Horror Scenes That I Love: The Opening of Stage Fright


Let’s die Broadway style!

The opening on Michele Soavi’s 1987 masterpiece, StageFright, is one of the most brilliant ever filmed.  Not only does it send up the conventions of the slasher genre but is also sends up musical theater.  Seriously, how can you not love a horror film that features Marilyn Monroe playing the saxophone?

Of course, the opening of the film only begins to hint at the violence that’s going to follow.  When a real killer manages to get into the theater, fantasy and reality blend together.

Interestingly enough, I think a real-life Broadway adaptation of StageFright would be a hit.

For now, enjoy the dancing and the mayhem!

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)

 

4 Shots From 4 Films: The Church, I Madman, Vampire’s Kiss, Warlock


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 1989 Horror Films:

The Church (1989, dir by Michele Soavi)

I, Madman (1989, dir by Tibor Takacs)

Vampire’s Kiss (1989, dir by Robert Bierman)

Warlock (1989, dir by Steve Miner)

4 Shots From 4 Films: Evil Dead II, Near Dark, Stage Fright, The Stepfather


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 1987 Horror Films

Evil Dead II (1987, dir by Sam Raimi)

Near Dark (1987, dir by Kathryn Bigelow)

Stage Fright (1987, dir by Michele Soavi)

The Stepfather (1987, dir by Joseph Ruben)

International Horror Film Review: Alien 2: On Earth (dir by Ciro Ippolito)


Don’t get too excited about that title.  Yes, I know that it says Alien 2: On Earth, which would suggest that this is a sequel to the classic sci-fi horror film that we all know and love but …. well, we’ll get to it in a moment.

First, let’s talk about the movie….

HEY, EARTH!  YOU’RE GETTING INVADED AGAIN!

This time, it’s not flying saucers.  It’s not pod people.  It’s not the monsters from Cloverfield or A Quiet Place or Battle Los Angeles or Skyline or any of those films.  Instead, this time, you’re getting invaded by little blue rocks.  These rocks may look pretty but, if you hold them long enough, something will spring out of them and cause your face to explode.  Sometimes, the creature inside the rock will even hug onto your face for a while.  I guess maybe you could call it a face hugger, assuming that you had enough money to settle the copyright suit that would follow….

Famed cave explorer Thelma Joyce (Belinda Mayne) has been having horrific visions, largely due to the fact that she’s psychic whenever it’s convenient for the plot.  Could her visions have something to do with a spacecraft that has recently returned to Earth with all of its inhabitants missing?  (The implication is that the spacecraft was captained by a man named Dallas and had a warrant officer named Ripley, though that’s never specifically stated.)

Oh, why worry about all that ominous outer space stuff?  After all, Thelma and her husband Roy (Mark Bodin) have already got a full weekend planned out.  They’re going to get together with a group of friends and explore a cave!  It sounds like fun.  Of course, on the way to the cave, one of their friends finds a blue rock and decides to take it with him.  Hmmm….there’s no way that could backfire.

Once everyone’s in the cave, Thelma tells Roy that she has a feeling that something awful is about to happen.  Roy laughs off her concerns.  I mean, is Thelma supposed to be a psychic or something?  Oh, wait a minute….

Can you guess what happens?  If you think that Roy, Thelma, and their friends end up getting trapped in the cave with an alien that’s looking to dissolve all of their faces, you might be as much of a psychic as Thelma.  Needless to say, everyone picked the wrong weekend to go underground.

This Italian production from 1980 is, in many ways, a typical low-budget exploitation film.  There’s a lot of gore (including a pretty nifty beheading) and the film ends on a properly (and somewhat humorously) dark note but it takes forever for the movie to actually get going.  Fans of Italian horror will be happy to see Michele Soavi show up as one of the cave explorers and, if nothing else, the film does feature an effective sequence involving a survivor running down the streets of an eerily deserted city.

That said, this film is best-remembered as an example of just how shameless that Italian film industry could be when it came to ripping off more successful films.  Alien 2 had nothing to do with the original Alien but, because Ridley Scott’s film was a huge hit, the film was marketed as being a direct sequel.  Because the word “alien” existed long before any of the movies using it as a title were ever released, 20th Century Fox’s efforts to sue producer/director Ciro Ippolito for copyright infringement were just as unsuccessful as Ippolito’s later attempt to sue the makers of The Descent for, in Ippolito’s opinion, ripping off his story of cave explorers getting ripped apart by a strange creature.

So, no, this is not technically a part of the Alien franchise …. unless you want it to be.  That’s the fun thing about watching an unofficial sequel like this.  You can decide for yourself whether or not to accept it.

Finally, keep watching the skies and don’t pick up any blue rocks!  To quote the film’s final title card, “YOU MAY BE NEXT!”

 

Music Video of the Day: Demon by Claudio Simonetti (1985, dir by Michele Soavi)


Today’s music video of the day is Demon by Claudio Simonetti.

This was composed for the soundtrack of Lamberto Bava’s classic film, Demons.  The video is basically mix of scenes from Demons and Simonetti performing.  It’s pretty simple but I still like it, mostly because Demons is one of my favorite Italian horror films.  Interestingly enough, this video was directed by Michele Soavi, who played the man in the mask in Demons and who went on to direct such horror classics as Stagefright, The Church, and Dellamorte Dellamore.

Diverti!

 

Italian Horror Showcase: City of the Living Dead (dir by Lucio Fulci)


In New York City, a group of people sit around a table, holding a seance.  One of them, a woman named Mary (Catriona MacColl) has a vision.  She sees a sickly, hollow-cheeked priest walking through a cemetery.  She watches as he hangs himself and, as the priest dangles from a tree branch, Mary lets out a piercing scream and collapses to the floor.  The police are called and they promptly declare that Mary has died.  Later, while a hard-boiled reporter named Peter Bell (Christopher George) watches as two grave-diggers walk away from her half-buried coffin, he hears something coming from the grave.  From insider her coffin, Mary is screaming and struggling to get out!

Peter grabs a pickax and smashes it down into the coffin.  Peter may be trying to free her but what he doesn’t realize is that, with each blow of the pickax, he comes dangerously close to hitting Mary in the face.  Somehow, Peter manages to avoid killing Mary.  Once he gets her out of the coffin, Peter and Mary go and see a medium to try to figure out the meaning behind Mary’s previous vision.

What they don’t discuss is why or, for that matter, how everyone was convinced that Mary was dead for at least a day or two.  Mary doesn’t mention that Peter nearly killed her with the pickax.  In fact, for two people who have just met under the strangest and most disturbing of circumstances, Peter and Mary seem to be getting along famously.  For that matter, they don’t appear to be too surprised when the medium informs them Mary’s vision indicated that the dead will soon be entering the world of the living.

And so begins Lucio Fulci’s wonderfully odd and surreal City of the Living Dead.  Reading the paragraphs above, you might think that I was criticizing City of the Living Dead but nothing could be further from the truth.  From the start, Fulci establishes that City of the Living Dead is going to fully embrace its own unique aesthetic.

The majority of City of the Living Dead takes place in a small town with the name of Dunwich, a name that immediately (and, I believe, intentionally) brings to mind the writing of H.P. Lovecraft.  Dunwich is a town that always seems to be covered in fog.  At the local bar, men talk about the recent suicide of Father Thomas and they discuss what to do about Bob (Giovanni Lombardo Radice), who the majority of them believe to be a a pervert.  Meanwhile, Bob comes across an inflatable sex doll in a deserted warehouse and, for the most part, just tries to stay out of everyone’s way.

(Bob was one of Radice’s first roles and, along with his turn as David Hess’s sidekick in The House On The Edge of the Park, the one that many fans of Italian horror continue to associate him with.  It’s a testament to Radice’s talent that he could make even a creepy character like Bob sympathetic.)

Even without the presence of the living dead, Dunwich doesn’t seem like the ideal place to live.  A greedy morgue attendant attempts to steal a dead woman’s jewelry.  A psychiatrist named Gerry (Carlo de Mejo) struggles to calm the nerves of his patient, Sandra (Janet Agren).  At one point, one man gets so angry with another that he drills a hole in his head.  That’s Dunwich, for you.  Who needs the dead when you’re surrounded by the worst of the living?

Speaking of the dead, that dead priest is still wandering around town.  When he comes across two teenagers making out in a jeep, he rips open the boy’s head while the girl bleeds from her eyes and proceeds to vomit up her intestines.  (Somewhat inevitably, the boy is played by Michele Soavi who, before launching his own acclaimed directing career, always seemed to die in films like this.  Even more inevitably, the girl is played Daniela Doria, who appeared in four Fulci films and suffered a terrible fate in every single one of them.)

By the time that Peter and Mary actually reach the town, the dead are already moving through the fog while storms of maggots crash through windows.  Even the sight of a seemingly innocent child running towards the camera leads to the sound of people screaming off-screen….

Even though it’s actually one of Fulci’s more straight-forward films (i.e., a character says that Dunwich is going to be overrun by zombies and then Dunwich actually is overrun by zombies), it still plays out like a particularly intense dream.  From the fog-shrouded visuals to the often odd dialogue, City of the Living Dead is a film that plays out according to its own unique logic.  The film’s surreal atmosphere may have partially been the result of a rushed production schedule but it also serves to suggest that, as a result of the priest’s suicide, the nature of reality itself has changed.

City of the Living Dead is not a film for everyone.  If I was introducing someone to Fulci for the first time, I would probably have them watch Zombi 2The Black Cat and Lizard In A Woman’s Skin long before I even suggested they take a look at City of the Living Dead.  That City of the Living Dead is a gory film should come as no surprise.  That was one of Fulci’s trademarks, after all.  Instead, what makes City of the Living Dead a difficult viewing experience for some is just how bleak the film truly is.  Even before the living dead arrive, Dunwich is a town the seems to epitomize the worst instincts of humanity.  There’s a darkness at the heart of the City of the Living Dead and it has nothing to do with zombies.

First released in 1980, City of the Living Dead is generally considered to be the first part of Fulci’s Beyond trilogy.  Catriona MacColl, who gives such a good performance here, appeared in the film’s two follow-ups, The Beyond and The House By The Cemetery.  (MacColl played a different character in each film.)  With each film, Fulci’s vision grew more and more surreal until eventually, he seemed fully prepared to reject the idea of narrative coherence all together.

Though initially dismissed by critics, The Beyond trilogy is today celebrated as one of the greatest achievements in the history of Italian horror.  City of the Living Dead is probably the most narratively coherent film in the trilogy, even if its ending raises more questions than it answers.  Personally, I love the ending of City of the Living Dead, even though it was apparently a last-minute decision.  (According to Wikipedia — so take this with a grain of salt — someone spilled coffee on the original work print of the ending, which led to Fulci having to improvise.)  It’s an ending that suggests that not only has the film broken apart but that the world is shattering right along with it.  In the end, the world falls apart not with a bang but with one long scream.

 

4 Shots From 4 Daria Nicolodi Films: Deep Red, Shock, Tenebre, Opera


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.

Today is Daria Nicolodi’s birthday!

Daria Nicolodi has been called the “unsung hero of Italian horror” and it’s an apt description.  Along with starring in several of the films that Dario Argento directed during the first half of his legendary career, Nicolodi also was responsible for the story of and co-wrote the script for Suspiria.  (Nicolodi has always said that Suspiria was based on a true story involving one of her ancestors.)  Argento’s decision to give the lead role in Suspiria to Jessica Harper, instead of Nicolodi, is often cited as the beginning of the end of their relationship.

(It’s also a shame — actually, a more accurate description would be to say that it’s a goddamn crime — that Nicolodi apparently will not have even as much as a cameo in the upcoming Suspiria remake.)

Nicolodi also appeared in films directed by Mario Bava, Luigi Cozzi, Michele Soavi, and several other distinguished Italian directors.  In Scarlet Diva, she was directed by her daughter, Asia Argento.

This edition for 4 Shots From 4 Films is dedicated to Daria Nicolodi!

4 Shots From 4 Films

Deep Red (1975, dir by Dario Argento)

Shock (1977, dir by Mario Bava)

Tenebre (1982, dir by Dario Argento)

Opera (1987, dir by Dario Argento)

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.