Francesca (Blu-ray/DVD/CD)


Starring Luis Emilio Rodriguez, Gustavo Dalessanro, Raul Gederlini

Directed by Luciano Onetti

Distributed by Unearthed Films

With a retro, “return to the glory days” ethos being so prevalent these days, and with filmmakers having more tools at their disposal than ever, it only seems fitting that pictures paying homage to celebrated subgenres of horror have been on the rise. Some are done straight while others are done with a more tongue-planted-firmly-in-cheek tone – either way movies that are bound to the past also toe a fine line between slavish reproduction and originality. The giallo subgenre enjoyed a boon in the ‘70s that saw dozens of films released featuring the requisite staples – black-gloved killers, extreme gore, incredible scores, convoluted plots, creepy dolls, and J&B Scotch. Lately, filmmakers have been paying respect to the giallo with films like Amer (2009), The Strange Color of Your Body’s Tears (2013), The Editor (2014), and Francesca (2015), the latter of which comes from a pair of brothers – Luciano and Nicolas Onetti – operating out of Argentina.

There are so many facets of giallo Francesca gets right it makes the things that are wrong more glaring. Unlike, say, The Editor, which nailed the trappings of giallo but erred on the side of comedy, Francesca is so deftly shot, color graded, and lit viewers could be forgiven for thinking it comes from the ‘70s. The story, however, is where things get murky. Gialli have never been known for their clear narratives, but Francesca is a film that seems like it was shot as a series of giallo homage moments that were then cut together into feature-length. There is a huge portion of the film where viewers may be left to wonder if anyone – including those behind the camera- know what is happening. The plot does get wrapped up a bit more coherently once the climax has been reached but it’s a bit of a slog to get there.

A serial killer is on the loose, eluding the police every step of the way. Even eyewitness accounts provide very little information, other than to state the killer appears to be a woman, dressed in red and wearing a veil. The murders being committed are brutal, with each victim having coins placed over their eyes after death. Letters found at the crime scene taunt law enforcement. The cops have leads that are tenuous, though one does seem promising after they speak with Vittorio Visconti (Raul Gederlini), a playwright who was confined to a wheelchair fifteen years ago when a killer stabbed him in the spine and abducted his daughter, Francesca. That age old case may provide the link detectives need to solve the current series of murders, and Visconti’s story may not be as sympathetic as he has led everyone to believe.

Story truly is secondary in Francesca, a movie that does everything in order to sell the verisimilitude of a classic giallo without tipping its hat to let viewers know this is a modern movie. Unless you have the sort of trained eye that can spot digital photography easily (as I suspect this was shot digitally) then odds are you’ll be fooled into thinking this is something produced during the heyday of Argento, Bava, Sergio Martino, etc. The Onetti’s have managed to reproduce the cinematic style of that period, with a high contrast image filled with film grain and cinematography virtually identical to similar films. This deserves a great deal of credit since so few filmmakers have successfully imitated giallo movies to such a respectful degree; usually there is some giveaway to clue viewers in that this is a new production. The inclusion of giallo staples – black gloves, scary dolls, J&B Scotch, horrific deaths, POV shots, expansive estates, a Goblin-esque score – all felt organic, too, and not as though the Onetti’s were concerned with cramming every wink-and-nod element into their film.

Still, visual pleasantries aren’t enough to sustain an entire film and the lack of a strong story, even in this 80-minute feature, will be enough to make most viewers start checking out. Francesca feels like something that would have worked better as a short; being stretched out to feature length, it starts to wear out its welcome as it nears the hour mark. One positive in addition to the aesthetics is the score, which is also composed by Luciano Onetti. Taking cues from Goblin, the soundtrack makes use of sounds both synthetic and organic. Just as the film is a visual duplicate of ‘70s pictures, so, too, is the score an audible carbon copy of scores done by the likes of Goblin and Bruno Nicolai. Onetti has done a great job of capturing the sound and style of those seminal scores, and Unearthed Films has done a great service by providing buyers with a CD copy inside this package.

The 2.35:1 1080p image is intended to mimic those giallo films of the ‘70s, so expect to see a picture that is severely color graded, with high contrast, variable definition, and a fine sheen of faux film grain. Colors are deeply saturated, nearly to the point of bleeding, but the image is fairly stable. Fine detail is present but not overly impressive, with the best moments appearing during daylight shots.

It sounds like the levels have been cranked up to “11” on the English DTS-HD MA 2.0 stereo track. Many of the sound effects and some bits of dialogue are piercing, though the power of the track does bode well for Onetti’s score. Dialogue isn’t aged like the picture, thankfully, so all of the dialogue comes through cleanly and with (mostly) strong levels. There are a few moments of “bad dubbing” and minor hissing, but these are intentional and don’t reflect poorly on the fidelity. Subtitles are available in English.

“Behind the Scenes” – Get an overview of the production, along with a few interviews and a focus on the make-up effects.

A “Deleted Scene (Alternate Beginning)”, “Interview – Luciano & Nicolas Onetti”, and a “Hidden Scene” are included as well.

The set also includes the feature film on DVD and the film’s score on CD.

Special Features:

  • Behind the Scenes
  • Deleted Scene
  • Interview – Luciano and Nicolas Onetti
  • Hidden Scene
  • CD soundtrack


  • Francesca
  • Special Features
User Rating 3.28 (18 votes)


Sign up for The Harbinger a Dread Central Newsletter