The TSL’s Horror Grindhouse: Puppet Master (dir by David Schmoeller)


Since there’s been like 200 Puppet Master films made over the past 30 years — goddamn, 30 years of killer puppets! — I figured that maybe I should finally sit down and actually watch one of them.  I decided to go with the original film that started the entire franchise, 1989’s Puppet Master!

So, basically, this is a movie about little puppets that kill full-sized people.  Obviously, there’s a bit more to the plot but let’s be honest.  No one who watches this movie is going to be watching it for the specifics of the plot.  They’re going to be watching it because they want to see tiny puppets go on a rampage.  I have to say that the puppets themselves are pretty cute.  I mean, they’re murderous and a little bit pervy but they’re still really cute.  I understand that all of the puppets have their own specific names but, while watching the film, I just made up names of my own.

For instance, there’s Hooky, who has a hook for one hand and a knife for the other and looks like he should be the lead singer of an aging Prog Rock band.  And then there’s Drilly, who has a drill on his head.  He can be really dangerous, especially if you’re stupid enough to crawl around on the floor and just stay there, on all fours, while he’s running straight at you.  I mean, if you just stood up, you probably wouldn’t get that badly injured but …. well, what do I know, right?  And then there’s Leechy, who is a female puppet who spits up leeches.  What’s interesting is that she never runs out of leeches but I have to wonder, if you have that many leeches, why not just send them out on their own instead of stuffing them all into some poor little puppet?  I felt bad for Leechy.  She seemed kinda sad.  And then there’s Handy, who has big hands and Facey, who can assume several different facial expressions at once.  They’re all really adorable, to be honest.

Anyway, Puppet Master is about a bunch of psychics who all spend the night in a California hotel that was once home to the “last alchemist,” Andre Toulon (William Hickey).  Toulon had the power to bring inanimate creatures — like puppets! — too life but, when the Nazi spies were closes in on him, Toulon killed himself.  Many years later, a psychic named Neil Gallagher (Jimmie F. Skaggs) discovered Toulon’s hiding place in the hotel but then shot himself as well.  So now, Neil’s former colleagues are all trying to get Toulon’s power for themselves.  Or something.  As I said, following the plot is not always easy.  The main appeal here is watching the cute puppets do really bad things.

That said, who knew that a group of psychics and witches would prove to be so stupid?  I mean, you would think that — when all of you are having constant premonitions of death and destruction — you would be smart enough to take extra precautions or maybe just leave the hotel all together.  For instance, Dana (Irene Miracle) casts a protection spell over someone else but not on herself.  Meanwhile, Frank (Matt Roe) and Clarissa (Kathryn O’Reilly) make the rookie mistake of having sex in a horror film while our nominal hero, Alex (Paul Le Mat, looking like he’s trying to figure out how he went from American Graffiti to this), wanders around in a daze.

And yet, watching the film, I could see why it became so popular.  The puppets are memorable and well-designed and the backstory, with Toulon and all the rest, is actually pretty interesting.  Puppet Master is one of those films that defines “stupid but fun.”  No wonder the puppets came back!

International Horror Film Review: Last Stop on the Night Train (dir by Aldo Lado)


This Italian film from 1975 opens with two German teenagers — Lisa Stradl (Laura D’Angelo) and Margaret Hoffenbach (Irene Miracle) — happily looking forward to the future in general and spending Christmas with Lisa’s parents in specific.  (Of course, the Stradls live in Verona so Lisa and Margaret are going to have to take a train to visit them.)  Their happiness is reflected by the song that plays over the opening credits.  A Flower’s All You Need is perhaps the most obnoxiously happy song to ever show up in an Italian horror film.  Imagine my shock when I discovered that it was apparently co-written by Ennio Morricone.

Like many Italian exploitation films, Last Stop on the Night Train has been released under many different titles.  Here’s just a few: Night Train Murders, Xmas Massacre, Don’t Ride on Late Night Trains, Torture Train, New House on the Left and Second House on the Left.  As those last two titles indicate, this film was directly inspired by the financial success of Wes Craven’s Last House on the Left (which, for what it’s worth, was sold as being a remake of Ingmar Bergman’s The Virgin Spring).  According to an interview with director Aldo Lado, which was included with the film’s Code Red DVD release, the film’s producers approached him and told him that they wanted him to remake Last House On The Left.  Since Lado hadn’t seen Last House on the Left, the producers hastily filmed him on what happened in Craven’s film.  Based on what the producers told him, Lado proceeded to write the script for what would become Last Stop On The Night Train.

As a result, Last Stop on the Night Train follows the general plot of Last House on the Left but with some key differences.  Lado was a protegee of director Bernardo Bertolucci so, not surprisingly, he added a Marxist political subtext to the story, one that makes Last Stop On The Night Train a bit more interesting than the usual exploitation rip-off.  (Wes Craven, it should be said, always said that Last House On The Left was meant to be political, too.  Whether that’s true or not is open to debate.)  Like Craven’s film, Last Stop On The Night Train is about two innocent travelers who are abused and murdered by a group of thugs (played, in this case, by Flavio Bucci and Gianfranco de Grassi).  By an amazing coincidence, the murderers then find themselves staying at the home of one of the girl’s parents (Enrico Maria Salerno and Marina Berti).  When the parents discover the identity of their guests, they get revenge and prove themselves to be just as capable of violence and sadism as the murderers.

The main difference between Craven and Lado’s take on the story is that Lado adds a mysterious character who is identified as being only The Lady on the Train (played by Macha Meril, who also played the unlucky psychic in Argento’s Deep Red).  The Lady on the Train is apparently very privileged.  When we first see her, she is coolly and calmly talking to a group of other wealthy passengers.  The only hint that she’s anything other than an upper class passenger on a train comes when she reveals that she’s carrying a collection of BDSM-themed postcards with her.  Before meeting the Lady on the Train, the two criminals played by Bucci and de Grassi were portrayed as just being obnoxious and larcenous but not necessarily homicidal.  It’s the Lady on the Train who goads the two men into attacking and ultimately murdering Lisa and Margaret, largely for her own amusement.  (Disturbingly, the train’s other upper class passengers are portrayed as being aware of what’s happening but either not caring or being amused by the whole thing.  One passenger — who is later revealed to be an acquaintance of the Stradls — briefly joins in.)  Even at the end of the film, while the parents are savagely attacking the two men, the Lady on the Train watches with the confident certainty that her wealth and position will protect her from any form of retribution.

It’s a disturbing film and definitely not one for everyone.  Even if you appreciate the technical skill with which it was made, this is a film that you won’t necessarily want to rewatch.  (I rewatched it only so I could write this review.  For me, it certainly didn’t help that one of the victims was named Lisa.)  If Wes Craven’s film was ultimately about gore and the idea that violence only leads to more violence, Lado is less concerned with both of those and instead focuses on the idea that, when the privileged and the marginalized both commit the same crime, only the marginalized are punished.  Lado’s film is also far better acted (and, if we’re going to be honest, directed) than Craven’s film, which makes Last Stop On The Night Train the rare rip-off that’s better than its source material.

Spring Breakdown #1: Midnight Express (dir by Alan Parker)


Since it’s currently Spring Break, I figured that I would spend the next two weeks reviewing films about people on vacation.  Some of the films will be about good vacations.  Some of the films will be about bad vacations.  But, in the end, they’ll all be about celebrating those moments that make us yearn for the chance to get away from it all.

Take Midnight Express, for instance.  This 1978 film (which was nominated for six Oscars and won two) tells the story of what happens when a carefree college student named Billy Hayes decides to spend his holiday in Turkey.

When the film begins, Billy Hayes (played by Brad Davis), is at an airport in Turkey.  He’s preparing to return home to the United States.  His girlfriend, Susan (Irene Miracle), informs him that Janis Joplin has just died.  When Billy responds by making a joke, Susan accuses him of not taking anything seriously.  What Susan doesn’t realize is that Billy actually has a lot on his mind.  For one thing, he’s got several bricks of hashish taped around his waist.  He purchased it from a cab driver and he’s planning on selling it to his friends back in the United States.  Unfortunately, Billy’s not quite as clever as he thinks he is.  Because of recent terrorist bombings, the Turkish police are searching everyone before they board their plane.  Billy finds himself standing out in the middle of the runway with his hands up in the air, surrounded by gun-wielding Turkish policemen.

Billy finds himself stranded in a country that he doesn’t understand, being interrogated by men whose language he cannot speak.  An enigmatic American (Bo Hopkins) shows up and assures Billy that he’ll be safe, as long as he identifies the taxi driver who sold him to the drugs.  Billy does so but then makes the mistake of trying to flee from the police.  In the end, it’s the American who captures him and, holding a gun to Billy’s head, tells him not to make another move.

Soon, Billy is an inmate at Sağmalcılar Prison.  He’s beaten when he first arrives and it’s only days later that he’s able to walk and think clearly.  He befriends some of the other prisoners, including a heroin addict named Max (John Hurt) and an idiot named Jimmy (Randy Quaid).  Billy watches as the prisoners are tortured by the fearsome head guard (Paul L. Smith) and listens to the screams of inmates being raped behind closed doors.  After being told that his original four-year sentence has been lengthened to a 30-year sentence, Billy starts to degenerate.  When Susan visits, Billy end up pathetically masturbating in front of her.  When another prisoner taunts Billy, Billy bites out the man’s tongue, an act that we see in both close up and slow motion.  If Billy has any hope of regaining his humanity, he has to escape.  He has to catch what Jimmy calls the “midnight express…..”

Midnight Express is a brutal and rather crude film.  Though it may have been directed by a mainstream director (Alan Parker) and written by a future Oscar-winner (Oliver Stone), Midnight Express is a pure grindhouse film at heart.  There’s not a subtle moment to be found in the film.  The camera lingers over every act of sadism while Giorgio Moroder’s synth-based score pulsates in the background.  When Billy grows more and more feral and brutal in his behavior, it’s hard not to be reminded of Lon Chaney, Jr. turning into The Wolf Man.  The film may be incredibly heavy-handed but it’s nightmarishly effective, playing out with the intensity of a fever dream.

As for the cast, Brad Davis wasn’t particularly likable or sympathetic as Billy.  On the one hand, he’s a victim of an unjust system, betrayed by his own country and tortured by another.  On the other hand, Billy was an idiot who apparently thought no one would notice all that hash wrapped around his chest.  That said, Davis’s unlikable screen presence actually worked to the film’s advantage.  If you actually liked Billy, the film would be unbearable to watch.  Before Davis was cast, Dennis Quaid and Mark Hamill were both considered for the role.  If either of those actors has been cast, Midnight Express would be too intense and disturbing to watch.  For instance, it would be depressing to watch Dennis Quaid rip a man’s tongue out of his mouth.  You would be like, “No, Mr. Quaid, you’ll never recover your humanity!”  But when Brad Davis does it, you’re just like, “Eh.  It was bound to happen sometime.”

For more effective are John Hurt and Bo Hopkins.  Hurt and Hopkins both have small roles but they both make a big impression, if just because they’re the only two characters in the film who aren’t either yelling or crying all of the time.  While everyone else is constantly cursing their imprisonment, Hurt is quietly sardonic.  As for Hopkins, we’re supposed to dislike him because he’s with the CIA and he sold out Billy.  But honestly, no one made Billy tape all that hash to his chest.  Finally, you’ve got Randy Quaid and Paul L. Smith, who both glower their way through the film.  Smith is wonderfully evil while Randy Quaid is …. well, he’s Randy Quaid, the loudest American in Turkey.

Midnight Express was such a success at the box office that it caused an international incident.  There’s not a single positive Turkish character to be found in the entire film and it’s impossible not to feel that the film is not only condemning Turkey’s drug policies but that it’s also condemning the entire country as well.  The Turkish prisoners are portrayed as being just as bad as the guards and even Billy’s defense attorney comes across as being greedy and untrustworthy.  Watching the film today can be an awkward experience.  It’s undeniably effective but it’s impossible not to cringe at the way anyone who isn’t from the west is portrayed.  In recent years, everyone from director Alan Parker to screenwriter Oliver Stone to the real-life Billy Hayes has apologized for the way that the Turkish people were portrayed in the film.

Despite the controversy, Midnight Express was a huge box office success and it was nominated for best picture.  It lost to another controversial film about people imprisoned in Asia, The Deer Hunter.

 

The Films of Dario Argento: Inferno


I’ve been using this October’s horrorthon as an excuse to rewatch and review the films of Dario Argento!  Today we take a look at one of Argento’s best and most underrated films, 1980’s Inferno!

inferno

“There are mysterious parts in that book, but the only true mystery is that our very lives are governed by dead people.”

— Kazanian (Sacha Pitoeff) in Inferno

When 20th Century Fox released Dario Argento’s Suspiria in 1977, they weren’t expecting this Italian horror film to be a huge box office success.  That it was caught them totally off guard.  Though the studio executives may not have understood Italian horror, they did know that Suspiria made them a lot of money and they definitely wanted to make more of it.

As for Dario Argento, he followed up Suspiria by producing George Romero’s Dawn of the Dead.  He also supervised the film’s European cut.  (In Europe, Dawn of the Dead was known as Zombi, which explains why Lucio Fulci’s fake sequel was called Zombi 2.)  When Dawn of the Dead, like Suspiria before it, proved to be an unexpected box office hit, it probably seemed as if the Argento name was guaranteed money in the bank.

Hence, when Argento started production on a semi-sequel to Suspiria, 20th Century Fox agreed to co-finance.  Though the majority of the film was shot on a sound stage in Rome, Argento was able to come to New York to do some location work, hence making this Argento’s first “American” film.  The name of the movie was Inferno.

Sadly, Inferno proved to be a troubled production.  Shortly after production began, Argento became seriously ill with hepatitis and reportedly, he had to direct some scenes while lying on his back while other sequences were done by the second unit.

As well, Argento had a strained relationship with 20th Century Fox.  Argento wanted James Woods to star in Inferno but, when it turned out that Woods was tied up with David Cronenberg’s Videodrome, the studio insisted that Argento cast an actor named Leigh McCloskey instead.  As a performer, James Woods is nervy, unpredictable, and compulsively watchable.  Leigh McCloskey was none of those things.

Worst of all, as a result of a sudden management change at 20th Century Fox, Inferno was abandoned by its own distributor.  The new studio executives didn’t know what to make of Inferno and, in America, the film only received an extremely limited release.  The few reviews that the film received were largely negative.  (Like most works of horror, Argento’s films are rarely critically appreciated when first released.)  It’s only been over the past decade that Inferno has started to receive the exposure and acclaim that it deserves.

Argento has said that he dislikes Inferno, largely because watching it remind him of a very difficult time in his life.  That’s unfortunate, because Inferno is one of his best films.

The Mother of Tears (Ania Pieroni) in Inferno

The Mother of Tears (Ania Pieroni) in Inferno

“Have you ever heard of the Three Sisters?”

“You mean those black singers?”

— Sara (Eleonora Giorgi) and Carlo (Gabriele Lavia) discuss mythology in Inferno

As I stated previously, Inferno is a semi-sequel to Suspiria.  Whereas Suspiria dealt with an ancient witch known as the Mother of Sighs, Inferno deals with her younger sister, the Mother of Darkness.  The Mother of Sighs lives underneath a German dance academy.  The Mother of Darkness lives underneath a New York apartment building.  The Mother of Sighs was a witch.  The Mother of Darkness is an alchemist.

Beyond that and the fact that Alida Valli is in both films (though apparently playing different characters), there aren’t many references to Suspiria in Inferno.  The tone of Inferno is very different from the tone of Suspiria.  If Suspiria was perhaps Argento’s most straight-forward films, Inferno is one of his most twisted.  It makes sense, of course.  Suspiria is about magic but Inferno is about science.  Suspiria casts a very Earthy spell while Inferno often feels like a scientific equation that cannot quite be solved.

The film deals with Mark Elliott (Leigh McCloskey), an American music student in Rome.  After he gets a disturbing letter from his sister, Rose (Irene Miracle), a poet who lives alone in New York City, Mark heads back to the U.S. to check in on her.  (That’s right — Mark and Rose are two more of Argento’s artistic protagonists.)  However, when Mark arrives, he discovers that his sister is missing and it’s obvious that strange inhabitants of the building are trying to cover something up.

inferno2

“May I ask a strange question?”

“How strange?”

— Sara (Eleonora Giorgi) and Mark Elliot (Leigh McCloskey) in Inferno

Even more than with some of Argento’s other films, the plot of Inferno isn’t particularly important.  One reason why it’s easy to get annoyed with Mark is because he spends the entire film demanding to know where his sister is, despite the fact that those of us in the audience already know that she’s dead.  Argento showed us her being murdered shortly before Mark’s arrival.  Argento makes sure that we know but he never bothers to reveal the truth to Mark and one of the more curious aspects of the film is that Mark never discovers that his sister is dead.  (By the end of the film, one assumes that he’s finally figured it out but even then, we don’t know for sure.)  The fact of the matter is that Mark and his search for his sister are never really that important.  Argento doesn’t particularly seem to care about Mark and he never really gives the viewer any reason to care either.  (Of course, it doesn’t help that Mark is rather stiffly played by Leigh McCloskey.)

inf

Instead, Argento approaches Inferno as a collection of increasingly surreal set pieces.  Much as in Lucio Fuci’s Beyond trilogy, narrative logic is less important than creating a dream-like atmosphere.  Often time, it’s left to the viewer to decide how everything fits together.

There are so many odd scenes that it’s hard to pick a favorite or to know where to even begin.  Daria Nicolodi shows up as Elise Stallone Van Adler, a neurotic, pill-popping aristocrat who briefly helps Mark look for his sister.  Eventually, she’s attacked by thousands of cats before being stabbed to death by one of Argento’s trademark black-gloved killers.  After Elise’s death, her greedy butler makes plans to steal her money.  Did the butler kill Elise?   We’re never quite sure.  Does the butler work for The Mother of Darkness or is he just being influenced by her evil aura?  Again, we’re never sure.  (By that same token, when the butler eventually turns up with eyes literally hanging out of their sockets, we’re never quite sure how he ended up in that condition.  And yet, somehow, it makes a strange sort of sense that he would.)

inferno-cats

Cats also feature into perhaps the film’s most famous scene.  When the crippled and bitter book seller Kazanian (Sacha Pitoeff) attempts to drown a bag of feral cars in a Central Park pond, he is suddenly attacked by a pack of a carnivorous rats.  A hot dog vendor hears Kazanian’s cries for help and rushes over.  At first, the vendor appears to be a good Samaritan but suddenly, he’s holding a knife and stabbing Kazanian to death.  Why did the rats attack in the first place?  Is the hot dog vendor (who only appears in that one scene) a servant of the Mother of Darkness or is he just some random crazy person?  And, in the end, does it matter?  At times, Inferno seems to suggest that the real world is so insane that the Mother of Darkness is almost unnecessary.

inferno-151

Meanwhile, in Rome, Mark sits in class and reads a letter from his sister.  When he looks up, he immediately sees that a beautiful young woman is looking straight at him.  She’s petting a cat and staring at him with a piercing stare.  (She is played Ania Pieroni, who later achieved a certain cult immortality by appearing as the enigmatic housekeeper in Lucio Fulci’s The House By The Cemetery.)  The film later suggests that the woman is the third mother, the Mother of Tears, but why would she be in the classroom?  Why would she be staring at Mark?

When Mark’s girlfriend, Sara (Eleonora Giorgi), does some research in a library, she finds a copy of a book about The Three Mothers and is promptly attacked by a mysterious figure.  When she flees back to her apartment, she meets Carlo (Gabriele Lavia, who was also in Deep Red) who agrees to stay with her until Mark arrives.  Is Carlo sincere or is he evil?  Argento does eventually answer that question but he certainly keeps you guessing until he does.

inferno-3

Finally, I have to mention the best  and most haunting scene in the film.  When Rose searches a cellar for a clue that she believes will lead her to the Mother of Darkness, she discovers a hole that leads to a flooded ballroom.  When Rose drops her keys into the hole, she plunges into water and swims through the room.  (The first time I saw this scene, I immediately said, “Don’t do that!  You’re going to ruin your clothes!”)  As Rose discovers, not only keys get lost in that flooded ballroom.  There’s a dead body as well, one which floats into the scene from out of nowhere and then seems to be intent on following Rose through the entire room.  It’s a sequence that is both beautiful and nightmarish.  (It certainly does nothing to help me with my fear of drowning.)

In the end, Inferno is a dream of dark and disturbing things.  Does the plot always make sense?  Not necessarily.  But that plot’s not important.  The film’s surreal imagery and atmosphere of doom and paranoia casts a hypnotic spell over the viewer.  Inferno is perhaps as close to a filmed nightmare as you’ll ever see.

inferno-daria

“She writes poetry.”

“A pastime especially suited for women.”

— Mark and the Nurse (Veronica Lazar) in Inferno 

Finally, no review of Inferno would be complete without discussing some of the people who worked behind-the-scenes.

Along with acting in the film, Daria Nicolodi also worked on the script.  As is so often the case with Daria and Dario’s collaborations, there are conflicting reports of just how involved Nicolodi was with the final script.  Daria has said that she would have demanded co-writing credit, if not for the fact that it had previously been such an ordeal to get credited for Suspiria.  Others have claimed that, while Nicolodi offered up some ideas, the final script was almost all Argento’s creation.

(Comparing the films that Argento made with Nicolodi to the ones that he made without her leads me to side with Nicolodi.)

Working on the film as a production assistant was William Lustig, the famed exploitation film producer and director who would later become the CEO of Blue Underground.  Reportedly, during filming, Lustig attempted to convince Nicolodi to star in a film that he was going to direct.  Nicolodi’s co-star would have been legendary character actor Joe Spinell.  Disgusted by the film’s script, Nicolodi refused the role and, as a result, Caroline Munro ended up playing the stalked fashion photographer in Lustig’s controversial Maniac.

Future director Michele Soavi worked on several of Argento’s films.  I’ve always been under the impression that Soavi was a production assistant on Inferno but, when I rewatched the film, he wasn’t listed in the credits.  Inferno is also not among his credits on the imdb.  I guess the idea that one of my favorite Italian horror directors worked on one of my favorite Italian horror films was just wishful thinking on my part.

However, you know who is listed in the credits?  Lamberto Bava!  Bava, who would later direct the Argento-produced Demons, worked as an assistant director on Inferno.  That leads us to perhaps the most famous member of Inferno’s crew…

Mario Bava!

Inferno was the final film for the father of Italian horror.  As so often happens, there are conflicting reports of just how involved Bava was with the production.  It is know that he worked on the special effects and that he directed some second unit work while Argento was bed ridden with hepatitis.  Irene Miracle has said that almost all of her scenes were directed by Mario Bava and that she rarely saw Argento on set.

Mario Bava is often erroneously described as being Dario Argento’s mentor.  That’s certainly what I tended to assume until I read Tim Lucas’s All The Colors of the Dark, the definitive biography on Mario Bava.  Bava was certainly an influence and it’s certainly true that Argento appears to have had a better relationship with him than he did with Lucio Fulci.  But the idea that a lot of Italian horror fans have — that Mario Bava was hanging out around the set of The Bird With The Crystal Plumage and offering Argento fatherly advice — does not appear to be at all true.  (It’s a nice image, though.)  With all that in mind, it’s still feels somewhat appropriate that Bava’s final work was done on one of the best (if most underappreciated) Italian horror films of all time.

streamscreaminferno2

“I do not know what price I shall have to pay for breaking what we alchemists call Silentium, the life experiences of our colleagues should warn us not to upset laymen by imposing our knowledge upon them.”

— The Three Mothers by E. Varelli, as quoted in Dario Argento’s Inferno

Scenes That I Love: The Classroom Scene From Dario Argento’s Inferno


So, as I mentioned earlier, I was in the mood for some late night horror and I decided to rewatch Dario Argento’s Three Mothers trilogy.  I started watching Suspiria at midnight and, after that, I moved on to Argento’s 1980 follow-up, Inferno.

Having just finished watching Inferno, I now realize that it’s almost time for me to start getting ready for my day, which means that I may have to hold off on watching the third film in the trilogy, The Mother of Tears.  That’s really quite frustrating because I think I may be the only person in the world who thinks that Mother of Tears is actually a good film.

Oh well!  Such is life, right?

But before I hop in the shower and get dressed and all that good stuff, I did want to share a scene that I love from Inferno.

Of course, the most famous scene from Inferno is the scene that opens the film, Irene Miracle’s underwater swim.  In fact, it’s such a famous scene that I have already shared it.

So, instead, I’ll share a scene that comes shortly after Irene’s famous swim.  In the scene below, Irene’s brother, a music student who is played by a somewhat forgettable actor named Leigh McCloskey (reportedly, Argento wanted to cast a young James Woods in the role and he would have been awesome, too), is sitting in class and attempting to read a letter from his troubled sister.

And that’s when he finds himself being subtly menaced by the Mother of Tears.

The Mother of Tears is played by the beautiful Ania Pieroni, who lovers of Italian horror will immediately recognize as both the mysterious housekeeper in Lucio Fulci’s House By The Cemetery and the doomed shoplifter from Argento’s Tenebrae.

To me, this scene is Argento at his best.  Not much happens in the scene.  McCloskey attempts to read a letter and finds himself unnerved by Pieroni’s intense stare.  And yet, it’s a scene that’s full of menace and atmosphere.  It’s a scene that leaves the viewer with no doubt about the power of the Three Mothers.

Watch the scene below.  And then, if you haven’t, be sure to watch Inferno because it’s a wonderful and underrated horror film, one that I would argue is even better than Suspiria.  And, while you’re watching the scene and considering the wonders of Italian horror cinema, I’ll be busy getting ready for my Friday!

(Unless, of course, you’re reading this on a day other than today and at a time other than 4:35 am.)

Enjoy!

Scenes I Love: Inferno


Inferno is Dario Argento’s 1980 sequel to SuspiriaInferno seems to bring out the extreme reactions in Argentonians — it’s either loved or hated.  I happen to love it.

Below is one of the film’s best known sequences, the one where Irene Miracle ends up taking a surreal swim through a basement.  To me, this sequence is almost Fulciesque in it’s dream-like approach (punctuated, of course, by one sudden grotesque shock at the end).  Lucio Fulci’s The Beyond, which is often compared to Inferno, featured a similarly flooded basement. 

Words of warning: This scene lasts 6 and a half minutes.  Also, the first few minutes are nearly ruined by Keith Emerson’s bombastic score.  Fortunately, once Miracle takes her fateful dive, Mr. Emerson is silenced.