Thursday, December 1, 2016

Horror Movie Mini-Reviews Italian Edition: Torso and Suspiria

* Torso

A group of girls are targeted by a masked killer at an Italian college and go to a local villa to get away from him. Torso is an Italian giallo film that focuses on eroticism and slasher kills. The characters are pretty frivolous and basically interchangeable. All of the women are kind of vapid and idiotic. The film very often focuses on their beauty, their nonchalant sexuality, or their over the top sexuality. I couldn't name any of them individually except for Jane, the unlikely final girl. The men are all vaguely or overtly threatening. Any one of them could be the murderer or at the very least rape one of the women. They definitely objectify these women, either stalking them and staring with intensity or literally chasing them down with motorcycles threatening to kill them. Believe it or not, the latter isn't even the real murderer. The gender portrayals are unflattering on all sides, but the film has some merits.

The real success of the film is the last section. After a predictably sapphic couple of days in the idyllic countryside, Jane wakes up from her upstairs room to all of her friends dead. Giallo and slasher films typically show these kills in extreme closeup with focus on the women's bodies and whatever mutilation is being done. This scene is uncharacteristically restrained. In the scene previous, the audience knows the murders are going to happen, but we only see the aftermath. We are put in the same situation as Jane, confused about what happened and struggling to put the pieces together. The killer had no idea Jane was even there because she didn't travel with the others. When the killer steps out, she desperately tries using the phone and escaping the house, but he's cut off every means of communication or escape. Even through her shock and horror, she decides to cover any trace of herself in the house, but of course she makes a fatal mistake. The best scenes of the film are when she is hiding in the house after finding her dead friends, struggling not to make any noise while the killer goes about disposing of their bodies in the most gruesome way. Torso is not the best slasher or giallo film. However, it breaks conventions, making the ending extremely effective.

My rating: 3.5/5

* Suspiria

Ballet student Suzy Bannion arrives at a German ballet school, only to see a raving woman leave and being refused entry. She comes back and everything seems fine for a while until other students go missing or end up dead. I watched Suspiria years ago and I remember completely hating it. The Girls in the Back Row podcast inspired me to watch it again with their beautiful descriptions and their behind the scenes information. The aesthetics are amazing. With new eyes, the Snow White and fairy tale influences are obvious and eerily beautiful. Bold pink, red, or blue lighting illuminates many scenes, giving the sets an otherworldly quality. The wallpaper, tile, and interior and exterior paint lend to this quality with bright colors (mostly pink) and surreal patterns. The facade of the Tanz Academy looks like it was taken right out of a fairy tale with its red paint, gold trim, and ornate detailing. Even blood looks bright pink rather than deep red. The dream logic extends to other aspects of the film as well.

The time period is kind of murky because of all the different fashions. Suzy and the other dancers wear fairly modern clothing. The owner of the academy wears glamorous dresses out of the 50's while the main teacher could have been from the Victorian era. The mishmash of different fashions gives it a timeless, dreamy feel. The visuals and the tense atmosphere are the stars of the film. The music by Goblin ranges from a sweet almost lullaby like melody to jarring sounds and angry, almost unintelligible whispers. The kills are visually interesting with a typical giallo focus on closeups. These deaths are even more stylish and well framed within the scene. The woman falling through the plate glass window is the one scene I remembered from watching years ago because of it's striking beauty for something so macabre. The characters are pretty childish and one dimensional because they were meant to be quite a bit younger. The plot is also pretty thin, but all of the other aspects pale in comparison to the gorgeous visuals and the tense and dreamlike atmosphere.

My rating: 4/5 fishmuffins

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