MattFini’s Halloween Top 10 Lists: Top 10 Gialli

Yesterday’s list of overlooked slasher flicks got me thinking about their European cousin, the giallo. Sure, most gialli were cranked out before the slasher craze was under way, but it’s hard to ignore the similarities: knife-wielding, black-gloved lunatics, tragic prologues often used establish our killer’s motivations and, of course, excessive female exploitation. In short: total bliss!

dread10gialli - MattFini's Halloween Top 10 Lists: Top 10 Gialli

I’ve limited this list to one film per director so to prevent my own personal bias from creeping into it. But, really, there’s so many of these damn things I didn’t think it’d be fair to turn this into a showcase for just two or three directors. Next to the slasher, the giallo is my favorite subgenre. Outlandish plot twists, a staggering amount of degenerate red herrings, sinister animals and lots and lots of J & B Scotch, if you’ve got just a few of these elements you know you’re in for a good time!

So, pour yourself a drink (hope you got some J & B handy) and let’s revisit some of the best (and craziest) films to ever come out of Europe. Just be weary of sexy socialites and Catholic priests … if these things have taught me anything it’s that they’ve always got a secret to hide!

10. Torso (1980)

Director: Sergio Martino

This isn’t the best Martino giallo, but it does feature one of the greatest set pieces of the subgenre. Good enough to earn a spot on this list. I’m not going to spoil it, but it involves mutilation, a corpse and a keyhole. The rest of the movie is good, too, but more of a typical affair with a masked killer strangling college coeds. When he sets his sights on a group of friends staying at a cliffside villa, the suspense begins. Unconvincing blood effects take it down a notch or two, but it’s always fast paced and enjoyable. And, really, it’s that aforementioned set piece you’ll remember long after seeing this one.

This trailer is NSFW as it contains nudity

9. Blue Eyes of the Broken Doll aka House of Psychotic Women (1973)

Director: Carlos Aured

The only Spanish giallo to make the list (and one of a handful of Spanish gialli to exist as far as I know), this one finds the man, the myth, the legend, Paul Naschy as a mysterious drifter with a dark past taking a caretaker job at the residence of three sisters. As luck would have it, the bodies begin piling up as soon as he arrives. Well scripted with a nice polish to it, it’s not without some hilarious moments (those flashbacks!). All in all, this is a blast.

8. Seven Bloodstained Orchids (1971)

Director: Umberto Lenzi

Say what you will about Umberto Lenzi, the man has made some entertaining films in his career. Before he turned to pure schlock classics like Nightmare City and Cannibal Ferox, he dabbled in the realm of the giallo. This one is pretty straight forward in terms of story (a woman survives an attack from a serial killer and sets out to track him down with the help of her husband), but it’s very well shot and executed. Some memorable locales and suspenseful set pieces to boot make this one of the best films in his career. Some people swear his Knife of Ice is a better thriller, but I’m giving the edge to this one. And it’s not just because Antonio Sabato is dreamy.

This trailer is NSFW as it contains nudity

7. The Killer Must Kill Again (1975)

Director: Luigi Cozzi

The funny thing about this one is that the killer really does have to kill again! Once his car is stolen (packing the corpse of a woman he was hired to kill – whoops), he sets his sights on the young couple who go joy riding off to a picturesque seaside villa. There’s ensuing rape, carnage, intrigue, suspense and lots of bizarre touches that make this sleazefest a must see! It’s what you’d expect from the director of Starcrash and comes highly recommended.

This trailer is NSFW as it contains nudity

6. Red Queen Kills Seven Times (1972)

Director: Emilio Miraglia

This one has everything: infidelity, blackmail, rape, accidental death and, naturally, murder. The pulpy storyline is never dull as it tells the story of two sisters and a cloaked killer somehow tied to a mysterious piece of artwork. Miraglia’s visual palette is always pleasing to the eye and this one boasts some of the greatest supporting characters in the genre. Sybil Danning appears (sans clothing) as a scheming opportunist while Ugo Pagliai is a blast as a sex-crazed male (the film’s only major male character).

5. Don’t Look Now (1973)

Director: Nicholas Roeg

Probably the most critically acclaimed giallo of all time, Nicholas Roeg’s despair-laden thriller concerns two grieving parents (Donald Sutherland and Julie Christie) trying to move beyond the death of their child. To say any more would be to spoil the surprises, but this is one haunting, surreal and ironic film. Of course, one has to mention the infamous sex scene when talking about this film – notable not only for its explicit detail but also for how it moves the story along. If you can contend with the purposefully slow pace, this one pays off with pure atmosphere.

4. What Have You Done To Solange? (1972)

Director: Massimo Dallamano

This one’s interesting for how much of it wouldn’t be replicated in a modern film. Our hero is an unscrupulous (married) professor at an all-girls school having an affair with one of his underage students. He stumbles across a body one day and soon stumbles into a mystery surrounding the school and, eventually a girl named Solange. Very well plotted and acted, Dallamano’s thriller is a real high point for the genre in all regards. I Spit on Your Grave fans should keep an eye out for the ultimate revenge heroine, Camille Keaton, in the title role.

This trailer is NSFW as it contains nudity

3. The New York Ripper (1982)

Director: Lucio Fulci

I honestly couldn’t make up my mind between this and Fulci’s earlier Don’t Torture a Ducking. Both films are excellent – and polar opposites – but in the end I went for this jaw-dropping exercise in misogyny. Some of the sleaziest moments in any genre film are on display here, and this one is brimming with seemingly endless squirm-inducing moments. It’s probably more for the amazing gore effects and sleazy sexual degradation that this one is remembered so fondly, but for pure and total exploitation, it’s impossible to beat.

Oh, and the killer quacks like Donald Duck.

This trailer is NSFW as it contains nudity

2. Twitch of the Death Nerve aka Bay of Blood (1971)

Director: Mario Bava

To be honest, I’ve never considered this to be much of a giallo, but most fans do and that’s why I’m including it here. Besides, neither of Bava’s other gialli (Blood and Black Lace or The Girl Who Knew Too Much) would’ve cracked my top ten. You’ve heard all the praise as to how this created the body count movie, and how many later slasher flicks took their inspiration from it. It’s all true and this nasty tale of deception and greed is a blast to watch to see who’ll die next … and how.

1. Tenebrae (1982)

Director: Dario Argento

This could’ve easily been any of Argento’s gialli between 1970-1987 (except maybe Cat O’ Nine Tails), but Tenebrae features some of the most vicious killings, flat-out clever plotting and easily the greatest ending in the subgenre. It’s also peppered with some of Argento’s best dark humor and most convincing psychology. From the sexually charged motivation that gets this killing spree underway, to the brilliant set piece concerning the murder of two lesbian roommates, Tenebrae is one of my favorite films, period, and without a doubt the most stellar example of the genre. Mario Bava might’ve created the giallo, but it was Argento who perfected it.

This trailer is NSFW as it contains brief nudity


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Written by Matt Serafini

Author (Under the Blade, Feral), slasher movie enthusiast, N7 Operative. Plays games, watches movies, reads books. Occasionally writes about them.


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