fantastic Cinema : 10 Italian films to discover

Hash Italy : everything in one trip ! Some may be a little soon forgotten, but during the sixties and seventies the country of Fellini, Visconti and Rocco Siffredi, was the second largest exporter in the world of movies behind the juggernaut us. To invade the cinemas of the neighborhoods of the five continents, the producers italians had the brilliant idea, albeit a little cynical, to put construction flopées of series B cover with more or less clearly the american hits of the day (from The Exorcist to Star Wars in passing by James Bond). It is clear that the imperatives of time and money into often the filmmakers to provide copies of these original works, with the sole attraction today of a patina of kitsch, leading gradually up to the status of nanars, and thus a second life in the eyes of moviegoers. But left to participate in the second life movies plucked from trunks and attics, why not reconsider the creativity and effectiveness of some of the beads fantastic born at the time of the greatness and decadence of the Italian cinema.



released in 1961, directed by Mario Bava, with Barbara Steele, John Richardson and Ivo Garrani

In the Seventeenth century, the witch Asa and her evil lover, Igor had been tortured. Before dying, the vile creature launches a terrible curse. Two centuries later, the professor Kruvajan, accompanied by his loyal assistant, Andrei, causes unintentionally injuring themselves in the hand, the revival of the witch. This will be the beginning of a horrible nightmare for the inhabitants of the castle of Vajda, princess Katia looks suspiciously at the ghost.

We can say that Mario Bava is the main precursor of the cinema of terror Italian, renowned in the fifties to be the man of the situation when a developer abandons a project, and that the shooting turns into a wreck. Until then credited to chief operator, he signed with The Mask of the devil, the first film on which he has a full control. It benefits from a scenario adapted from nikolai Gogol, to carve it into a jewel of aesthetic macabre, a response to the réinventions other literary classics offered by the Hammer at the same time. As the productions of the English studio, the film has greatly influenced Tim Burton, and has actually fantasized many other movie-goers, transforming that which was then a starlet’s career risky, a cultural icon gothic : the sublime Barbara Steele.


Released in 1963, directed by Mario Bava, with Boris Karloff, Jacqueline Stony and Michèle Mercier

Three sketches follow each other. The Phone, where a young woman is accosted by a stranger who spies on, and the threat on the phone. The Wurdalaks is interested in a young nobleman who made the acquaintance of a family frightened by a race of vampires that hanterait the campaign Slave. Finally, The Drop of Water, puts in scene a young nurse tormented after having stolen the ring from his patient, freshly deceased.

After the international success of the Mask of the Demon, Mario Bava continues its dive into the fantastic a movie skecthes, a formula very much in vogue at the time, to put forward the kind; and this time it is not the italians who are inspired by the English, but the opposite, since The Three Faces of fear seems to have given the idea of its anthologies of horror studio Amicus. Bava uses the advantage of the format to offer three types of accounts, each corresponding to an atmosphere and an artistic direction that is different. If the second skit is like the gothic tale as the Mask of the Demon, the first segment, he adopts a tone decidedly more modern and digs a furrow outlined by the director a few months earlier in The Girl who knew too much, namely, the birth of the giallo, thriller rich in sexual connotations which will soon be the beautiful hours of exploitation cinema of italy. As for the third sketch, it is without doubt that the filmmaker has made the most terrifying, traumatic passage the duo Cattet/Forzani sample this nightmarish vision in their first film, Amer.


Released in 1962, directed by Riccardo Freda, with Robert Flemyng, Barbara Steele and Silvano Tranquilli

London, 1885. Dr. Hichcock leaves abruptly his residence in London after the sudden death of his wife, Margherita. He moved back in the house after twelve years in the company of his new wife, Cynthia. From the first night, the young woman is plagued by visions of a frightening, supernatural forces seeking to alert him of the frightful perversion of the doctor.

I confess that I have reason not to put ten films with Barbara Steele in this list. The face of terror is here trust one another artisan of the bis in the person of Riccardo Freda, who, like his countryman Bava was able to demonstrate its know-how in a number of genres and sub-genres is remarkable, the peplum thriller to science-fiction. We can feel each shot that he develops around the physical atypical of his actress, he understood that God and the devil had agreed to bring into the world a creature made of cinema in a raw state. Some people will find an unparalleled natural beauty, on the other hand, will deem it repulsive or even scary; his fans will know that she is unique because she has both of its facets constantly. At a time when actresses of horror movies were confined to the role of screaming queen and victims held light, she composed a character more ambiguous and more troubling, less fragile, and sometimes more dangerous than predators. No wonder she has as well accepted a script playing with such a perversion (SPOILER : the necrophilia.)


Released in 1977, directed by Dario Argento, with Jessica Harper, Stefania Casini and Joan Bennett

Suzy, a young American, arrives in Freiburg to take courses in a dance academy prestigious. Just arrived, the atmosphere of the place, strange and disturbing, surprising the young girl. And it was there that a young student is spectacularly murdered. Suzy learns that the academy was once home to a terrible witch known as the Mother of Sighs. And if the school was still under its spell ?

After the decade of the sixties and the heyday of Bava, Freda and other Antonio Margheriti (which I recommend Danse Macabre and The Witch bloody); the seventies seem to be the total control of a single director : Dario Argento. If his seniors described themselves as artisans, and Argento himself, refers to himself as an artist, and it intends to transcend in the image of its anxieties and its obsessions, its report complicated women, and his attraction unhealthy for the violence. If it is first in the genre of the giallo with his Trilogy of Wildlife and The thrill of anguish, he uses the same emphasis visual to mark the fantastic genre of its footprint. Radicality of the colors, choreography dizzying camera, music group Goblin between dream and nightmare, it would be difficult to review all the audacities that allows the maestro. If up until then the film horror Italian could be assimilated to the gothic style, Argento rebat cards and creates his own style somewhere in the baroque and psychedelic. Suspiria is the first installment of a trilogy about witches, which will continue with the great Inferno and will conclude thirty years later with the dismal, The Third Mother.


Released in 1985, directed by Dario Argentowith Jennifer Connelly, Donald Pleasance , and Daria Nicolodi

Jennifer is sent by her father in a pension in Switzerland. During these crises of sleepwalking, she is in telepathic contact with the serial killer responsible for the murders of several teenage girls in the surrounding area. At the same time, she met the entomologist John McGregor and discovers the power extrasensoriel to communicate with insects.

Before the nineties did because of his inspiration, Dario Argento continues in the eighties, his experimentation with both visual and narrative in the genre of supernatural thriller with Phenomena, as if he was trying to capture on film the impressions disturbing and frightening of a dream. There is here, so much of it strange and sometimes oddly linked to each other (the wind that makes it crazy, sleepwalking, insects, a chimpanzee armed with a razor…) that one would attend a year of dada, a kind of game of exquisite corpse film. This is the essence of the cinema of Argento, it passes or it breaks as the boundary between the bizarre and the grotesque is fine. But for the curious, this show dreamlike atmosphere deliciously eighties remains to be discovered, sometimes naive, sometimes violent, a bit like if the teenage heroine had composed a poem.


Released in 1981, directed by Lucio Fulciwith Catriona MacColl, Davic Warbeck and Cinzia Monreale

In 1927, while staying in a hotel in New Orleans, a painter, was tortured and disfigured to have painted a painting depicting hell. In 1981, Liza inherits the hotel and began renovations, but strange phenomena are going to make him live a living hell. And because the building is built on one of the seven gates of the underworld.

Has the article series ” B ” in the dictionary should be a photo of Lucio Fulci, as his work seems to be the very definition of the fiscal year, with its moments of bravery and visual elements story more than poussifs. Fulci knows what to ask the producers : a operating figures horrific, most of the time imitations of hollywood blockbusters, and he gives them what they want as evidenced by his trilogy of zombie (also with the Hell of The Zombies and Scares), the response is opportunistic to the films of George Romero. The trilogy concludes here with The hereafter, but goes beyond the simple framework of the attack of the undead, by the installation of a mythology which promises the viewer a sort of journey over the Styx. To fulfill its specifications, Fulci serves up hearty sequences of putrefaction and gore hardly justified by the scenario, but it remains the film an atmosphere of undeniable accompanied by a photograph applied and tints autumnal and glaucous significant until the final absolutely cosmic.


Released in 1989, directed by Michele Soavi, with Hugh Quarshie, Tomas Arana and Barbara Cupisti

In the middle ages, an entire village is accused of satanism and massacred by the teutonic knights. To purify the premises, a cathedral was built on the mass grave. In 1989, a librarian discovers a passage in the cathedral, where you can escape the creatures coming from the underworld.

With Sanctuary, Dario Argento and Lamberto Bava (son of Mario) want to put forward their protégé Michele Soavi, already réinventeur of the giallo two years earlier with the cult Bloody Bird. At this time, the two producers are banking on a franchise named Demons, whose Sanctuary was to be the third installment before following her own path, following the rewrites away more and more of the initial work. In the end, the scenario with its medieval legend and its repercussions on the contemporary era, could be a horror movie of the sixties, such as those mentioned above, more subjective than frontal in their visions of hell. But it was without counting on the ambitions of aesthete of Soavi, who in the way of a Clive Barker or Guillermo Del Toro, uses his story a little trite, to create a whole bestiary spectacular seems to come to life the visions of artists such as Füssli , or Bosch.


Released in 1994, directed by Michele Soaviwith Rupert Everett, François Hadji-Lazaro and Anna Falchi

Francesco Dellamorte, a lonely young man and depressed, is the keeper of a cemetery special : at the end of 7 days, the corpses wake up and leave their grave in search of fresh flesh. Accompanied by the faithful Gnaghi, a dopey speaking by the onomatopoeia “gna”, Francesco is in charge of the re-earth.

Dellamore Dellamorte is a bit of a swan song film fantastic Italian; and some productions of minor without originality or stamp artistic follow up to the years 2000, but will be condemned to gather dust on the shelves of the video-clubs. Soavi allowing the genre to die a natural death by making a masterpiece of the form, if a little unconventional that it would be difficult to summarize all of its qualities in a few lines. Freely adapted from a number of Dylan Dog, comic book cult movie in Italy, the scenario was absurd and full of black humour, allows the filmmaker to question our approach to death, while disturbing our marks on the macabre as on the jester. If he persists in his tributes to the artists of various epochs, such as Anton Böcklin and Anna Chromy, it is well to develop a little world of crazy to the aesthetic rare, imbued with a culture of references, macabre. Funny, slapstick, poetic, romantic, desperate, absurd; that is the film in the end ? Maybe all the time, and that is why it arises in the masterpiece.



Released in 1991, directed by Alejandro Jodorowskywith Axel Jodorowsky, Blanca Guerra and Guy Stockwell

Fenix is a child of the ball, who grew up in the fairground world. Traumatized in his childhood by the mutilation of his mother, the leader of the heretical sect of Santa Sangre (holy blood), by his father, who cut off his two arms. Locked up in a psychiatric hospital, he sees his childhood through flashbacks. He managed to escape and joined his mother to become his ” avenging arm “.

Hilarious Jodorowsky, chilean by origin and French by adoption, product Santa Sangre in Italy, must certainly have been aware that the exuberance of this film post-Fellini would be the matrix perfect for its atypical project. Throughout his career, the father “Jodo” is rampant in many arts other than cinema, such as the comic strip and the circus; it is then logical to find the influence of its two domains on the aesthetic delusional of this tale surreal. In heir of Tod Browning and his Freaks, the filmmaker sought to emphasize new forms and new silhouettes ranging from the deformed to the formless, and thus connecting the fairground world in the aspect of horror that he often adopts in the collective unconscious. The advantage of a film overflowing with all the findings of the visual as a plot, is that it attracts the interest of moviegoers to the grids of readings are very diverse, with both a symbolic dimension in the representation of his artificial universe, such as psychological in the interpretation of the delusions of its main character.


Released in 2009, directed by Federico Zampaglionewith Jake Muxworthy, Karina Testa and Nuot Arquint

David, a soldier returning from Iraq, decided to leave some time at the mountain for forgetting the horrors of the war. He meets a beautiful young girl who tells him of a local legend about the existence of a nazi death camp in operation. David finds himself being stalked and then trapped in a bunker where a creature evil lies dormant.

Shadow is the proof in pictures of the evolution of horror cinema, in the Italian economy, as in the situation of the rest of the world. With a budget of only one million euros, and an output direct-to-video in many countries, including France, the film is clearly cut out to make the rounds of film festivals and not really looking to know a life beyond this system, in contrast to productions of previous decades broadcast in cinemas of the area. Other times, other manners, it’s no longer a question here of operatic gothic or nightmares grandiose but a survival which begins in the middle of the forest like so many others, ending in torture-porn, with the atmosphere of redneck and neo-nazi force. The show craspec concludes with a twist supposed to wear all the originality of a scenario that until now seemed to be weak, that will tell you if it is symptomatic of his time. Yet, in contemplating the silhouette graphic of the creature hardly human, and the care provided intermittently in the photograph, one begins to dream that there is still a flame in the Italian cinema; that after the release of Tale of Tales this summer, he will find, perhaps, his talent to bring to the screen our wildest dreams and scary nightmares the most moving.

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