Friday, July 19, 2013

ITALIAN HORROR WEEK - Losing Your Italian Horror Virginity By 35mm Light

Anthony and I know each other through the internet. We both love 35mm, and that means we loved Grindhouse Theater in Tacoma, WA. Now I never attended Grindhouse Theater, but Anthony's posts were like being there even though we had never met face to face. Now let's be with Anthony once more as he tells us how the Italian bug bit him.

Italian horror... Fuck, a year ago – I didn’t even know that there was such a thing. Of course I knew of foreign films, and find horror from Japan and Korea exceptional, there’s even a couple of French horrors that I find to be pretty cool – thanks to my wonderful fiancé for exposing me to that. But I wasn’t aware of horror from Italy, much less that it is regarded as birthing some of the most influential films and directors of horror in the world. It wasn’t even that long ago that I broke away from watching just mainstream horror. Meaning, living in a small town with only a few theaters that weren’t into playing anything relatively obscure meant – mainstream major releases. Of course, there were some local video rental stores, some independent and one Blockbuster Video in my teenage years. But even then, I didn’t realize.

But, that all changed about a year ago. A year ago I attended the first Grindhouse Theater series in Tacoma, WA – hosted by Justin Giallo. Giallo, that’s a last name I hadn’t heard of before – that was my thought then, not knowing the horror genre. The series opened with The Evil Dead, a film I was very familiar with and anxious to watch on the big screen. Little did I know, the film screening was not an ordinary experience. Justin, as it turned out, puts on quite the show. Prizes, trivia, raffles, free buttons stickers, and a costume contest – all kinds of cool shit. Not to mention fantastic artwork by the talented Mr. Nick “The Hat” Gucker. During Justin’s introduction, he invited everyone back for the next month’s showing of a movie called Demons. He mentioned how it had an awesome soundtrack and that it was an “Italian horror” film by the director Lamberto Bava. And that was the first time I heard the term.

After the premier event, there was no way we planned on missing the next film. As well as it being a movie I had never watched before, much less heard of. So we purchased our tickets early. This time, Justin further explained Italian horror, subgenres such as Giallos and their flair, style and artistic approaches. For a special treat, before the movie, Justin had arranged for Demon’s star Geretta Rosemary Geretta to Skype in on video. She spoke eloquently and highly of her work with Lamberto and reflected on Italian horror. One of the members of the audience asked her how the language process worked. She described politely that most of the actors spoke, and acted in English – there are some, as she explained who do speak in Italian or other languages, and they are generally dubbed in English. It was then I understood that (at least Demons) would not be subtitled and in English. I found that to be rather fascinating.

After leaving the theater after the film I was absolutely pumped. I vividly recall saying to my fiancé and our friend, Bobbie White, “Fuck! THAT was the horror movie I wanted to watch in the 80’s and didn’t!” My world had literally been changed. It fueled my fire to explore more of these films. We befriended Justin and his fiancé, Niki Crypt Giallo and I began asking them questions about Italian horror. Bobbie also knew quite a lot about Italian horror as well – so I also riddled her with questions. Justin immediately recommended we check out Dario Argento, whom he had mentioned in his introduction of Demons. Bobbie insisted we view Lucio Fulci.

Let me guess... you now require a bucket, don't you? - Dr. T
I began renting DVD’s from Netflix… Suspiria was the first. Brilliantly lighted architectures back dropped before a surrealistic soundscape, juxtaposed and confusing. The murder scenes were an art form. After that was Demons 2, with more fantastic special effects that were ahead of it’s time. Niki informed me that Argento’s Opera was another excellent movie, so we rented it next. Offbeat murder scenes coupled with another fantastic soundtrack that weaved in and out of a chaotic orgy of blood, flesh and art. His direction in this film really made me appreciate him even more so.

After the Lamberto Bava and Dario Argento samplings, it was time to get a taste of the horrors of Lucio Fulci. I became aware of Fulci not only from Bobbie, but from the stickers from Grindhouse Theater sponsor, Rotten Cotton. I checked out some of the titles offered on Netflix and noticed talk of an “unofficial trilogy”. Finding that to be something that sounded interesting, I rented City of the Living Dead, the first of the three films. I found the first scenes striking – again, the soundtrack amazing and perfect for setting a creepy and supernatural atmosphere. The special effects for the absolute gore and horror were amazing. Where I normally expected a cut away from a death scene there were none. Full on, in-your-face (or drill-in-head!) carnage. I found myself quite in love with the Italian horror, their exaggerative style and concepts so much different than the American stereotypical offerings. Fulci’s next film in the trilogy arrived next to my doorstep: The Beyond. Another amazing example of effects took command of the screen (ok, not the spiders – no one’s perfect).

FYI... Rotten Cotton... Great supporters of Italian Horror apparel

The next Italian horror filmed presented at Grindhouse Theater was Umberto Lenzi’s Cannibal Ferox. Another film where the director went balls out on the violence, blood and torture. Truly, the Italians were a disturbed culture full of violence and art – the perfect recipe for fucked up cinema. In January, Justin screened Argento’s giallo, Deep Red. At this point, having watched three different Italian horror films on the big screen in the 2010’s, I felt myself to be a very lucky man. Grindhouse Theater concluded its run in Tacoma, WA with the Fulci supernatural film, The Beyond.

From then on, we watched Phenomenon, The House by the Cemetery, Giallo (as I wanted to see a modern Argento film) and The Church. Since then, Bobbie has lent me her book, the extensively detailed Spaghetti Nightmares and my journey continues.


Anthony lives in Tacoma, WA where he enjoys cinema of all kinds, but has newly acquired a taste for movies from the boot. He is a lover of music, of horror themed guitars and of 35mm. 

He is a creator of many posters that can be found HERE.

DOCTOR'S NOTE: I used the Grindhouse Theater video of PIECES to reiterate .... AGAIN... that I am sick to death of not having seen PIECES on the big screen. And tI couldn't find their Cannibal Ferox trailer if one was ever made. And PIECES isn't Italian, but it sure does feel like it.  (and yes... that is what she said).

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