Let’s take a look at some 1970s horror. Starting with Italy.
I figures we may as well look at some old Italian horror since the remake of Suspiria is right around the corner. (“Well why don’t you review the original?” I don’t know!).
Here we have a Sergio Martino film, and those who know him know that this means we have an artistically shot and overly sexualized film with a killer who suffered a childhood trauma. This is a slasher film through and through—and almost nothing new is added to the formula (to be fair, the formula was relatively young when this film released).
1970s Italian horror has never been a huge draw for me, so those who are fans of this subgenre will probably disagree with me here. For me, these movies tend to dress up the films with enough artistic babble that means nothing to make themselves seem smarter than they actually are. Discussions of representation and the bourgeoisies don’t really occur this way on a college campus—particularly not in a crowded environment full of beautiful women who forgot to wear bras that morning. You can argue with me that perhaps I am missing the irony of such scenes, and that these juxtapositions of high art and sexual imagery are meant to make us think. Maybe, but they don’t make me think about anything other than a slight twinge of regret for doing a 1970s series on the blog.
I am also uncertain if we need to dress up a slasher/sexploitation film anyway. I know that Martino is influential, and still very popular, but they don’t connect with me as much. Don’t get me wrong, though, this is a serviceable slasher, and fans of the genre who aren’t aware of the Italian films will find a literal gold mine of new stories to enjoy.
The film looks good. Martino has a strong eye for setting scenes, and maintains a level of business in a lot of the acts that most films avoid. He isn’t afraid to have dozens of extra interacting within the frame, and this gives the film an interesting feel. Usually, we as the audience are too enmeshed behind the camera to feel like we are part of the world. Here, we get the background chatter from people, noise from cars, and can hear the physical distance between speakers. We also get to see the backs of characters, which is relatively uncommon.
Stylistically, there is a lot to appreciate here. However, we still have another film where over-sexualized women are killed by proto-incels. Women are little more than sexual objects here, and we can see the gendered problems of the genre birthing here. I am certain some will say I am too sensitive, or taking the film too seriously, but how else are we supposed to react to a film that normalizes discussions of casual rape (we don’t even have to talk about the murdered)? I refuse to act in the “that’s the way it was” mantra, yes it was the way it was, and we had a generation grow up seeing this sort of treatment of women. The way it was transfers to the way it is now. Can we appreciate the artistic merit of this film? Of course. However, we do ourselves a disservice when we refuse to critically engage with problems in genres or films that we like.
The entire premise of the film is a lunatic is killing college-aged women. We discover he has reasons for this, but this is the basic plot. The film verges into other ideas, like location, friendship, and sexuality, but I don’t see this as breaking through the moorings of the genre. Rather, this is an example of how the slasher genre came to be. All the features are here (and some are better done than even more recent films). Fans of Italian horror or slasher hardliners will like this one (though it is a little slow). I think it can be appreciated for how influential it is, but not sure this is one I feel like watching again.