Years ago, my horror collection looked much different than it does now. I focused solely on major studio fare and recall being especially proud when I completed the Friday the 13th series! Now, I lived in rural North Dakota, so I didn’t exactly have exposure to much else, but thanks to Netflix, that was about to change drastically.
When the 2002 American remake of The Ring arrived in my mailbox, I didn’t realize the journey a single movie was about to take me on. Needless to say, I loved every minute of it. I immediately started to read anything I could find about the movie, which led me to learn it was a remake of a Japanese movie. At that time, anything with subtitles was a no-go for me, but I just had to check out Ringu. One thing led to another, and soon my Netflix queue was jam packed with Asian horror. I was ordering Tartan Asian Extreme titles on eBay on a regular basis, and I was watching more Japanese horror than anything else.
I also expanded my purview beyond horror films, gobbling up kung-fu movies, Akira Kurosawa samurai flicks and Hong Kong action movies. It’s not a stretch to say I was obsessed with Asian film for the better part of 2 years.
Now, I know what you are thinking. What the hell does this have to do with ITALIAN horror? This is after all Italian Horror week. Well, after an exhausting journey, I thought that if one culture offered so much, why not look into other parts of the world? At this point, I had discovered a couple of horror mags, as well as some sites and forums to follow. One name was constantly mentioned; Dario Argento. I knew Italy was my next stop. After hearing from other fans, I decided on Suspiria being my first film, the one to break my cherry with. It was considered his masterpiece, and he was often regarded as The Maestro.
I sat down with such high expectations and was so excited to absorb everything Argento could offer me. I didn’t like the movie. Today, I can’t pinpoint what it was, but it was likely tied to my exceedingly high expectations. I’ve grown to really appreciate, and even love Suspiria, but it isn’t my favorite Argento movie. Even so, I wasn’t deterred. I digested a steady stream of Argento, Fulci and Bava. Black-gloved killers, zombies and cannibals lived on my TV and I was loving it.
To this day, I can’t decide on a “favorite” director from Italy. Depending on the day, it might be Mario Bava and his diverse catalog and amazing gothic vision. Other days, it could be the absolute carnage of Lucio Fulci or the artistic brutality of Dario Argento. They all bring so much to the table and they each have an extensive filmography.
I didn’t just stop in Italy, checking out anything I could find. One of my favorite discoveries outside Italian horror was Paul Naschy. In addition to opening my eyes to countless horror classics, I also met a lot of great people in the horror community, most online, but some in person.
I’ve often looked back at that fateful moment when I watched The Ring, and how ironic that an American remake of a Japanese movie opened my eyes to a world of horror, including Italian horror. This has also made me much more open and accepting when checking out new movies. I urge all of you to be a little more open to checking out a genre of film you are unfamiliar with. It just might be the best move you’ve ever seen.
Shaun Sjolin is an avid horror fan and runs Cenobite Me, his blog to share his opinions. Shaun is also a regular participant in the Halloween Horror Movie Marathon Madness on Facebook (or just The Madness for short).