The Nightmare continues

blog

In 1990 Lucio Fulci unleashed his own personal nightmare upon the world with A CAT IN THE BRAIN and now it is the turn of fellow countryman Domiziano Cristopharo to continue the fantastical and horrific vision with his upcoming film NIGHTMARE SYMPHONY.

As horror film fans we often read about directors channelling past masters or continuing legacies and it has become almost standard promotional waffle but here there is something more to it. Something both tangible and conceptual.

So what is this link between these two particular films and these two unique film makers? Primarily it is as simple as it having been reported that NIGHTMARE SYMPHONY pays homage to Fulci’s aforementioned meta-film and if that was not enough, both films share a screenwriter in Antonio Tentori – a man who straddles the old guard and the new and both have its main theme composed by the iconic Fabio Frizzi, a regular Lucio Fulci collaborator.

Nightmare Symphony

Sure this could just be window-dressing, after all any old production could theoretically hire the relevant people. Thats the nature of the industry and it doesn’t equate to or guarentee a genuine connection.

But having watched several films from Domiziano Cristopharo, a man who through several of his films displays an artistic flare for bringing the surreal and the strange to the screen, I am of the belief that he is perfectly placed to do justice to a modern take on the work of Lucio Fulci.

Seemingly the shared passions of art, horror, Lovecraft and a deeper philosophical drive leads me to believe that conceptually they may both be of the same vein while the addition of Antonio Tentori does help lend the film more validity than would be possible without featuring someone who had a direct working relationship with the great man. After all I don’t think it is a stretch to argue that Lucio Fulci was somewhat of a mentor, if only briefly, for a young Antonio.

Now onto the film itself and although very little has been leaked so far, plot wise the film unsurprisingly see’s a director (played by Frank LaLoggia) attempt to take up and finish an old ‘cursed’ film but the lines between reality and fiction soon merge no doubt with surreal and violent results.

I am intrigued however at whether this film will be self-referential, for either Cristopharo or LaLoggia, and whether it will draw comparisons to other films such as Federico Fellini’s 8 1/2 in terms of execution of delivery or whether it will play things a bit more direct. Either way I am curious to find out more and hope some promotional footage lands soon.

Antonella SalvucciA few exclusive images of the production were put on the Italian site DarkVeins which I won’t reproduce here out of respect (check out the site which handily has an American-English translation button for its articles) and it has just been announced that Antonella Salvucci (Lamberto Bava’s THE TORTURER, Paolo Sorrentino’s THE FAMILY FRIEND) has been cast as the female lead seeing her work with director Domiziano Cristopharo once more, having appeared in 2011’s BLOODY SIN.

Very little additional information has been confirmed on this film which is due to land in early 2019 but

Keep an eye out for it.

44522006_260673621254860_3417002674195791872_n

Please note that this blog post was originally posted on the 21st October 2018 and was updated on the 19th November to take into account additional imagery and information.

 

 

TWO LEFT ARMS (2013) BY DOMIZIANO CRISTOPHARO

Reviews

Director: Domiziano Cristopharo
Writers: Andrea Cavaletto, Francesco Massaccesi (Translation)
Year: 2013
Starring: Paolo Stella, Federico Pedroni, Yvonne Sciò , Yuri Antonosante, Irene Baruffetti, Carlo De Mejo, Ruggero Deodato

Synopsis:
Randolph Carter arrives in Italy to restore an old painting inside an unconsecrated church. He soon discovers that he is in the middle of a strange, secretive town, surrounded by weird people and a mysterious lake….which legend has it was created by the impact of a meteorite.

Review:
Opening on a dark night in what appears to be a palatial villa, or at least a set designed to emulate one, a man mourns the death of his wife and renounces God for what he has taken away. As his grief overtakes him a meteorite flies overhead and crashes nearby, starting a series of strange events.

This opening pre-credit sequence looks exactly as you would expect from a lower budget independent film and may cause a few viewers to start having doubts about continuing however after this sequence we jump into the modern day and thanks to an engaging (and budget-realistic) script the film succeeds on its own merits and terms.

As per the synopsis, Randolph Carter arrives in a small Italian town having been commissioned to restore an old painting, very HOUSE OF LAUGHING WINDOWS you might think, but here in this place with the stereotypical small town mentality, not only are the locals unfriendly but his contact Emma (Yvonne Sciò – ARMAGEDDON; THE MUSEUM OF WONDERS) seems oddly close to falling apart.

Now at this point it is worth noting that TWO LEFT ARMS is not a direct adaption of any particular Lovecraft story but rather a Lovecraftian story that builds on and takes influence from the writers tales. A couple of key points will jump out to fans of the writer very quickly; for instance the lead character name would be familiar, having ‘starred’, if you will, in several published stories. Although rather than hailing from Boston, here, Randolph (terrifically played by Paolo Stella – MOTHER OF TEARS, who really manages to convey the classic ‘fish out of water’ persona) is an Italian who, after the untimely death of his parents moved to Rhode Island, Providence to be raised by his Uncle. That location should also be familiar to the Lovecraft fans too.

As Randolph acclimatises to his new surroundings his inquisitive nature is met at times with a thin veil of secrecy and at others with outright hostility, one highlight being the town drunk Ernesto (played by famed director Ruggero Deodato) who comes across almost in the same vein as Crazy Ralph from the Friday 13th franchise, but perhaps with less helpful advice.

It is for reasons like this that credit must be given to Andrea Cavaletto for while his script puts Randolph at a disadvantage, we the viewers are given only a few breadcrumbs more. Due to this the story manages to install a certain level of intrigue and as ritual elements appear to enter the fray comparisons with CUSTODES BESTIAE appear, at least on the surface.

As the mystery deepens Randolph becomes drawn further and further in, driven by curiosity yet seemingly compelled to keep going by fear. This is most apparent once he is shown the nearby lake and through his meetings with the mysterious Antonio Mezzanotte. Now the pieces slowly start to come together while his mind does the converse as it begins to dawn on him that the whole town may be in on a bizarre plot to bring about the dawn of chaos and  instill a new world order or rather one should say return to an old world order.

Ultimately TWO LEFT ARMS is a film about the corruption of innocence and the decaying of the soul. To reach this message it takes in concepts such as freedom and slavery but sets these in a Lovecraftian universe where the external is often shown as a physical manifestation of the internal.

A slow burner (much like the previously mentioned CUSTODES BESTIAE, TWO LEFT ARMS is a decent watch thanks to a strong script and highly competent directing and is a film which can be enjoyed with and without prior knowledge of Lovecraft’s tales.

Version Reviewed:

This was reviewed from an online screener. If you are in the USA you can order the film on Amazon.

The best…and worst of me

blog

What is the difference between love and obsession?

The trailer for the upcoming Albanian film LAST DAY (THE BEST OF ME), courtesy of Bad Trip Bros., promises to answer that question by way of the weirdest love story ever told, as it introduces us to a body horror that has been freely inspired by the real story of Ricardo López, Bjork’s stalker who descended into a dangerous madness in the mid-1990s.

Hold up I hear you say, an Albanian horror movie! Now this country’s output is a bit of a mystery for me however strictly speaking this journey into madness is an Albanian-Italian production having been directed by Domiziano Cristopharo (HOUSE OF FLESH MANNEQUINS; RED KROKODIL) and featuring a cast weighted in his countryman’s favour. This combination of countries is not as strange as it might seem however as Albania is one of the most polyglot nations in Europe with Italian being widely spoken. No doubt a fact that would have helped this production come about and potentially a common denominator that might see more films coming out of the country and getting distribution deals.

Promising lots of practical effects, and the trailer certainly looks like the film will deliver on that aspect, and will certainly appeal to those who enjoy a trip to the dark side of the human psyche…along with gore of course.

Oh on a final note it is not just the visual aspects that might grab your attention. Music for the film has been scored by frequent Domiziano Cristopharo collaborator Antony Coia (E.N.D; SCARECROWD; VIRUS) and perhaps more exciting the film will feature original songs by the American-Italian  multiple award-winning composer Susan Dibona, one half of the terrific duo The Villa Studios. As a big music fan myself I am very interested to see, considering the subject matter, will there be a Bjork influence? Will Susan Dibona take things in a different direction? There certainly is a lot of room for variation here.

Check out the trailer below and follow the film on Facebook for updates.

Half Neon, Half Demon, All Horror

blog

After the success of his arguably pensive sci-fi horror SCARECROWD: THE MUSK, Italian-American director George Nevada is back alongside Italian producer (as well as the films writer) Domiziano Cristopharo, and the intriguingly titled film JACK THE ST. RIPPER.

Utilising many of the same cast from SCARECROWD (Fabrizio Occhipinti, Antony Ferry) and previous Domiziano Cristopharo efforts (Cleverson Rodrigues, Mark Thompson), JACK THE ST.RIPPER has been tagged as a crazy mix between MAGIC MIKE (no doubt this is where the St.Ripper part of the name comes in) and CARRIE by way of a parody style that pays homage to the gore and violence of the classic 80s grindhouse films.

Oh and perhaps some nods to the more contemporary stylised horror and thrillers with THE NEON DEON being an obvious reference point from both the tag line, the audio utilised in the trailer and also the effect on the trailer credits.

Talking of the trailer it certainly plays all the right notes and in addition posses almost an 1980s giallo vibe which permeates throughout, even if the violence comes across as more schlock than sophisticated, meaning that this film should appeal to many genre fans.

As of yet no release information is available but you can keep up to date with the films progress over on the official Facebook page.

On a potentially unrelated note there was a London killer who operated between 1964-1965 who was named ‘Jack the Stripper’ by the national press as part of the ‘Hammersmith nude murders’ and although I know that Domiziano Cristopharo takes influence from real life events, from what I know so far this is just a coincidence. But one to be aware of. 

Regardless of all this conjecture, watch the trailer below and make up your own mind.

Rebuilding the house

Articles and Interviews, blog

If you are reading this blog then in all likelihood you are open minded regarding your films and see age as just a number. The advent of home entertainment has provided several opportunities for films to be released and re-released with every iteration from VHS onwards and with each release the opportunity to find new fans. 

Generally speaking the films that benefit most from this process are decades old and as such manage to appeal to both new and old audiences due to the superior quality offered or additional material they provide over past releases. Although recent times have also seen more modern films receive this treatment, after all how many different versions exist of the major Hollywood blockbusters, which are at best an attempt to provide fans with as much footage and value as possible and at worst a cynical cash-grab. Normally the latter.

With that in mind there one version of a re-release that is most likely to have some artistic merit – the director’s cut. Often released after the producers and distributors have made their required money, these versions allow a film to be seen as it was originally intended (or at least they would have you believe) and theoretically give the director another chance of putting their vision on screen away from the pressures and requirements of the business philistines or distributor demands.

In genre cinema we have seen several companies do this with older films, one only has to look at Shameless with their release of Cannibal Holocaust, although perhaps this is not the best example given that some of the cuts made were enforced by the BBFC. 

Regardless of the reasoning behind it however each release, of both new and old movies, gives the market the opportunity to re-evaluate and re-discover films within not only a new, wider context (allowing us to use hindsight and take into account movies that followed) but also a personal one – had we been lucky enough to be witness it the first time.

One such film that I believe was overlooked upon its initial release back in 2009 was HOUSE OF FLESH MANNEQUINS, the debut film from Italian director Domiziano Cristopharo, which is now due to benefit from an extended director’s cut to mark its ten year anniversary.  I say extended as a 2009 release also boasts being a directors cut, although I suspect that this release was more of a business decision made by others with an aim for a quick return as opposed to any desire for the film to be seen.

Talking of the film, it follows a loner artist named Sebastian (Domiziano Arcangeli) who has a history of abuse and a strange fixation but when he meets a beautiful woman (Irene Violette) who takes an interest in his life and work despite the reservations of her father (Giovanni Lombardo Radice) things set off on a path of no return.

A strange and compelling watch, HOUSE OF FLESH MANNEQUINS displays influences from not only the likes of Joe D’Amato but also David Lynch and Michael Powell amongst others all wrapped up within some beautiful cinematography and an almost arthouse sensibility combining to make something unique and that would arguably go on to define the directors own personal style.

Seemingly buried by distributors, while an unrated edition that exists is even more hidden and perhaps targeted at a very specific section of society, in that time that has passed since these releases the Roman director has been extremely prolific and is only now seeing the fruits of his labour, particularly in the United States of America, where his more recent films such as RED KROKODIL; THE TRANSPARENT WOMAN and TWO LEFT ARMS amongst others are now readily available

So why revisit the past? And why a directors cut?

I managed to speak with the director who informed me that this release was simply to mark the ten year anniversary of its release and rather than a simply be a straight up re-release that this special edition will be used to “bring back the original shape of the movie”. Something that sounds very intriguing. 

This release will feature new music alongside additional footage that has never been seen before, with this covering original footage that he “had to cut because it was considered too obscene,(but) now thanks to movies like A SERBIAN FILM that were released four or five years after our movie, extreme is more acceptable, more normal but [back then] it was a different story”. Considering that HOUSE OF FLESH MANNEQUINS was no playful, family friendly romp in the first place one can only wonder what else will be included.

On this note Domiziano Cristopharo promises that this release will be “unrated and more shocking” and I have no doubt will appeal to many if it gets the distribution it deserves. Including the Unearthed Films audience, a company who also distributed A SERBIAN FILM, and who will be familiar with the Italian director thanks to his recent contributions to the label (such as RED KROKODIL and a number of the AMERICAN GUINEA PIG series).

Despite never quite benefitting from first mover advantage, HOUSE OF FLESH MANNEQUINS arguably helped contribute to kickstarting to the erotic and sexual horror sub-genre, an area in which its director has generally continued to pursue, and it is hoped that this release will go some way in claiming some of the dues that it thoroughly deserves.

Domiziano Cristopharo has some way to go in claiming the fame and notoriety of the forerunner Joe D’Amato, despite arguably creating more technically competent films, but his past, present and future (see the poster for NUDI E MORTE) all point towards him finally claiming that throne.

Although no distributor or release date has been announced this is one release that is worth keeping on your radar. Discover the trailer for the HOUSE OF FLESH MANNEQUINS below:

The Transparent Woman (2015) By Domiziano Cristopharo

Reviews

Director: Domiziano Cristopharo
Screenplay: Andrea Cavaletto
Year: 2015
Starring: Roberta Gemma, Arian Levanael, Giovanna Nocetti

Synopsis:
Anna is a fiercely independent blind woman. Her husband Carl sells their apartment and they move into his childhood rural home where, left alone during the days, Anna starts to believe that someone…or something is in the house with her.

Review:
THE TRANSPARENT WOMAN is the thirteenth directorial effort from the prolific writer/director/producer Domiziano Cristopharo and also the fourth time he has worked with actress Roberta Gemma (HOUSE OF FLESH MANNEQUINS; HYDE’S SECRET NIGHTMARE; BLOODY SIN) and it is perhaps of little surprise for fans of these two that the film practically opens with nudity as our lead couple Carl (Arian Levaneal – BLOODY SIN; DARK WAVES; P.O.E 3) and his partner, the blind Anna (Roberta Gemma) are in the bathroom going through their usual routine, all while their actions are set to an almost sensual, playful seventies style track reminiscent of Nora Orlandi et al. from days long lost, courtesy of the award-winning American/Italian film composer team DiBona & Sangiovanni.

Rather interestingly, particularly considering all involved are not prudish, director Domiziano Cristopharo shows some restraint here and rather than leading us towards something a little more risqué or hardcore he switches things up courtesy of a glorious credit sequence. Of which the style genuinely took me by surprise. So  realistically gloriously retro is the feeling it invokes that it was up there with the rebooted French ‘OSS:117’ films in terms of fun. No doubt aided by another hugely enjoyable track.  

We learn that our happy couple are moving back into the childhood home of Carl, a man whose piercing blue eyes and rugged masculine looks are almost enough to make you brush off the subsequent bizarre nature of a scene in which he begins to start playing an accordion by the fireside only to briefly enter a physical trance that seemingly only we, the viewer, can see. This trance represents the rekindling of old memories as Carl appears to be trapped in a loop but also seems to serve almost as a turning point in the couples relationship – one where it now no longer just the two of them.

On an initial viewing this scene does appear to come out of nowhere on and as a British viewer the use of an accordion seemed somewhat strange (although admittedly not as strange as its appearance in HOLY MOTORS) but does serve a narrative function. I was fortunate enough to have discussed this film with the director after an initial viewing and discovered that this choice of instrument was inline with rural Italian culture and so perhaps, like with many films from a different culture, was a culturally-specific choice that while adding substance and authenticity would not be picked up by wider, international audiences. Or at least not in the way initially intended. 

Whatever the justification, the accordion playing worked and Anna becomes a little more settled into their new home, which is good as she will be spending her days alone in the house. It is in these moments of solitude that Anna starts to suspect there is someone else there. This seemingly standard woman-in-peril set up is coupled with the breadcrumbs dropped by writer and frequent Cristopharo-collaborator Andrea Cavaletto which leads us to speculate on a past emotional trauma that affected Carl and that also may have happened in that house previously. 

As the mystery progresses and unravels, when we move away from the story and begin to focus on the aesthetics it becomes apparent that Domiziano Cristopharo is no amateur when it comes to understanding the importance of light and composition in order both elicit and project mood. For instance as he bathes several shots in blue the end results are beautiful and serve to mark him out as a real talent in an industry that is becoming increasingly Americanised or should that be homogenised and less about individual style. 

The aesthetics, of which I include cinematography, are perhaps more impressive when one considers the films meagre budget but when we consider the directors past perhaps we should not be so surprised.

Again this point is important because this focus on the visuals (and sound) is arguably more important in THE TRANSPARENT WOMAN due to the limited dialogue employed. 

With the exception of our two leads, and even then Anna spends many days alone, there is very little interaction with anyone else but here every interaction counts and rather than be a hindrance it instead helps to generate additional tension and combines will all other elements to produce an engaging film. 

Furthermore this result is made possible thanks to the decent performances of our leads, which although not Oscar worthy are enough to keep you immersed in the world. Roberta Gemma in particular I have to say impressed me considering the role, due to its isolation, could have proven quite tricky even for a more accomplished actress.

Certainly not everything in THE TRANSPARENT WOMAN worked for me, and I doubt it will be very different for you but regardless of this the film is beautifully composed, competently acted and most importantly of all – it is intriguing; as you want to know what has happened previously and you need to know what is going to happen after.

THE TRANSPARENT WOMAN will appeal to fans of the neo-gialli of Cattet & Fozani (AMER; THE STRANGE COLOUR OF YOUR BODY’S TEARS) as well as Onetti (DEEP SLEEP; FRANCESCA) thanks to its peppering of artistic shots, at times reminiscent of the visuals of Bava and Argento, and its less traditional (at least in regards to the non-Italian interpretation of the giallo) take on the genre. 

It is interesting also to note that THE TRANSPARENT WOMAN was actually constructed by several writers with the initial story coming from Francesco Massaccesi, Elio Mancuso and director Domiziano Cristopharo before finally being scripted by Andrea Cavaletto and it is of great credit to this group that at no point does the film ever lose focus or become disjointed. No doubt having Cristopharo bookending the process meant that the concept was kept cohesive from beginning to end.

Ultimately a tale of loss, reliance and the inability to accept the consequences of one’s actions, THE TRANSPARENT WOMAN is well paced, beautifully crafted and a creative mystery drama that I believe everyone should check out.

Finally keep an eye out for the 1970’s singer Giovanna Nocetti who pops up in a very unexpected role. 

An interview with Domiziano Cristopharo

Articles and Interviews

The first of many ports of work across from my old Cosi Perversa site has begun with the interview with the fantastic Italian director and producer Domiziano Cristopharo; a man who is responsible for the likes of House of Flesh Mannequins; Red Krokodil; and The Transparent Woman.

Read the full interview here.