stayed up with my Dad to catch the classic Universal monster movies on the late show when I was a pre-teen. As an adolescent I became a fan of gialli, watching censored VHS copies of 'Deep Red' and Lamberto Bava's early, just-released flicks. During my VHS-fueled adolescence, anything Italian meant outrageous gory entertainment. How many of these Italian gut-munchers (or chunk-blowers), as they were called, were there? I mean, I must've seen almost all of them, I thought.

Wrong! Turns out there's a whole world of horror flicks I'd only just touched upon. Now, thanks to countless DVD companies releasing restored, intact copies of international genre output, I feel like I'm initiated into something special, something undiscovered by the masses. Like Max Renn in "Videodrome", I've gone to a deeper level and discovered the "New Flesh" ("Old Flesh" maybe, since most of these flicks were released in the 70's and 80's).

Part of that new-to-me world that I'm discovering involves the great, beautiful Edwige Fenech. I hate to admit it, but I've only recently seen my first giallo starring Fenech --- "All the Colors of the Dark". Fenech is now mostly retired from acting, but she's a very successful producer in Italy; She also recently had a cameo in "Hostel Part 2" as an art teacher. In her acting heyday, however, Fenech was one of the stalwarts of the giallo.

In "All the Colors of the Dark", a pretty good giallo with supernatural themes, Fenech stars as a woman who's recently miscarried, being pursued by a maniac. Her new and mysterious neighbour (another giallo regular, Marina Malfatti), offers Fenech a solution to her stalker troubles. Unfortunately, that solution involves black magic, which opens the door to a whole host of new problems.

"All the Colors of the Dark" offers solid direction from Sergio Martino ("Torso"), who orchestrates an unforgettable ultra-cool 70's-style opening nightmare sequence (If I ever get to make a perfume commercial, it's going to look exactly like this scene.). The film also features the fantastic combination of not one, not two, but three of giallo's leading ladies - Fenech, Malfatti ("The Night Evelyn Came Out of the Grave"), and Susan Scott (a.k.a. Nieves Navarro, and star of "Death Walks on High Heels"). George Hilton, also a giallo regular, appears as Fenech's always out of town boyfriend. Julian Ugarte is the head of the coven, and is truly slimy, while Ivan Rassimov is the menacing contact-wearing stalker.

Any review you read of "All the Colors of the Dark" will make mention of the film's similarity to "Rosemary's Baby", which is justified when comparing scenes involving black masses and in both films' shifts between reality and fantasy. "All the Colors of the Dark", though, is unique enough and provides enough of a gambler's reward to keep this betting man hunting for the next big score.

Monday, 5 November 2007


(1979) This movie has been written about ad nauseum, and it's so well known that it's a part of pop culture history. The premise isn't far removed from that of a slasher film --- a group of stranded people are killed by a stalker, one-by-one. Elements of the film are also reminiscent of "It! The Terror from Beyond Space" and Mario Bava's "Planet of the Vampires". Still, it's a scary and suspenseful outer space horror movie with terrific effects and an iconic villain, one of the last (to this date) great monster designs.

Though I partially spoiled the experience of seeing "Alien" in the theatre for the first time by reading Heavy Metal magazine's illustrated version of the story before seeing the movie, I found certain scenes incredibly tense even though I knew what was coming. As a 13-year-old I found other stretches of the film dull, but that has changed as I've grown older, which is the reverse of my experience with most movies.

Though the first sequel, "Aliens", is the preferred alien flick by many, I still prefer the original. I like its emphasis on horror and suspense over the second film's focus on action scenes. And I find the original alien infinitely more scary than those in the sequel. The original creature is almost unstoppable, while the creatures in "Aliens" are easy to destroy, finding their strength in numbers.

Ridley Scott's direction is controlled and builds suspense terrifically. The script by Dan O'Bannon is smart, and the score by Jerry Goldsmith is eerie and effective. The cast are all perfect, with Sigorney Weaver being a standout. The unexpected arrival of the baby alien is one of horror's classic moments. File this movie under "You Must Have Seen This By Now" category.

Sunday, 4 November 2007

Alice, Sweet Alice

(1976) "Alice, Sweet Alice" is a creepy little thriller, commonly referred to as an American giallo (Not to be confused with that Richard Gere movie with the Blondie theme song). I hate movie writing that gives away too much plot, so I'll skip those details, and instead say that "Alice, Sweet Alice" involves a creepy killer in a creepy see-through mask and a creepy yellow raincoat (in an oft noted nod to Nicholas Roeg's "Don't Look Now"). It's also a very Catholic flick with themes of guilt and sin and scenes set in a church and a manse, populated with preists, nuns and the devout. In fact, the atmosphere is key to the flick's effectiveness. Shot in the 70's and set in the 60's, "Alice, Sweet Alice" has a terrific feel for its working class New Jersey backdrop. The cast adds to the overall oppressive atmopsphere, with Brooke Shields in her acting debut, a Felliniesque Alphonso DeNoble, and Paula Sheppard perfect as Alice. Though "Alice, Sweet Alice" drags a little around the two-thirds mark, it's a very good movie, well worth seeing. And that mask is seriously creepy.