4 Shots From 4 Films: Special Michele Soavi Edition

4 Shots From 4 Films is just what it says it is, 4 shots from 4 of our favorite films. As opposed to the reviews and recaps that we usually post, 4 Shots From 4 Films lets the visuals do the talking!

Today, we wish a joyous 63rd birthday to Italian filmmaker Michele Soavi!

Soavi, of course, started his career as an actor.  You can find him in Lucio Fulci’s City of the Living Dead and Lamberto Bava’s A Blade In The Dark and Demons.  Reportedly, he came close to playing the role that was eventually played by Giovanni Lombardo Radice in The House On The Edge of the Park.  Soavi, however, eventually moved behind the camera.  He was an assistant director on both Dario Argento’s Tenebrae and Terry Gilliam’s The Adventures of Baron Munchausen and The Brothers Grimm.

He also, of course, directed four of the greatest Italian horror films of all time, Stage Fright, The Church, The Sect, and Dellamorte Dellamore.  Though a family tragedy temporarily put his career as a director on hold, Soavi has since returned to directing.

In honor of Michele Soavi and his birthday, here are….

4 Shots From 4 Films

Stage Fright (1987, dir by Michele Soavi)

The Church (1989, dir by Michele Soavi)

The Sect (1991, dir by Michele Soavi)

Dellamorte Dellamore (1994, dir by Michele Soavi)

4 Shots From 4 Films: Dellamorte Dellamore, Nadja, The Stand, Wes Craven’s New Nightmare

4 Shots From 4 Films is just what it says it is, 4 shots from 4 of our favorite films. As opposed to the reviews and recaps that we usually post, 4 Shots From 4 Films lets the visuals do the talking!

This October, we’re using 4 Shots From 4 Films to look at some of the best years that horror has to offer!

4 Shots From 4 1994 Horror Films

Dellamorte Dellamore (1994, dir by Michele Soavi)

Nadja (1994, dir by Michael Almereyda)

The Stand (1994, dir by Mick Garris)

Wes Craven’s New Nightmare (1994, dir by Wes Craven)


Horror Scenes That I Love: The Finale of Dellamorte Dellamore

Today’s horror scene that I love comes from the 1994 Italian film, Dellamorte Dellamore.

Viewed out of context from the rest of the film, this is not an easy scene to explain.  My suggestion is enjoy it for the beauty of the images and Rupert Everett’s mournful performance.  And, if you haven’t seen it, watch Dellamorte Dellamore as soon as possible.

4 Shots From 4 Films: Special Michele Soavi Edition

4 Shots From 4 Films is just what it says it is, 4 shots from 4 of our favorite films. As opposed to the reviews and recaps that we usually post, 4 Shots From 4 Films is all about letting the visuals do the talking.

This October, I am going to be using our 4 Shots From 4 Films feature to pay tribute to some of my favorite horror directors, in alphabetical order!  That’s right, we’re going from Argento to Zombie in one month!

Today’s director: the brilliant Michele Soavi!

4 Shots From 4 Films

Stage Fright (1987, dir by Michele Soavi)

The Church (1989, dir by Michele Soavi)

The Sect (1991, dir by Michele Soavi)

Dellamorte Dellamore (1994, dir by Michele Soavi)


4 Shots From Horror History: Dellamorte Dellamore, In The Mouth of Madness, Scream, From Dusk Till Dawn

This October, I’m going to be doing something a little bit different with my contribution to 4 Shots From 4 Films.  I’m going to be taking a little chronological tour of the history of horror cinema, moving from decade to decade.

Today, we continue the 90s!

4 Shots From 4 Films

Dellamorte Dellamore (1994, dir by Michele Soavi)

Dellamorte Dellamore (1994, dir by Michele Soavi)

In the Mouth of Madness (1994, dir by John Carpenter)

In the Mouth of Madness (1994, dir by John Carpenter)

Scream (1996, dir by Wes Craven)

Scream (1996, dir by Wes Craven)

From Dusk Till Dawn (1996. dir by Robert Rodriguez)

From Dusk Till Dawn (1996. dir by Robert Rodriguez)

6 Trailers For Halloween, Part 2

Hi there and welcome to part 2 of this special Halloween edition of Lisa Marie’s Favorite Grindhouse and Exploitation Film Trailers!  Today, we’re looking at some of my favorite Italian horror films!

1) Suspiria (1977)

2) Bay of Blood (1971) (a.k.a. Carnage, Twitch of the Death Nerve)

3)  Dellamorte Dellamore (1994)

4) A Blade In The Dark (1983)

5) Zeder (1983)

6) Zombi 2 (1979)

What do you think, Trailer Kitty?

Trailer Kitty 2

A Quickie Review: Dylan Dog: Dead of Night (dir. by Kevin Munroe)

Yesterday, I called into work because my asthma was acting up and, in order to pass the time, I watched Dylan Dog: Dead of NightTo be honest, I probably should have just risked having another asthma attack and spent 108 minutes at work, answering the phone.  It would have been a more productive use of my day.

Dylan Dog is based (quite loosely) on the same Italian comic book that inspired one of the best Italian horror films of all time, Dellamorte Dellamore.  Brandon Routh gives a charisma-free performance as Dylan Dog, a New Orleans-based private investigator who is hired by a mysterious woman (Anita Briem) to investigate the circumstances of her father’s death.  It turns out her father was killed by a werewolf and fortunately, Dylan is apparently an expert on New Orleans’ supernatural underground, including the decadent vampires that are led by Taye Diggs (who, seriously, deserves better than this movie.)

Dylan Dog: Dead of Night plays less like a movie and more like a greatest hits collection of other, better movies (and tv shows).  We get werewolves and vampires going to war, we get an athletic blonde woman doing karate moves on a bunch of vampires, and we get a lot of casual decadence being committed by vampires who speak with Southern accents that just drip molasses.  Now, I love True Blood, Buffy the Vampire Slayer is one of the shows that gave me the strength to survive a lot of hard times, and I’ve even got a girlcrush on Kate Beckinsale as a result of Underworld.  But I’ve also got all of those wonderful shows on DVD.  I can see them whenever I want.  I didn’t spend $5.00 to rent Dylan Dog OnDemand just so I could see Dylan become the millionth film hero to walk in slow motion while firing two guns at the same time.

By all accounts, the film’s version of Dylan Dog has very little in common with the comic book version of Dylan Dog.  It’s hard for me to say for sure because, while I’ve read and heard a lot about the Dylan Dog comic, I’ve never actually read it.  Even if I could get my hands on a copy, it wouldn’t be much help since I’m not exactly fluent in Italian.  This is what I assume to be true, strictly based on my own research:

1) The comic book Dylan Dog is a melancholy character who, despite dealing with the supernatural on a regular basis, also suffers from several irrational phobias of his own.  The movie’s Dylan Dog is a blank-faced mannequin who utters useless quips and appears, in the tradition of American movie heroes, to have no fear. 

2) The comic book Dylan Dog has an assistant who is a Groucho Marx imitator.  The American Dylan Dog has an assistant who is a zombie.  That assistant is well-played by Sam Huntington and he actually does have a few good moments but it’s still impossible to watch him and not wish he was a Groucho Marx imitator.  (In the film’s defence, it appears that the Marx estate took legal action to prevent Groucho’s likeness from being used in the film.) 

3) The comic book Dylan Dog lives in London.  The movie Dylan Dog lives in New Orleans for absolutely no reason other than these movies always seem to be based in New Orleans.  Seriously, New Orleans is one of the most overrated cities in America.

4) Finally, the comic book Dylan Dog is one of the most popular cult heroes in Europe.  The movie Dylan Dog is the subject of one of the biggest cinematic flops of 2011.

It’s really hard to know what to say about a film like Dylan Dog other than the fact that it’s really, really bad.  In fact, I’m tempted to call it the worst of 2011 so far but, after giving it a lot of thought, I decided that title still belongs to The Conspirator.  Unlike The Conspirator, Dylan Dog isn’t a pompous film, it’s just a very, very lazy one. 

I think the best thin to say in regards to Dylan Dog: Dead of Night is that it might inspire viewers to seek out and watch Dellamorte Dellamore.  Now, that’s a film.

Oh dear…Dylan Dog: Dead of Night trailer

I’m not, by any stretch of the imagination, a comic book reader and there’s really only been four comics that I’ve ever actively made it a point to track down and/or read.  One was Strangers in Paradise, which I was introduced to by my first college roommate, who told me that she was my Katchoo.    Secondly, there was an old comic book series from the 70s called Tomb of Dracula that Jeff loves.  The entire series has been collected in four trade paperbacks and, last Christmas, I ordered all four of them.  Of course, since I ordered them all in August (patience and impulse-control not being my strong suit), I had a lot of time to read through them before wrapping them up and giving them away.  (And, to my surprise, I enjoyed them in all of their platform shoed glory.)  Third, there’s The Walking Dead which Arleigh introduced me to.  And finally, there’s Dylan Dog.

I haven’t read a lot of Dylan Dog, largely because it’s an Italian comic and English translations aren’t easy to come across.  (And apparently, when an American company did try to reprint the series in English, they ended up getting sued by the estate of Groucho Marx.)  So, I can’t claim to be an expert on Dylan Dog because almost all of my information about this series comes second-hand.  Honestly, if you asked me to tell you about Dylan Dog, I could probably give you the Wikipedia equivalent of an answer (i.e., that Dylan Dog is a private investigator in London who deals with super natural cases.)

Why does Dylan Dog fascinate me?  Well, some of it is because of what I’ve heard about it from sources that I trust.  I hate that answer because it sounds so flakey and simple-minded but luckily, that’s not the only reason.  There’s also the fact that Dylan Dog’s investigative partner is a guy named Groucho who looks (and apparently acts) just like Groucho Marx.  The other is that Dylan Dog was created by the same author — Tiziano Scalvi — who is responsible for inspiring one of the greatest movies ever made, Michele Soavi’s Dellamorte Dellamore.  In fact, Dellamorte Dellamore started off as an attempt to make a Dylan Dog film and the film’s main character had appeared — in a supporting role — in Dylan Dog.  From what I’ve heard, Dellamorte Dellamore — with its use of the paranormal as a metaphor for alienation and other deeper philosophical concerns — captured the sensibility of Dylan Dog

Finally, one of my favorite authors — Umberto Ecco — is on record as saying, “I can read the Bible, Homer, or Dylan Dog for several days without being bored.”

So, that’s why I raised an eyebrow when I came across the trailer for Dylan Dog: Dead of Night while looking up grindhouse movie trailers on youtube.

And then I watched the trailer and that eyebrow quickly went down.

Number one, no Groucho.  That already indicates that this is a compromised film.  Number two, I may not be able to “read” Dylan Dog but I can look at it well enough to know that Dylan Dog is not a firing-two-guns-at-once type of hero.  Number three — New Orleans?  Bleh.  I’m officially bored with movies that try to be “colorful” by filming in New Orleans.  Number four, Taye Diggs?  I’m sorry but any series that could inspire Dellamorte Dellamore deserves better than New Orleans and Taye Diggs.

Dylan Dog: Dead of Night is scheduled to be released in the U.S. on April 29th, 2011.


A Quickie With Lisa Marie: Stagefright (dir. by Michele Soavi)

Director Michele Soavi is probably best known for directing the last great Italian horror film, Dellamorte Dellamore.  However, his word in that film has been so praised that, to a certain extent, Soavi’s earlier horror films have been overshadowed.  This is a shame because Soavi was (and is) a great director and — before he temporarily retired from films in the mid-1990s — he directed four of the greatest Italian horror films ever made.  The first of these films (and Soavi’s directorial debut) was the 1987 slasher film Stagefright.

As written by Luigi Montefiore (who, as an actor, was better known as George Eastman), Stagefright’s basic story function almost as a parody of a stereotypical 80s slasher film.  On a dark and stormy night, an eg0-crazed, cocaine-addicted theatrical director (played by David Brandon) is running a rehearsal for his latest show, a campy musical about a fictional serial killer.  However, even as his cast performs fictional mayhem on stage, a real killer escapes from a nearby mental hospital and makes his way to the theater.  After the real killer murders the production’s wardrobe mistress, the director decides it would be a brilliant idea to rewrite his show to make it about the real killer.  Not realizing that the real killer has snuck into the building, the director secretly locks his cast inside the theater and forces them to rehearse his new show.  As you can probably guess, mayhem ensues and blood (a lot of blood) is spilled.

That the film worked (and continues to work over 20 years later) is a tribute to the talent of Michele Soavi.  Obviously understanding that he was working with a genre piece, Soavi embraced the expectations of the slasher film and then pushed those expectations as far as he could.  The end result is a film that works as both an old school slasher film and as a commentary, of sorts, on the genre as a whole.  Soavi’s camera prowls every corner of the film’s theater, creating an atmosphere of truly claustrophobic dread.  To me, the most effective thing about the film is that, for once, our victims actually do the smart thing.  They stick together and try to fight off the killer as a group.  And they end up failing miserably in a scene of horrific choas that shows Soavi at his best.

Soavi started his career as an actor and appeared in a countless number of Italian horror films in the late 70s and early 80s.  (For whatever reason, Soavi always seemed to be getting killed in some awful way…)  Perhaps that’s why, of all the great Italian horror directors, Soavi always seemed to have the best instincts when it came to casting.  For a slasher film, Stagefright is well-acted by a cast made up of horror regulars.  Barbara Cupisti is a properly likable protagonist in the role of “final girl” while the great Giovanni Lombardo Radice does good work in the small role of Brett, a flamboyantly gay actor.  However, the film is dominated by David Brandon who snorts cocaine and barks out orders as if the fate of the world depended upon it.

(Soavi, himself, appears in a small role as an ineffectual policeman who, while people are dying all around, is more concerned with whether or not anyone else agrees that he looks like James Dean.  And, it should be noted, there was a resemblance.)

As opposed to a lot of other directors involved with the Italian horror genre, Soavi had (and, I hope, still has) a genuine love of film and that love is obvious in his stylish direction here.  There’s something truly exhilarating about seeing a movie made by someone who is truly in love with the possibilities of film and, because of that love, has no fear of pushing genre “rules” to their  extreme.

Review: Masters of Horror – Haeckel’s Tale (dir. by John McNaughton)

Masters of Horror has been good but very uneven in its execution during it’s two season run on Showtime. Haeckel’s Tale is the last episode for Season One (Takashi Miike’s episode never got an official airing) and it sure ends the season on a disturbingly kinky compilation of twisted grotesqueries. The story is from a Clive Barker short story that’s been adapted by Mick Garris (fellow Masters of Horror director and also its brainchild) and produced by George A. Romero to be directed by John McNaughton.

One wonders why Romero would be producing instead of directing the piece. Scheduling conflicts prohibited Romero from taking the director’s chair and he instead recommended John McNaughton (his one film which earned him Master of Horror status is one of the best horror films of the last quarter century: Henry – Portrait of a Serial Killer). The fact that Romero was originally chosen to direct Barker’s Garris adapted short story means there’s got to be zombies or some form of undead within. I, for one, was glad that Romero decided that he wouldn’t be able to direct and chose another in his stead. Barker’s short story does indeed include zombies but it also has a heavy sense of the old classic technicolor Hammer Films vibe to it. Haeckel’s Tale under the capable hands of McNaughton takes those Hammer Films conventions and ramps it up into overdrive.

Even though John McNaughton really has only one true horror film under his belt (he also directed a little-known cult scifi-horror called The Borrowers which had fledgling effects shop KNB EFX still doing things guerilla-style), but his work in Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer more than earned him his horror creds. In Haeckel’s Tale, John McNaughton clearly has a bit of fun making the only true period piece in the whole Masters of Horror series. McNaughton goes for the classic Hammer Films look for this episode and it shows in the gothic, fog-shrouded atmosphere in the outdoor scenes. The look of the costumes and even the dialogue harkens back to those Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing Hammer Films.

The story is a mixture of the Frankenstein tale with a some Cemetary Man (aka Dellamorte Dellamore) mixed in. Haeckel’s Tale begins somewhere around the 1800’s and I’m assuming close to the end of it from the costume worn by Steve Bacic who played Mr. Ralston who arrives to seek the help of Miz Carnation who is purported to be a necromancer who can grant him his wish to have his dead wife brought back to life for him. Miz Carnation rebuffs Ralston, but after some begging she makes a deal with him to hear Haeckel’s Tale. If he still wants his wife brought back to life after hearing it then she would do so.

Ernst Haeckel (played by Derek Cecil)is a young medical professor whose obsession to conquer death mirrors that of a certain eccentric European scientist he so admires. Unlike his idol, Haeckel’s attempt to use electricity to put the spark of life back into a corpse fails dramatically. He’s soon investigating the rumor of a certain traveling necromancer who goes by the name of Montesquino (played by Joe Polito) who he thinks to be a fraud, but he soon finds out that Montesquino is all he says he is when Haeckel stumbles upon Wolfram (played by Stargate SG-1‘s own Maybourne, Tom McBeath) and his stunning young wife Elise (the drop-dead gorgeous Leela Savasta).

Haeckel quickly lusts after the young Elise, but as Wolfram will later tell him as the story nears it’s climax (in more ways than one), Elise cannot be satisfied by him or Haeckel. Her obsession with a dead husband she loves and cannot let go brings Haeckel to a scene that he cannot comprehend nor accept as something she truly wants. I must say that Leela Savasta’s performance as the dead-obsessed Elise is only surpassed by Anna Falchi’s own work as “She” in Dellamorte Dellamore. Leela’s pretty much spending most of her screentime fully naked and writhing around in an orgy not typical of most horror movies. It’s also in this orgy scene where we get the biggest Clive Barker feel to the story. Anyone how has read Barker earlier work knows the man can mix horror and sex like no other.

The ending of the episode brings to it a slight twist with Miz Carnation being more than she says she is. This Masters of Horror episode is not the best of the lot, but it is one of the better looking ones in terms of cinematography and it’s leads. It also doesn’t have much in terms of genuine scares. The story gradually builds up the dreads and disturbing images but never anything that will put a genuine heart-stopping scare on the viewer. Like McNaughton’s own foray into horror with Henry, Haeckel’s Tale lets the story’s own disturbing themes on obsession and the darker side of love put the horror in the story. It does have a nice gore-laden sequence courtesy of Howard Berger and Greg Nicotero and their KNB FX team.

In the end, Haeckel’s Tale is a very good episode which has its flaws like the rest of the Masters of Horror episodes. What sets it apart from the rest of the series entries is its unique Hammer Films look and the return of McNaughton back in the director’s chair as a horror filmmaker. It’s no Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer, but Haeckel’s Tale will have enough disturbing images to burn itself to its audiences’ minds.