Ahoy, squirts! Quint here with a review of Dario Argento's GIALLO starring (and produced by) Adrien Brody. I haven't been hearing good word on this movie, which makes the Argento lover in me a sad panda. I was hoping this one would be a return to form after suffering through his recent crap like THE CARD DEALER. I mean, it is the maestro returning to the genre that made him famous with an Oscar-winning actor in tow. This review comes in from FrightFest in the UK and it doesn't add any hope... in fact it takes the remaining hope I had left, skins it and hangs it from the ceiling. Here's Dr. William Weir fresh from the Event Horizon to tell you more!
Harry, Long time no see! Well, having no eyes it does make it rather difficult for me to see anyone... so please forgive me. It's been a while since I put forward my review of The Orphanage back in 2007 for the London Fright Fest. I've been circling around the outer layers of Hell redecorating the lesser-known parts of the Event Horizon in a lovely shade of gore red (those gothic columns HAD to go) for a couple of years. But after a while... well, it gets rather boring up here without human suffering to entertain me. So I decided to head back down to Earth to enjoy more Fright Fest goodness and hopefully revel in the squeamish delights and foul, fetid odors of an audience of horror fans. I smell positively floral in comparasion. Not having much time, I decided to pick what seemed like the safest bet. Borrowing a set of eyes from the person next to me (no, I didn't give them back) I settled back during the delightful Grindhouse trailers and readied myself to enter the mind of a horror maestro - the enigmatic, deplorable Dario Argento. Choosing his new film Giallo meant I could at least exect a level of quality - atmosphere, suspense, weirdness and potentially stilted acting. Not just that but the usually brilliant Adrian Brody would be the guide in what was hopefully going to be a fantastically odd serial killer thriller in the beautiful baroque city of Turin in Northern Italy - the devil's city, as some call it. Firstly... MINOR SPOILERS. It's very hard to talk about Giallo without at least giving part of it away. Mainly because it's frankly obvious even when you're watching it. The film started off, as movies of this ouvre tend to, with the antagonist stalking and capturing the first of his prey, a pretty Japanese girl. The soundtrack, not by Goblin this time (somewhat sadly), was strong but not overwhelming, the locations rich and the cinematography by Fredieric Fasano (Mother of Tears, which one rather guiltily enjoyed) simple but effective. Argento films have always been a little stagey, but for myself that's part of the lure. Somehow he transcends his low budget, often odd casting and stilted scripts and creates an atmosphere of mystery and potential doom. This is something I feel he oft shares with American horror maestro John Carpenter - no more so than in Prince of Darkness. So... when the first actress opens her mouth, naturally the fact that the acting and delivery is a bit off didn't really bother me. The serial killer captures his prey and takes her back to his lair - not a major spoiler, given the type of movie it is - which is about the point where Giallo unfortunately takes a turn into unintentional comedy. Now, I've never laughed at an Argento movie before. Something inside me (not my guts, pulled them out long ago) really hopes that he knew what he (and executive producer Brody) was doing with this film. Because frankly, it was one of the funniest films I've seen in a very long time. And it all begins with "Hello.". By the time Emanuelle Seigner had appeared, everyone had gotten over their chuckle and we'd been introduced to next victim, her model sister, who naturally gets grabbed and dragged back to said lair for the rest of the film. Now, I loved Emanuelle Seigner in Frantic. She's a beautiful woman. However, her acting in this is risible, worse-than-b-movie amateur theatrics to the point where her blank, botox'd expression and flat monotone artistically bent itself into a new comedic artform. By the time Brody turned up as the hard-smoking detective who does things "his own way" (which appears to be obvious sleuthing and lighting up every scene), I was hoping he would take the picture over and the focus would end up on gritty, hardboiled work trying to uncover the gruesome assailant... but sadly, this wasn't to be. The reliable Brody, with his flagrant telegraphing, obvious beats, cliched dialogue and hilarious facial acting had the audience in stitches. Some of mine fell out. This coupled with blankface Seigner gave the audience a comedy duo on a pair with Laurel and Hardy. One particular scene of note, when Emanuelle falls asleep in front of Brody and he face-tics his way through what seemed like an interminable period of time before declaring, if I recall correctly (the film is filled with classic clunkers), "beautiful", had me laughing so much I nearly spewed my rectal backlog back out of my mouth. The same went for the rest of the audience who guffawed pretty much throughout the entire film. I hope it's a commentary or spoof of giallo pictures - it's very hard to tell. The amazing bouts of unfortunate acting (Emanuelle receiving news of her sister's kidnapping), scenes so appallingly rendered as to enter into Airplane-levels of genius (the serial killer himself with his brilliant obsession with whipped cream spray) and detective work so basic that it latches onto chance, rather than the characters intelligence ("Doctor, what condition could turn a person's skin... yellow?)... it must be a spoof surely? But it doesn't feel like it. Whilst all the Argento boxes are ticked, this time he seems literallly lose the plot entirely and takes his career into bad film territory. Entertaingly bad. But bad nonetheless. It's a shame. As I said before, even Mother of Tears had a lot going for it. Sure, it's no Susperia, and it's cheaply made, but it had atmosphere. There was something weird about it, and it was entertaining without the viewer feeling like they're patronising it just by the simple act of viewing. It's very difficult to watch Giallo without wondering when exactly Argento suddenly became a bad Uwe Boll. It hurts this soul to think that someone whose wonderful films like Tenebrae and Profondo Rosso that eked out mystery, atmosphere, fear and horror despite their flaws can fall so low. The point it hits is so, so low that there's only one place it can end up - a cult classic. Whilst certainly not the worst film I've ever laid my ocular cavities on, the best I can muster is that it's the best bad film I've ever seen. It is entertaining. Not for the reasons the makers probably created it for (I believe that there was a lot of backstage problems during its creation), but it genuinely proffers more laughs for the horror buff than any genuine spoof. One cannot recommend it as a giallo film, but somehow as a comedy it really works - to the point where it actually is a grindhouse film for the current generation. Were it not for the fecund attempts at seriousness, it could be genuinely "fun". As such it's a film where the dull moments are elevated by the bad to create something that, in it's own way, is genuinely worthwhile. Maybe that's the point? Maybe that's what Brody and Argento were doing here. That would make sense. However it's hard not to note that the hilarity appears to be nothing but a happy accident. Certainly it made for one of the most entertaining group cinema experiences one's had. Argento created Giallo to reach the stars, but it's gone much, much further than that - before topping it with an ending that goes absolutely no-where. And so, with that... I must ascend. There is the chance I could turn in another review for yet another Fright Fest film in the morrow, should the demons let me come back down to play. I'll look out for you Harry. I hope to see you... in time... Kind regards, Dr William Weir