Say hello to our favorite HorrorAddicts.net 10iversary television blogs!
Say hello to our favorite HorrorAddicts.net 10iversary television blogs!
Most people have a fair understanding of the classic slasher flick. Made popular by Halloween in 1978, with predecessors including The Town That Dreaded Sundown, Black Christmas, Psycho etc, the idea of killing people off one by one has been immortalised by the formulae refined by films of this type. However, the slasher film is very closely linked to the Giallo (roughly pronounced jea-low), a type of Italian film which was very popular in the sixties and seventies, and bred a slew of filmmakers still admired and imitated today. This article won’t be a comprehensive discussion of the Giallo, as I’m a fan of the genre and not a scholar of it, but it will hopefully provide an introduction to those not aware of it, and give you a couple of movies to add to the ‘to-be-watched’ list.
Originally, gialli were cheap crime paperbacks, a bit like pulp novels, that were printed by Mondadori and trademarked with an instantly recognisable yellow cover. Hence this gave birth to the term Giallo, meaning ‘yellow’. These were mostly translations of Agatha Christie, Edgar Lee Wallace, Arthur Conan Doyle, and other similar authors. It’s important to make a distinction between the types of crime fiction, however. Gialli focused more on the graphic violence and the sleuths, rather than gun-toting noir police work. As Gary Needham says:
The publication of gialli increased throughout the 1930s and 40s, however, the importation and translation of the 1940s “hard-boiled” detective fictions from the US were prohibited from publication outright by Mussolini on the grounds that their corrupting influence and glamorisation of crime would negatively influence “weak-minded” Italians. (Needham, 2002)
Despite some of the restrictions, the Italians began writing their own gialli, and the literature boomed in the ’30s and ’40s. By the late ’50s, it had started to make its way across to film. The main mastermind behind its initial translation to the screen was Mario Bava, a film legend in his own right. After all, it was his film, Black Sabbath, which gave the band their name, who helped invent and pioneer the Heavy Metal genre of music.
Though he made a splash in ’63 with his film The girl who knew too much, it was his 1964 film, Blood and Black Lace, which really kicked things off. Dispensing with the police-procedural elements of previous films, Bava upped the sex and violence, turning the stalking sequences into major set pieces in their own right. Despite being a financial failure at the time, it has gone on to be critically appreciated and influenced dozens of filmmakers after. It set the template of what was to come after. It also introduced the killer in a black coat with black gloves, very much like Jack the Ripper, which would be the usual getup for Giallo killers as time went on.
A few years later, the most influential Giallo filmmaker would take up the mantle. Dario Argento’s The Bird with the Crystal Plumage incorporated a twisted, convoluted plotline with stunning visuals that earned him the nickname ‘the Italian Hitchcock.’ The film was an international success, and still has one of my personal favourite twists of all time. He followed this up with Four Flies on Grey Velvet a few years later, and then release one of his masterpieces in 1975, Profondo Rosso (Deep Red).
Around the early seventies, Sergio Martino also released films such as Torso, All the colours of the dark, and the incredibly titled, Your vice is a locked room and only I have the key. Lucio Fulci also breaks onto the scene here, directing films such as A lizard in a woman’s skin and Don’t torture a duckling in the early seventies. I’ve already written an article on Fulci here on HorrorAddicts.net, and I’ll include a link to that at the article’s end.
Because of their frequency of production and release at this time, gialli ended up like the Saw films did, with each film trying to out-do the previous in terms of twists and turns. I recall hearing Luigi Cozzi talk about this in relation to when he and Argento were batting around ideas for a film in which someone foresaw their death, then had to try and explain how it happened without psychic powers. The film, Profondo Rosso, was eventually made without Cozzi’s involvement, but he does own a horror memorabilia shop in Italy named after the film.
The gory death sequences continued throughout the seventies, continuing into Argento’s most famous film, Suspiria, which had a remake released last year. The brutal opening death scene with a body crashing through a stain glass window is as in horror history as Johnny Depp’s demise in the original Nightmare on Elm Street, and Goblin’s score for the film is something you find yourself humming walking down the street. Filled with vibrant colours and haunting imagery, it’s still shocking even today.
By the time the eighties came around, however, the Giallo was beginning to fade. Fulci’s return to the genre after doing his Gates of Hell trilogy were fairly laughable (Murder Rock is just funny, and there’s not a person in existence that can’t think of The New York Ripper without saying ‘quack’. If you haven’t seen it, go watch it and you’ll understand what I mean), and Argento has been making movies to this day, but nothing of any real note after the mid-eighties with Phenomena and Opera. The American slasher had taken the spotlight, and even that was, by the late eighties, beginning to run down its original formula.
These films are still influential, however. The film Abrakadabra, released last year by the Onetti Brothers, is a wonderful homage to the giallo, nailing everything from the groove-rock soundtrack to the quick zooms and grainy footage. Gialli are a wonderful time, those made around the late sixties/early seventies especially, as they have their own unique vibe, shooting style, and soundtracks. Unlike the slasher or the ghost story, it’s something that I highly doubt will ever make a proper return, but will stay immortalised as the brilliant pieces of cinema that they are. Sleazy, shocking, suspenseful; the Giallo is one of a kind.
-Article by Kieran Judge
FURTHER READING ON HORRORADDICTS.NET
A Nightmare on Elm Street. 1984. [Film] Directed by Wes Craven. United States of America: New Line Cinema.
Abrakadabra. 2018. [Film] Directed by Nicolas Onetti Luciano Onetti. Argentina/New Zealand: Black Mandala.
All the colours of the dark. 1972. [Film] Directed by Sergio Martino. Italy: Lea Film.
Black Christmas. 1974. [Film] Directed by Bob Clarke. Canada: Ambassador Films.
Black Sabbath. 1963. [Film] Directed by Mario Bava. Italy/France: Emmepi Cinematografica Societe.
Blood and Black Lace. 1964. [Film] Directed by Mario Bava. Italy: Emmepi.
Don’t Torture a Duckling. 1972. [Film] Directed by Lucio Fulci. Italy: Medusa Produzione.
Four Flies on Grey Velvet. 1972. [Film] Directed by Dario Argento. Italy: Seda Spettacoli.
Halloween. 1978. [Film] Directed by John Carpenter. United States of America: Falcon International Productions.
Lizard in a Woman’s Skin. 1971. [Film] Directed by Lucio Fulci. Italy: International Apollo Films.
Murder Rock. 1984. [Film] Directed by Lucio Fulci. Italy: Scena Film.
Needham, G., 2002. Playing with genre: an introduction to the Italian Giallo. [Online]
Available at: http://www.kinoeye.org/02/11/needham11.php
[Accessed 20 07 2019].
Phenomena. 1985. [Film] Directed by Dario Argento. Italy: DAC Film.
Profondo Rosso. 1975. [Film] Directed by Dario Argento. Italy: Seta Spettacoli.
Psycho. 1960. [Film] Directed by Alfred Hitchcock. United States of America: Shamley Productions.
Saw. 2004. [Film] Directed by James Wan. USA: Twisted Pictures.
Suspiria. 1977. [Film] Directed by Dario Argento. Italy: Seda Spettacoli.
Terror At The Opera. 1987. [Film] Directed by Dario Argento. Italy: ADC Films.
The Bird with the Crystal Plumage. 1970. [Film] Directed by Dario Argento. Italy: CCC Filmkunst GmbH.
The New York Ripper. 1982. [Film] Directed by Lucio Fulci. Italy: Fulvia Film.
The Town That Dreaded Sundown. 1976. [Film] Directed by Charles B. Pierce. USA: Charles B. Pierce Film Productions, Inc..
Torso. 1973. [Film] Directed by Sergio Martino. Italy: Compagnia Cinematografica Champion.
Your room is a locked vice and only I have the key. 1972. [Film] Directed by Sergio Martino. Italy: Luciano Martino.
Isobel Blackthorn is a prolific novelist of unique and engaging fiction. She writes dark psychological thrillers, mysteries, and contemporary and literary fiction. On the dark side are Twerk, The Cabin Sessions and The Legacy of Old Gran Parks. Her Canary Islands’ collection begins with “The Drago Tree” and includes “A Matter of Latitude” and “Clarissa’s Warning”. Her interest in the occult is explored in The Unlikely Occultist: A biographical novel of Alice A. Bailey, and the dark mystery A Perfect Square. Her short story, ‘Lacquer’, appears in the esteemed A Time for Violence anthology.
Isobel is a gracious and charming woman. We spoke of inspirations, influences, and surprising characters.
NTK: Welcome to Chilling Chat, Isobel! Thank you for joining me today. Could you tell the Horror Addicts how old you were when you discovered horror?
IB: I discovered horror when I was sixteen and sat petrified in the movie theatre watching The Omen. Then came Rosemary’s Baby. I am not sure which was more terrifying. I could not bring myself to watch Carrie or The Exorcist. I was too easily spooked.
NTK: What author has influenced you most?
IB: Both King and Stoker were my early influences. Now I have been introduced to the novels of many horror authors, including the magnificent Sangré by Carlos Colón, a vampire tale like no other, and Return to Hiroshima by Bob van Laerhoven, which is as classy as noir thrillers get.
NTK: What inspired you to write The Cabin Sessions?
IB: The Cabin Sessions arose out of a combination of factors that were going on in my life at the time. That was how the book started out.
NTK: How much control do you exert over your characters? Do they have free will?
IB: As soon as I started writing The Cabin Sessions, a minor character stepped forward and took over the narrative. Nothing like that has happened to me as a writer before or since. It was a very dark and confronting process, giving her the freedom to express herself. I had my own internal horror story going on inside of me during the writing process as a result.
NTK: What is your creative process like? Do you outline before writing? Or do you just write as the mood strikes you?
IB: A little of both. I start out with an idea, which gradually gathers substance. I conjure a few characters, the setting, and the bones of a plot. Then, once I have enough, which usually takes a year, I start writing. I let the voice come, the narrator. Once I have the narrator, I write the first chapter and see where it takes me. Then, there is usually a bit of figuring out before I write the next few chapters. After that, I only plot when I have to. Sometimes I know the ending, sometimes I don’t.
NTK: Where do you find inspiration?
IB: I am inspired by everything. I follow my passion and it leads me all over the place. Every book I write is unique as a result. Horror is a vast genre and as soon as The Cabin Sessions came out and I tried to define it–it’s a dark psychological thriller–I began to explore all the other kinds of horror fiction out there and wondered where I was heading next. I decided I had an appetite for dark thrillers and as soon as I was introduced to Giallo, I was sold. My novel, Twerk, set in a Las Vegas strip club, draws on Giallo tropes.
NTK: What is the difference between a thriller and a horror story?
IB: A thriller follows certain rules and does not necessarily contain any horror tropes. Horror is all about the tropes. Horror is there to shock, to horrify, to revolt. Thrillers seek to thrill. I write dark thrillers and there is enough horror in them for all but the most hardline horror aficionados.
NTK: In your opinion, why do people enjoy horror? What attracts them to darkness?
IB: People like the adrenalin rush. It’s the same as a roller coaster. You are wobbly when you get off and kinda pleased it was over, then the rush fades out and you are in the queue for the next ride. It is very addictive.
NTK: What does the future hold for you? What do we have to look forward to?
IB: I have written three dark fiction novels and a few dark short stories. One has just come out in A Time for Violence, an anthology including shorts by Richard Chizmar and Max Allan Collins, Paul D. Brazill, Andrew Nette, Joe R. Lansdale, Elka Ray, and Tom Vater. My story, “Lacquer” forms the first chapter of a noir thriller set in San Francisco and Singapore.
I’ve also been shortlisted for the Ada Cambridge prose prize and my story will appear in the anthology.
NTK: Congratulations, Isobel! That’s awesome! Thank you so much for chatting with me.
IB: Thank you so much for this, Naching!
Why The Wicker Man Still Scares Us by Kieran Judge
Released in 1973, Robin Hardy’s British pagan horror movie takes a policeman (played by Edward Woodward) onto the Scottish island of Summerisle to investigate a girl’s disappearance. Despite a bad remake with Nicholas Cage, and a spiritual sequel that failed to impress, the original film still has the ability to deeply disturb on a strange, fundamental level. I’m going to outline why I think The Wicker Man, despite its age and lack of blood and monsters, still manages to thrill and scare today.
When Howie arrives on the island, you’re initially greeted by great aerial shots of the little plane flying past the rugged terrain of the island, merely a white speck against the blue ocean. For the rest of the film, Howie is completely removed from the traffic in the pre-credit scenes, away from the churches and the police stations (these scenes re-added in the director’s cut). As Martin-Jones writes of the film, ‘The wilds of Scotland are thus considered a potentially treacherous location where a more ‘primitive’ attitude to life and death persists and duplicity and double-cross are deadly commonplaces against which the unwitting outsider must guard.’ (Martin-Jones, 2009). We’re on our own now in a cut-throat world.
And you get this impression right from the start. Upon landing, Howie asks the townsfolk to send a dinghy out so that he might come ashore, and their reply is they can’t do so without permission. Even announcing himself as a policeman seems to have little to no effect. Not only is this an island from which one cannot easily escape except by plane, but it is an environment where the people are dismissive, if not yet overtly hostile. It’s going to be hard going at the very least to find our missing girl.
The more we explore the culture, trying to get to the very heart of the matter of the missing Rowan Morrison, the more we feel we are intruding too far into a completely different world. Their pagan rituals are everywhere, from the maypole dancing and education at the school, to the chocolates being sold in the local shops. The Christianity that Howie holds so dear to him, (the virtues that Edward Woodward says are the most important values to him of all, in the DVD’s video commentary (The Wicker Man, 1973)) are up against a brick wall that we slowly, horrifyingly, realise is actually a trap, ensnaring us. Kbatz has a great review of the film from a few years ago in which she discusses some of the conflicts between the different religions, and I highly recommend you go and read it if you haven’t already: https://horroraddicts.wordpress.com/2013/04/23/kbatz-the-wicker-man/
Many people have commented on the music in the film, with the cast and crew on the DVD commentary saying that it fits the movie like a glove. I’ve known people to find the songs funny at times, which I think is telling in itself. It isn’t the usual score to a thriller film. Around 13 songs, based on traditional Scottish tunes and poems, form a surreal background to a completely alien world. It’s unnerving, and people trying to laugh it off may be a form of emotional relief
This also highlights that all of the people are genuinely enjoying the festivities. All of the townsfolk are smiling and treat Howie with the greatest of respect because, again referring to the audio commentary, they believe they are doing him the greatest service by plotting to make him a martyr. They believe they’re doing the right thing. And that’s one of the most terrifying things upon reflection, they believe in their hearts that they are rewarding him.
And then of course, for Howie, things go sour in the final act. Like the rotting apples and the crumbling churches, everything falls apart for the modern values of the western world embodied by our policeman. When he tries to leave he finds the plane broken and sabotaged, technology failing. Worshippers with animal masks watch on, and when Howie turns around they hide again. There’s a definite air of malice now, a concrete threat to Howie, and what was unease throughout the film suddenly becomes fear.
As we reach the climax of the film, we, like Howie, are clutching at straws. From feeling like the imposter in a strange land, Howie puts on the outfit of the fool and becomes the imposter. Now we’re in the very midst of the danger, aware that they intend a human sacrifice, and the very Christian policeman has to imitate the very thing that goes against his core values in order to carry out his job. The snapping hobby horse are the jaws of death. It’s a personal conflict of monumental importance, a moment where the personal micro tensions and the theological macro tensions come to fruition, and we have to hope that the man we follow will win out.
The entire parade is dragged out as long as possible for maximum tension. The scene with the sword dance in the stone circle is particularly tense, because for a moment we suddenly realise that there’s the possibility the worshippers know Howie is in the outfit. Thrust into the line, he has no but to go into the ring of swords and trust and hope his disguise holds out. With the chop! chop! chop! we have again a perverse soundtrack, substituting the war drums of conventional movie scores for a pagan call for death.
And then we arrive at the final scene. Howie is thrust into the Wicker Man, crying for his Lord, and we suddenly have to hope for the traditional horror movie to return. Horror films always save the protagonist, give us some kind of catharsis, but there’s nothing to be found here. The helicopter doesn’t arrive, rain doesn’t pour as an act of God and douse the flames licking at the wood, Howie doesn’t manage to escape and run to freedom. The cries for Jesus and the singing of traditional hymns are drowned out by the chanting ring of happy pagan faces as the head finally crumbles, burned to a crisp.
The Wicker Man takes our traditional western values and puts them into a world that has reverted to the past. The crusade Howie goes on fails to convert the islanders to the ‘modern’ ways of thinking. We leave the film having watched the protagonist having journeyed to a strange, unnervingly backward land and burned alive to appease ancient gods. We as an audience, his modern kin, have failed him. In a world of cut-and-paste zombie flicks, ghost girl movies, and lacklustre monster films, there’s just something about rustic terror of The Wicker Man that manages to unnerve. Everything comes together and culminates in a film that defies all the conventions, brings together the best cast and crew possible, and leaves the viewer having watched one of the most terrifying final scenes ever put to film.
Article by Kieran Judge
Follow Kieran on Twitter: KJudgeMental
Martin-Jones, D., 2009. Scotland global cinema: genres, modes and identities. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.
The Wicker Man. 1973. [Film] Directed by Robin Hardy. UK: British Lion.
Though Flawed, Thriller’s Second Season Remains Frightful
Master Imaginationist and Instagram photographer Crystal Connor is the Chief Imagineer working for the Department of Sleep Prevention’s Nightmare Division. A Washington State native she loves anything to do with monsters, bad guys (as in evil-geniuses & super-villains. Not ‘those’ kind her mother warned her about), rogue scientific experiments, jewelry, sky-high high-heeled shoes & unreasonably priced handbags.
Moderator and horror author Brian McKinley is joined by science fiction writer William Gold, humorist Loretta Wish, mystery and thriller author J. Lauryl Jennings, dark fantasy author Kristin Battestella (yes that’s me! Your trusty Kbatz!), and urban fantasy storyteller Laura Kaighn for the Fiction and Genre Panel at the 3rd Indie Author Day hosted at the Heggan Library in Sewell, NJ.
You can see the entire 7 part video below or also view the Childrens and Non-Fiction Panel from the Indie Author Day. For more photos and author events, visit the South Jersey Writers Conference, Facebook Page.