Thursday, August 8, 2013

FOREIGN HORROR: Italians Do It Better


I cannot stress how much I love Italian horror. I mean, there was a whole phase in my life when I only watched Italian horror films. As a matter of fact...Asia Argento remains my all-time crush...no matter how goddamn crazy she is! I would marry her just so I could be Dario's son-in-law. I would even insist on changing my last name to Argento. Bryan Argento. Kinda has a nice ring to it...don't'cha think?

Up until the last decade (give or take a few years), Italy was the home of some of the absolute best horror films of all-time. It would seem as if the country would never cease in giving us exceptional works of film. But then...Lucio Fulci died, Dario Argento ceased to be relevant and Italian horror became sort of dormant. In fact, I'm going to go out on a limb and claim 1994's Dellamorte, Dellamore (Cemetery Man) to be the last great example of Italian horror cinema. While I'm sure you could probably present some arguments for some decent Italian stuff that have come our way since 1994, you have to acknowledge the fact that, for a time, Italy was a non-stop force of classic horror. 

My introduction to Italian horror was actually Argento's Phenomena...way back in the mid 80's. It was on a West Coast Video shelf and I asked the clerk if he ever heard of it. He shrugged and told me that they just got it in so he didn't get a chance to check it out. But, he did admit that the box cover looked badass (the old Creepers  box art that depicted an artist's rendering of a young Jennifer Connelly releasing a swarm of demon flies with her hand). I agreed and took it home.


As the VHS tape unspooled in my VCR, I was falling in love with every frame that my eyes could soak in. From the mesmerizing opening sequence to the downright loony fucking ending - I loved it all! And I wanted more! And so...I sought out the rest of Argento's catalogue...going all the way back to The Bird with the Crystal Plumage. I even found that batty documentary from 1985 called Dario Argento's World of Horror  which was part informative/part acid trip/part WTF. That documentary actually helped me trace the rest of his films at the time...which, before the advent of the internet, was akin to seeking out the fragments of Noah's arc. It certainly was fun, tho.

Anyway, I swept through Bava's world...and through Fulci's world. I was like an Italian horror junkie...unearthing as much of the country's genre classics as I could get my mitts on. Discovering gems like Cannibal Holocaust and Salo. Finding Joe D'Amato's and Luigi Cozzi's stuff in the darkness of my world. Marveling at classics like Sergio Martino's Torso  and Michele Soavi's StageFright. It was an Italian explosion all over my face. It was the best of times. And then...suddenly...it stopped. I got to the point where I kept on finding the same films that I've already seen...but with different names on them. I actually owned, at one point, Zombie, Zombi 2  and Zombie Flesh Eaters...thinking they were all different sequels. I know...so embarrassing. It was feverish...my horror-lust for Italy could not be satiated. Until...the Italian well went dry.

My Italian crave slowed down in the early 90's...which was also, what I like to call my "horror burn-out phase". Yes...I was burnt out by the genre. Mostly because of my Italian horror spree coming to an abrupt end. But, seriously...there was no worthwhile horror films coming out anymore. The entire 80's movement sort of crept to a halt...and there were no good films coming out at the time. I mean...sure, you had your Dead Alive's and your Army of Darknesses and your Silence of the Lambs. But, it just wasn't the same. I was going through some serious Italian horror withdrawals. I even forced myself to LOVE Argento's Trauma  when that one came out in 1993. I realize now that it is a severely flawed film...but, I still dig it for reasons of nostalgia. And Asia's boobies.


It wasn't actually until '94's Dellamorte, Dellamore that my love for Italian horror was rekindled and I started seeking out Michele Soavi's stuff. I remembered him from starring in Lamberto Bava's A Blade in the Dark  and for helming the afore-mentioned StageFright. Unfortunately...that was kind of a short road, seeing as how his body of work is nowhere near as vast as his Italian fore-fathers of horror cinema.

And so here I am. Staring at all my various formats of Italian horror cinema. I honestly don't think that any other country has given me such pure joy in seeking out every possible film by every director. Not even horror here in America could match the feeling. I feel such a special connection to Italian horror cinema. Almost like an old flame that I see from time to time. Every once in a while finding flashes of her here and there...but, never recapturing the fire that she brought me way back in the 80's when I first locked eyes on her on that one fateful trip to West Coast Video. She's an elusive one. But, I think she'll be back one day...reigniting my Italian horror-lust in a frenzy like one of Lamberto's Demons ripping into the throat of an unsuspecting theater-goer. And I'll be here...waiting for her in the shadows. With my black gloves on...clutching my cheap 70's switchblade.

In the meantime...here's Dario Argento's World of Horror!




Thanks for reading,

bryan.





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