Starring Tomas Milian, Ugo D’Alessio, Florinda Bolkan, Marc Porel
Directed by Lucio Fulci
Distributed by Arrow Video
Lucio Fulci may be the “Godfather of Gore” but not all of his films are wall-to-wall bloodbaths – and those are generally his lesser-known titles. There are 56 directorial credits to his name, most of which don’t fall within the guidelines viewers expect from a name like Fulci. One of his greatest efforts came nearly a decade before he delved deeply into the dismemberment scene: a prescient picture called Don’t Torture a Duckling (1972).
Fulci took on a big adversary – the Catholic Church – and in the process found his film facing limited release due to opposition. The film tackles abuse of a different nature than the one facing the church today: murder. Although often lumped in to the giallo subgenre, Fulci’s film also plays as a thriller and smartly crafted whodunit. It’s definitely one of his most cerebral efforts. And despite being lighter on gore than his splatterpieces, there are several scenes of visceral violence that will remind viewers who they’re watching.
In a dusty Sicilian village, three young friends – Bruno, Michele, and Tonino – regularly engage in acts of light mischief. Today, it’s spying on the local peeping tom, Giuseppe (Vito Passeri), who’s getting an eyeful of the action at a local whorehouse. The boys tease the dimwitted local, who chases them off. Concurrently, a witch who lives in the mountains, Magiara (Florinda Bolkan), conducts a black magic ritual that involves making tiny effigies of the boys and driving a needle through the heads. Bruno goes missing the next day and the cops, naturally, pin the crime on Giuseppe. It didn’t help he was standing near the boy’s body, which he admitted to burying. But Giuseppe claims the boy was already dead. His case is lent credibility when Tonino shows up dead the following day.
Big-city reporter Andrea (Tomas Milian) arrives in town to cover the growing story, bringing his own acute insights to the case. He works with Cpt. Modesti (Ugo D’Alessio), the local police chief, as well as speaking with Don Alberto (Marc Porel), a local priest who runs a church where the boys like to play soccer. Andrea and Cpt. Modesti eventually work their way to Magiara, who freely admits to killing the boys… with her black magic; no physical harm was committed by her hands. The police have no choice but to let her go – although the locals feel otherwise – leaving Andrea and the police scrambling to uncover the mystery of who is killing the local children.
Fulci not only deserves credit for tackling a subject as controversial as murder within the Catholic Church, but also for his assistance in writing a taut screenplay with clear motivations, characters, and a chilling, effective twist. Another reason why this film isn’t quite a giallo is because those pictures tend to spend time reveling in death scenes, whereas here the focus is truly on story first and gore second. The script also avoids being bogged down by red herrings aplenty. A handful of potential suspects are given screen time, as to be expected, but the story manages to play the final reveal close enough to the vest that it’s the mystery of the thing propelling the story. Even better, Fulci smartly cast a strong actor in Milian, a man who can always be counted on to deliver a strong performance.
Soundtracks always deserve some recognition and Fulci put a powerhouse to work here, as famed Cannibal Holocaust (1980) composer Riz Ortolani provides the score. His work here plays typical of the genre, coming across as more sensual & serene than sinister. Many Italian soundtracks play like juxtaposition to the imagery on screen, with music that could be palatable to my mother overlaid a scene of complete brutality. Ortolani had a real knack making beautiful music for ugly movies.
It would be easy to nitpick the 2.35:1 1080p picture, but after reading the Herculean effort made by Arrow Video to restore this film to its former glory it would be impossible not to respect whatever level of quality they were able to achieve. The explanation is long – and worth reading! – so crack open that thick booklet and get learning. Suffice it to say, after making it past some grainy & dirty opening credits the picture stabilizes nicely. The print has been meticulously cleaned, with scratches only making much of an appearance during the third act. Colors are strongly saturated and vivid. Definition and fine detail remain impressive, even when the action switches to nighttime. Considering all the work done here, I’d say this is a wonder.
Arrow provides audio options in both English and Italian, both with an LPCM 2.0 mono track. Each is clean and consistent in quality, but for my ears I usually go for the dubs. All audio was recorded in post for the majority of Italian productions anyway, so no “in the moment” action is being missed. Dialogue is clean and clear either way you choose. Ortolani’s score sounds soaring in lossless. Subtitles are available in English.
Author Troy Howarth provides an audio commentary, delivering plenty of facts and anecdotes regarding the production.
“Giallo a la Campagna” is a “video conversation” with expert Mikel J. Koven, who discusses giallo and this film’s place within the subgenre.
“Hell is Already in Us” is a discussion of the film’s misogynistic claims, with critic Kat Ellinger.
“Lucio Fulci Remembers” is a 1988 audio interview with the director, presented here in two parts.
There are also “Cast & Crew Interviews” with Florinda Bolkan, Sergio D’Offizi, Bruno Michell, and Maurizio Trani.
- Original mono Italian and English soundtracks (lossless on the Blu-ray Disc)
- English subtitles for the Italian soundtrack
- Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing for the English soundtrack
- New audio commentary by Troy Howarth, author of So Deadly, So Perverse: 50 Years of Italian Giallo Films
- The Blood of Innocents, a new video discussion with Mikel J. Koven, author of La Dolce Morte: Vernacular Cinema and the Italian Giallo Film
- Hell is Already in Us, a new video essay by critic Kat Ellinger
- Interviews with co-writer/director Lucio Fulci, actor Florinda Bolkan, cinematographer Sergio D’Offizi, assistant editor Bruno Micheli and assistant makeup artist Maurizio Trani
- Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Timothy Pittides
- First pressing only: Collector’s booklet with new writing on the film by Barry Forshaw and Howard Hughes
The Cured Review – Ellen Page Fights for Her Life
Written and directed by David Freyne
Taking a cue from AMC’s “The Walking Dead,” the new Irish horror film The Cured begins where most zombie stories end. Drawing more comparisons, the themes of mistrust and social upheaval are front and center here as well. We’re the real villains, and the infectious disease turning humans into monsters is only there to hold up a mirror to show the worst sides of ourselves. The Cured uses the zombie mythos as Romero intended as a commentary on culture, with a little cannibalism thrown in for good measure.
Against the backdrop of a military takeover attempting to reintroduce the recently cured back into society, two people try to return to some kind of normalcy in a war-torn Ireland that’s been turned upside down by the zombie menace. Recently widowed, Abbey (Page) allows her now virus-free brother-in-law Senan (Keeley) to live with her and her son, even though most survivors are forced to live in an army encampment. Under constant surveillance, Senan’s old friend Conor (Vaughan-Lawlor) radicalizes the mistreated survivors of the virus into open rebellion.
The treatment of the survivors isn’t entirely unfair considering that they still have a connection and are not detected by a small percentage of the infected that haven’t responded to the cure. As both sides size each other up, Abbey and Senan are caught in the middle as they try to restore their humanity before the powder keg around them erupts.
Given its far out premise, the story stays firmly grounded in reality, focusing on the growing resistance and its political implications, drawing parallels to the protest movements such as the “Black Block” that have dominated some recent news cycles. When the virus divided the population, it was easy to know what side you were on; now, the cure has created a new class structure where the lower class is maligned until they cross the line and overthrow the uninfected. Clearly still affected and haunted by the heinous acts they committed when they were infected, the cannibalistic rage they still carry reflects the rage felt by the mistreated masses hellbent on overthrowing the powers-that-be.
Whether for budget reasons or simply a style choice, the eating frenzies that occurred before the cure are never fully shown so any gore and graphic images that could’ve been showcases for effects are left to the imagination. Maybe they weren’t shown because these acts were so unspeakable that they are too horrific to see and too painful to fully be remembered by the survivors. The top-notch sound design ratchets up instead and roars to life to the point where just hearing the carnage is enough to make you turn away.
Page’s performance is the emotional core of the film as she goes from understanding to fear to dealing with the ultimate betrayal. It’s important for a slow-developing story like this to have an actress with some star power, and director David Freyne and his team were fortunate to have a high caliber actress ready to deliver in some of the film’s quieter, more intense moments. Freyne directs these smaller character moments with care and also delivers once things open up to show the inevitable anarchy brimming under the surface.
The Cured may feel too closed off at times to allow its bigger ideas to fully breathe, but it never pretends to encompass a more epic scope that would be more in the vein of something like World War Z. Without ever addressing it directly, Freyne, as an Irishman, seems well aware of the history of the country; and he and cinematographer Piers McGrail inject their film with a pathos that makes Dublin come to life inside the world of the undead.
The Cured is a gritty take on the genre that fits nicely into the new type of storytelling that these stories need to embrace in a post-Romero world.
Bad Apples Review – Rotten Fruit, Indeed
Starring Brea Grant, Graham Skipper, Alycia Lourim
Directed by Brian Coyne
Like a seriously bad rash, some films stick with you regardless of whichever topical ointment you slather in generous fashion over your regions – ladies and gentlemen, allow me to introduce today’s orbital irritant: Bad Apples.
Directed (rather misdirected) by Brian Coyne, this lamentably sterile piece of celluloid follows a couple of murderous sisters, donning horrific (and not in a good sense) masks, and generally putting the sharp edges to random folk on Halloween night…case closed. Only problem here is this: the film has no pulse, no interesting characters to speak of, and basically nothing to redeem or recapture the time that you’ll have spent watching this complete dud. A husband and wife duo has a spotlight on them as well, but their tempestuous relationship makes rooting for them about as pleasing as sitting through 3 hours of Olympic curling…absolutely brutal. Also, you’re reading the babblings of a guy who loves to put the boots to any film that has been deemed “unwatchable”, but this complete wreck of a production is entirely that – something so remedial and uninspired that to type an endless array of rightful vitriol would be an utter waste of time.
So I’ll go on a bit longer with my public display of vehemence, as the casting seems WAY out of whack, and the production? Whoa…don’t even get me started on this – okay, I’ll go on a bit. With differing levels of sound editing, you’ll get the feeling at times like you could pick up a needle drop inside of a concert hall, and other frames of dialogue are so muddled they’re incomprehensible (not like you’ll feel the need to know what’s going on). Wonky camera angles and following shots are so horrendously captured, you’ll be wishing to watch your Mom and Dad’s old home movies just to gain a sense of stability. I normally pride myself on not begging this particular audience to take what I say to heart, or to shy away from something that could potentially ruin their eyesight, but believe me when I plead with you: do not waste your valuable time on this shipwreck – even if your time isn’t all that valuable: don’t waste it. Find something else to do and take a big ol’ pass on this wannabe slasher.
I don’t mean to pick on the low-hanging fruit, but these Apples should be batted away with a Louisville Slugger.
Edge of Isolation Review – A Movie with a Simple Message: Don’t Trust Anyone
Starring Michael Marcel, Marem Hassler, Alexandra Peters
Directed by Jeff Houkal
Sometimes, relying on the kindness of strangers is the thing that’ll do your gullible asses in – kindness? Strangers? Come on – think about it! Even further proof of said warning comes in the form of director Jeff Houkal’s brutally blatant film, Edge Of Isolation – won’t you come inside and grab a seat? You see! You fell right into another trap – jeezus, people…don’t trust just anyone, will ya?
Set up in a simplistic format, we’ve got a traveling couple (Lance and Kendra) whose Jeep, conveniently enough decides to shit the bed along a desolate stretch of roadway, leaving them at the mercy of the Polifer family, a slightly odd bunch of backwoods residents. This particular clan isn’t exactly wrapped too tightly, and they’re not afraid to let their freak flags fly, that’s for sure. You see, the family has been deeply-rooted in these here woods, and their “hospitality” has kept them fed for quite some time, and with a fresh supply of unsuspecting commuters stopping in at varying spells, their stomachs never truly seem to growl out of sustained hunger…oh, that kindness will bite you in the ass every single waking moment.
As I mentioned earlier, the film is constructed fairly simple, yet effective in its barbarism, and those who dig survivalist-horror will be wringing their mitts in anticipation for this one. While some editing does look a bit hokey, the practical effects more than make up for an at-times bit of strewn-about plot navigation, but who’s keeping score? Certainly not me, that’s for sure. I absolutely revel in low-budgeted films that don’t necessarily have the looks and feels of such, and Edge Of Isolation is one of those presentations that is certainly worth its weight in blood and guts – do yourself a solid and give this one a look when it becomes available to the masses, and for f**k’s sake, don’t take up anyone’s offer to chill at their place when your ride breaks down – get AAA and save your life (the previous statement was in no way affiliated or endorsed by the Triple A Automotive group – just sayin’).
Edge Of Isolation doesn’t need a full-blown allocation to keep future stranded motorists from losing their heads – all they have to do is push “play.”
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