Directed by Federico Zampaglione
Tulpa – A being or object that is created in the imagination by visualization techniques such as in Tibetan mysticism.
Italian music superstar Federico Zampaglione follows up his visually delicious, but narratively starved horror debut Shadow with the incredulously awful neo-giallo Tulpa.
By day, Lisa Boeri (Gerini) is a high-flying businesswoman, faced with the threat of losing her corporate position as a consequence of the current economic situation. By night, she cuts loose by visiting Club Tulpa – a shady, members-only nightclub themed on Tibetan mysticism and located at the back end of a multi-story parking lot. There, she engages in regular promiscuous sex with other club members, supposedly to attain spiritual enlightenment or awakening. Or something.
It soon becomes apparent that the victims in a recent spate of brutal murders are people with whom she has engaged in sexual activity at the club, which forces Lisa into a deeper relationship with one of her male encounters as they both attempt to protect each other and figure out why the killings are occurring.
To his credit, director Zampaglione once again displays his visual chops, as Tulpa looks fantastic. The sets are excellent, especially the gorgeous internals of Club Tulpa itself, and the pairing of light jazz and sleazy cityscapes at night is evocative of Ferrara, while the trenchcoat-wearing, black-gloved, hat-bearing killer is straight from the frames of a giallo flick by original masters like Argento, Fulci or Bava. An opening scene involving sexual deviance, some delicious lighting and horrific violence builds an immediate impression and sense of heightened expectation similar to climbing that first ascent of a rollercoaster.
Unfortunately, just like the beginning of a rollercoaster, it all comes crashing down incredibly quickly from there.
Intro scene completed, Tulpa then proceeds to become a good looking but completely incomprehensible pile of nonsense. Zampaglione fails to hold the reins of any of his cast, resulting in endlessly stunted dialogue deliveries, bizarre facial expressions and completely incompatible reactions to events and circumstances. Biggest offender is the character of Joanna, Lisa’s best friend, whose every appearance and spoken line in the later stages of the film led to quite literal cascades of laughter amongst the premiere audience at London’s FrightFest.
Starting from a poorly staged barbed-wire murder scene early on, Tulpa seems to be on a mission to gradually become as utterly awful as it possibly can: From extended chases by transsexual doormen, dialogue so expository it’s groan-inducing (not to mention the lazy script – one character “works in IT” so can easily pull another’s entire rap sheet) through to Nuot Arquint’s performance as the proprietor of Club Tulpa, in which he delivers every line with the disjointed modulation of video game Half-Life 2’s G-Man. Slap on an ending containing one of the worst cases of Deus Ex Machina seen in years, and with the complete Tulpa package you have something that has missed its mark so widely it becomes a parody of itself.
There’s certainly some pleasure to be gained from Zampaglione’s visuals, but on the whole Tulpa is worthless for anything but poking fun or learning how not to write decent dialogue or a coherent story. Perfectly suited for something like a Rifftrax release, this one is going to have a hard time finding a general release unless advertised as some kind of spoof.