Greetings Film Deviant Readers! I'm Rachael and I run a little blog called Hypnotic Crescendos which I use to muse about all things gialli. In particular, I like to discuss the importance of fashion in Italian genre cinema by writing excessively long posts about the significance of wardrobe in Dario Argento films among others. Bryan's asked me to hijack his site to do my own little piece for his GIALLOWEEN extravaganza so tonight I bring you a little post that I call "A Very Giallo Halloween"
I love themed parties. If I had the choice, budget and right number of willing participants I'd be throwing tenuously themed parties on a weekly basis from Communist Mother Russia style gatherings with guest documentation, vodka and rationed toilet paper to election night parties with shots taken for every seat won, obligatory rosettes and hefty betting on all potential outcomes. Hell I love the idea of themed parties so much that I'm themeing my whole wedding around my love of Italian cinema! For me, Halloween is the perfect opportunity to throw a big blow out so what better way to celebrate all Hallows Eve than to throw a horror tinged giallo party with all the trappings of our favourite 1970s thrillers. This post is going to be my personal guide to how you can throw your own giallo themed party from what alcohol and food to serve to what entertainment to provide to what to wear. Enjoy!
Let's start with the most important component of a party - alcohol. You don't cut corners on a giallo themed party - it's all about the style so put those paper cups back in the cupboard and get out your finest (imitation) crystal tumblers. Sadly most of us don't possess a drinks trolley so make up your own drinks station on a side/coffee table. Keep it opulent and 70s by having unnecessary garnishes that are all dispensed into their own special little crystal cut bowls - corkscrew lemon and lime slices, glace cherries and cocktail twizzlers. Of course you can't have a giallo themed party without some J&B so hit up your local off licence for the perfect party tipple. Keep the bottle displayed on your table to evoke that classic 1970s gialloesque feel. For guests that aren't partial to whisky, serve classic 1970s spirits such as the classic Italian vermouths of Cinzano and Martini, Campari with the achingly seventies mixer of grapefruit juice and finally, grappa for later in the evening after the food has been served and eaten. Serve a bottle of aperol spritz at the beginning of the evening as it makes for the perfect alcoholic accompaniment to the 1970s style snacks you'll be serving. Finally, make sure to top off your drinks table by displaying all of your glassware and alcohol on a silver tray for that added bit of style.
The decade that the giallo film is most associated with is the 1970s so you'll want to serve snacks that are reflective of the decade and Italian cuisine of the time. Don't even think about serving up your food in your generic Ikea porcelain, for the full on effect of a giallo themed party head down to your local charity shop or Mum/Grandma's attic and dig out some 1970s china. For some unbeknownst reason (ha!) 1970s china is still very much detested and most people my age wouldn't be seen dead with it so you should be able to pick this stuff up second hand for a ridiculously cheap price. The porcelain doesn't have to match - clashing colours and patterns will add to the whole look. What you want are vibrant patterns and 1970s colours such as orange, lime greens, browns and mustard yellows.
Try and stay away from serving what you think is Italian cuisine - we all know Italian American food differs considerably to what is actually eaten in Italy so stay away from what you see on the menu at Mama's Pizzeria in Yonkers. You'll want to serve up finger food so I suggest serving a classic bruschetta with homemade topping and variations of crostini using various cured meats from various regions of Italy as well as the classically Italian ingredient of artichokes. Incorporate cheese by staying away from Parmesan, instead use ricotta and stuff it into hollowed out courgettes/zucchini. Keep the 1970s slant by serving carpacchio as a hot option for your guests. For dessert, take your left over ricotta and scoop it into tube shaped shells of deep fried pastry dough to make your own delicious Cannoli and serve alongside pistachio biscotti.
Think Stelvio Cipriani and Bruno Nicolai's fabulous scores from the 1970s - jazz inflicted lounge music will give your party a retro feel that's suitably Italian while still feeling party appropriate. I would recommend music from films such as Death Walks on High Heels, Five Dolls for an August Moon and The Frightened Woman. Take inspiration from films that feature scenes set in bars and nightclubs for your playlist and choose tracks that have a little bit of a beat that you can swing your hips to. This style of music should help you to achieve a chilled, laid back party vibe that would feel achingly hip and refined back in the 1970s. Sophistication is key here.
Unfortunately most modern homes are pretty far removed from the interiors of 60s and 70s gialli so it may be a little tricky to get your home party ready. If you can get your hands on a shag rug or a faux fur animal throw you'll be able to cover up your modern decor and give your home a little bit of a seventies feel. Many gialli interiors were filled with flowers that were popular in the 1970s. Red, orange, white, purple and yellow were particularly popular floral colours so fill your home with marigolds, geraniums and cactus dahlia to help give your party a seventies, gialloesque vibe without spending a lot of cash. The aforementioned 1970s crockery should help with the theme and whilst you're scouring charity shops for it, have a look for other 1970s style decorative objects. A simple vase, mirror or picture will help to elevate the look of your party. Other decorative giallo items that you can use are a retro 1970s phone, a sinister doll collection, a collection of knives, mannequins (although fuck knows where you would get one from) and some carefully placed bright red blood perhaps on a dresser, a door handle or on a candelabra or another gialloesque prop. Admittedly the decor may be tough to pull off but a few simple props alone will help bring the theme together.
I think it's pretty much a given what the host of a giallo themed party should be wearing. A black PVC/leather raincoat/trench and a black brimmed hat and leather gloves. Cleaver and/or razor are optional. If you want to really go for it take your inspiration from Mario Bava's Blood and Black Lace and put a pair of tights over your head, you'll be sure to freak out your friends! For the ladies, take a nod from Profondo Rosso and wear your heavy duty leather trench with a long string of pearls - if you want to go the whole hog you could get some fake blood and reenact the ending by giving yourself a faux decapitation. Just remember to lay the kohl eyeliner on as thick as possible.
A giallo themed party is a gift for the ladies at the time of writing this because seventies fashion is MASSIVE in the shops. We want our guests to stay away from the stereotypical 1970s looks i.e. disco influenced Saturday Night Fever styles and instead we want to go for something a bit more authentic to the first half of the decade. Ditch the afro wigs and metallics and instead give your guests a dress code that includes fabrics such as suede, polyester, faux fur and vinyl. For skirt and dress lengths go for minis and midis in a line cuts preferably in the aforementioned fabrics. Maxi skirts and dresses were extremely popular at the time so they're a great alternative - we want to go against the more 90s maxi trend of clean lines and block colours, instead going for heavy detailing like ruffles, collars and beading and elaborate, geometric patterns. Get your female guests to rock knee high boots, chunky platforms and buckled court shoes for footwear. Accessory wise you might want to convince one of your poor guests to wear an outlandish wig in the style of Luciano Ercoli's early seventies gialli - think Nieves Navarro and Dagmar Lassander in Death Walks in High Heels and The Forbidden Photos of a Lady Above Suspicion. For the hat lovers out there get them to try a floppy bohemian style hat like Anabella Incontrera in The Case of the Bloody Iris or a turban like the fabulous one Edwige Fenech wears in The Strange Vice of Mrs Wardh. The great thing about the 1970s is that the fashion was so outlandish - there is no limit to the number of accessories, jewellery and patterns you want to put together. Oh yeah one more thing, the more make up the better - fake eyelashes, blue eyeshadow and thick eyeliner are the looks that best capture the giallo look.
The seventies was a fantastic (or horrific time depending on your outlook) for male fashion. As absurd and outlandish as ladies fashion, male dressing in 1970s was all about making a statement and peacocking. Take inspiration from the legend that is George Hilton and get your guests to wear checked blazers, turtlenecks, flared trews and shirts with collars so large and so peaked that they could double for aeroplane wings. Fabric wise we again want polyester blends and scratchy wools in patterns like cheesecloth, checks and geometric patterns. Colour wise you'll want to encourage the guys to try and wear their turtlenecks in various shades of flesh (hello Fabio Testi) teaming them with browns and creams and the more stand out shades of orange, purple and yellow. The more bolder male party guests may want to embrace the look of Steve Forsyth in Hatchet for the Honeymoon while the meeker guest (who actually wants to be able to still use public transport in their outfit) may opt for a style more in the tradition of the classic giallo police officer - think seventies business casual.
I'd take this as an opportunity to mess with my guests. Cut the lights and music casting your party into eerie silence, blast Goblin's Suspiria Score at an unbearably loud volume and then cut the music. Then ring your house phone from your bathroom on your mobile and whisper nasty threats in a high pitched Berti style voice down the line at your party guests. Then burst into the room and slit your throat like Peter Neal does in Tenebrae. You'll be the hit of the party! Or you could not be a crazy person and play normal games that involve alcohol. Find yourself a classic, derivative giallo and start playing a giallo drinking game with rules that include; take a sip of J&B every time a character on screen does, you see a mannequin or doll, a pair of black gloved hands do something ominous, incompetent police work etc etc.
This one takes a bit of prep but you could organise a murder mystery game - there are LOADS online. All you need to do is change the character names to Italian ones so you have the likes of Enzo, Valentina and Giorgio in your cast of players. Give your game a faux giallo title like "Evidence of a Violent Struggle on the Crystal Balcony" to give it some authenticity. When you're preparing the game before the event make sure you come up with a giallo tinged story and give people appropriate backstories like Enzo is a musician from London who is wanted by a powerful crime lord, Valentina is a fashion model who secretly had an abortion and Giorgio is a philandering dentist after his deceased father's money. This will help to bring colour to your game and is sure to get your guests invested in their roles. Make some props like a bloody razor, footprints and a torn photo to again, help your guests engage with the theme and story. For those unfamiliar with the giallo film this is a great, interactive way of introducing them to the genre and some of its tropes without sitting and watching a film which can sometimes be a little bit boring in a party setting.
On a side note how fantastic would it be to host a giallo murder mystery weekend? If anyone wants to ever do it hit me up! It would be a great addition to a horror festival.
Does anyone even send out proper invitations anymore or do we all just make Facebook event invitations at 2am in the morning with TBC under every heading? Why not set yourself apart from the crowd by fashioning your own invitations and by fashion I mean butcher a copy of The Guardian and whatever other newspaper you have at hand. Cut out the headlines and fashion your own ransom note style invitation with threatening sentiments such as "AW MATE YER GETTIN STABBED MON" if you reside in Scotland like me. Think how cathartic it will be to threaten you flaky friends into coming to your party? If you can't be fucked going to the effort of desecrating a newspaper you can use a handy ransom note generator or font online and then email it to your pals.
Always have a giallo playing in the background. Try and go for something fun and colourful that will peak your guests interest. Again this will evoke a certain mood and will give those unfamiliar with the giallo an idea of what one is without sitting down and giving the film their full attention.
Finally. why not take inspiration from The Strange Vice of Mrs Wardh and have a crazy wrestling match mid party with paper dresses that descends into nudity. The only problem is you'll have to find some willing guests but after a few tumblers of J&B...you never know.
Thanks so much for reading. I hope you've all enjoyed my take on how to have your own GIALLOWEEN celebration. It's been an honour to contribute to bryan's GIALLOWEEN event and I look forward to reading more of his reviews over the next few weeks. If you've liked this post you can catch more of what I do over at my site HypnoticCrescendos.blogspot.com and have a Very Giallo Halloween!
Rachael Nisbet is a Criminology expert and a Gialli fiend from Edinburgh, UK.
For more of her lovely writing features and razor sharp wit, please follow her on Twitter HERE. CIAO!