Tag Archives: giallo

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eyeball-1975EYEBALL

3 Stars  1975/89m

“A blinding vision of horror.”

A.k.a. The Secret Killer

Director: Umberto Lenzi / Writer: Felix Tusell / Cast: Martine Brochard, John Richardson, Ines Pellegrini, Andrés Mejuto, Mirta Miller, Daniele Vargas, George Rigaud, Silvia Solar, José Maria Blanco, Marta May, John Bartha, Verónica Miriel.

Body Count: 7

Laughter Lines: “Are you saying the killer’s a sadist?” / “I wouldn’t rule it out.”


That this film begins with a tour guide saying: “Coming up on the left now is Barcelona’s bullfighting arena,” when it’s on the right sets things up awesomely.

Fun little giallo shot on location in and around Barcelona (where I’ve spent a majority of the last year) where a bus chock full of American tourists provides a victim pool for an eye-gouging killer who favours plucking peepers from various nubile young girls. Beware a few minor SPOILERS.

I’m not particularly well-versed in giallo classics, but I’ve seen enough to spot the standard hallmarks in play: Mystery glove-wearing killer, many-a fast zoom into character’s faces as something suspicious is said, “Americans” with Euro-accents, amusing translations and clunky dubbing.

*sigh* I miss the 70s... Oh wait, I wasn't there.

*sigh* I miss the 70s… Oh wait, I wasn’t there.

Being a pre-American slasher product, Eyeball nevertheless presents itself with more than a few 80s teenie-kill aesthetics: There are POV shots as the killer floats towards his next unsuspecting victim, boobs-a-plenty, and a short but sweet final girl sequence – with, shock, a black final girl!

So, Paulette is on the tour and her boss/lover Mark, has run out on his disturbed wife to catch up and romance the hell out of Paulette. This is scuppered by the onset of the killings – first a local girl at La Ramblas, then one of the tour group is murdered on a ghost train, a waitress at a bar they all visit is dispatched while she feeds the pigs (!), and so on.

Naturally, all the men are suspects and it’s down to retirement-nearing Inspector Tudela and his young successor to solve the case before he embarks on a life of trout fishing. Fun. Aside from Mark, there’s a creepy Reverend, the boring husband of a restless wife, a cigar-chomping Texan, and the pervy tour guide, who likes to prank the young girls with his array of crappy fake spiders and rodents. Each of them is afforded more than a handful of the zooms-of-suspicion at one point. Even Jessica Fletcher would be dumbfounded by the sheer number of potential loons on this vacation.

eyeball2Spain is presented in lush colours and inimitable 70s fashion choices, which lends the film a pleasantly diverting quality, as if you’re taking a holiday from the same-old American slasher film conventions.

Nothing really lets Eyeball down, it just suffers from the ridiculousness that haunts the whole sub-genre, with a motive so whacky I had to re-watch the ensure I’d actually not misunderstood it.

Otherwise, it’s business as usual: The females are all super hot and super killed, while the only male victim is old and creasy-faced, and killed off-camera. The men can be slimy, sleazy, and annoying but still survive intact, which is a general motif in most Italian body-count horror.

There’s a curiously long exchange about mud on footwear: “It’s elementary, as I’m sure you’re aware that simple walking can get a pair of shoes quite dirty.” There are eyes in a box, daggers conveniently monogrammed with the initials of a suspect, secret photographers and rolls of film with aaaaall the answers. Eyeball has it all. You won’t be bored.

eyeball1Blurbs-of-interest: Brochard and Richardson were reunited in 1981’s Fear; Umberto Lenzi later directed Welcome to Spring Break and also the unsettlingly creepy Ghosthouse.

The 100 Greatest* Slasher Movies Part V: #60-51

*According to me! Me, me, me. So there’re bound to be a few classics missing.

See:
#100-91 here
#90-81 here
#80-71 here
#70-61 here

60: Halloween H20: 20 Years Later (1998)

After Scream made teen slasher movies cool again for about 25 minutes in the 90s, the Halloween franchise re-grouped, ignored everything after Halloween II (upsetting fans in the process) and brought back Jamie Lee Curtis as the lovely Laurie Strode, hiding out in California. Her big bro tracks her down and slashes his way to the prep school where she works.

Crowning moment: Without a shadow of a doubt the finale in which axe-toting Laurie finally gets Michael where she wants him, until Resurrection shit all over it with its stupid-as-fuck retcon. The triple-slaying that opens the movie is pretty good too.

59: Tenebrae (1982)

Possibly Dario Argento’s most slashy work; Anthony Franciosa is a famous American writer on a book tour which, when it arrives in Rome, comes accompanied by a series of gruesome murders. Typically adorned with giallo flair, mean-spirited borderline misogynistic kills (“Male heroes with their hairy, macho bullshit” a feminist critic spouts… guess what happens to her?), and B-movie fixture John Saxon as the writer’s kitschy agent.

Crowning moment: Death-by-modern art is where it’s at.

58. The Slumber Party Massacre (1982)

Feminist writer Rita Mae Brown scripted this corny flick as a send-up of the genre, only to see much of it altered to ‘suit the demographic’ as a girls’ basketball team hold a slumber party that’s crashed a power-drill favouring killer. Stupid as it is, there’s a lot of fun stuff at play and some of the original intent still seeps through the holes in the cheese.

Crowning moment: There are three final girls in this film, who all strike back at the killer together in a frenzy of awesome oestrogenic rage.

57: Killer Party (1986)

A sorority girl is possessed by a vengeful spirit at an abandoned frat house during an April Fool’s pledge party, dons a deep-sea diver suit (!?) and begins killing everyone. Dumb as it sounds, there’s a lot of fun in this well scripted, good humoured gem, which was heavily cut prior to release and is yet to see a restored version surface.

Crowning moment: The trick beginning is amusing, not least for the awesome White Sister song April (alluding to the original title The April Fool), but this one is at its best before most of the killing starts as we are acquainted with characters so likeable it’s sad to watch them die.

56: Fatal Games (1983)

A select group of promising young Olympians known as ‘The Magnificent Seven’ at an exclusive athletic academy are being done in by a hooded loon who tosses a mean javelin. White largely hated and pretty badly made, Fatal Games has an early 80s charm and would be great on a double bill with Graduation Day.

Crowning moment: The unmasking of the killer, given away in a lot of reviews, is a surreal yet awesome moment, that kicks off a great, if too short, chase scene.

55: Julia’s Eyes (2010)

Guillermo del Toro co-produced this atmospheric chiller about the titular young woman whose blind sister has mysteriously killed herself, just as Julia begins developing symptoms of the same degenerative sight disorder. In addition to this nightmare, somebody is hanging around and killing people who can provide answers to her sister’s death.

Crowning moment: A blind woman tells the Julia: “There’s someone else with you – he’s right behind you.”

54: Silent Night, Deadly Night (1984)

Parent groups picketed theaters showing this Utah-shot festive hacker, resulting in it being pulled completely. A young man traumatised by the murder of his parents at the hands of a robber dressed as Santa and the harsh Mother Superior at his orphanage, goes mental when he is forced to don a Saint Nick costume by the toy store he works in… Death by fairy lights and antler-impalings ensue.

Crowning moment: Nasty bullies snatch sledges off a couple of kids and find that their route down a dark hill is fraught with swinging axes.

53: Deadly Blessing (1981)

An early Wes Craven slasher flick that’s often overlooked in between the vast shadows of The Hills Have Eyes and Elm Street. A series of murders occur around a sub-Amish commune where a young city woman married a member of the flock, much to the chagrin of their leader Ernest Borgnine (check that beard). Could it be a mythical incubus?

Crowning moment: Again, the left field revelation of who the killer is elevates this from a standard whodunit to a whatthefuck!? moment with some debt to old pal Sean Cunningham’s breakthrough film of the previous year.

52: Sorority Row (2009)

One of the better slasher film remakes, this overhaul of 1982’s The House on Sorority Row is like Mean Girls with a body count. After a prank goes tragically wrong, a gaggle of college girls end up tossing one of their number down a mineshaft and live with the secret until their graduation party several months later, where a cloaked maniac begins doing away with anyone who might know the truth…

Crowning moment: Bad-ass housemother Carrie Fisher with a shotgun actively hunting down the killer, and bitchy sorority president Leah Pipes’ never ending tirade of quips and put-downs.

51: Final Destination 5 (2011)

A young office worker has the foresight to save a few of his colleagues when he has an accurate premonition of a huge suspension bridge collapse. Shortly after, those who should’ve died find themselves meeting nasty ends in bizarre ‘accidents’.

Crowning moment: Sadly, the final act of this film was correctly predicted before release, softening the awesome punch of its twist, but it’s still a great full circle climax IF the producers can keep their hands off churning out more sequels.

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The 100 Greatest* Slasher Movies Part II: #90-81

*According to me. Me, me, me. So there’re bound to be a good few ‘classics’ missing.

Thus, remember that this isn’t just another countdown of the ‘best’ or most influential films the genre has to offer. If it were, the same old titles would crowd the top end and who wants that?

#100 to #91 can be found here.

90: Dark Night of the Scarecrow (1981)

An intensely creepy TV-movie made at the peak of the slasher craze: A quartet of big fish in a small town murder slow Bubba after mistakenly accusing him of killing a young girl. Soon after, the men fall victim to a series of weird ‘accidents’, the only connection between which is the eerie scarecrow that appears all over town prior to each death.

Crowning moment: The super-eerie murder at the mill.

89: Madman (1981)

Another of the many Friday the 13th summer camp clones, this time with a camp for ‘gifted children’ (all six of them) crashed by a legendary psycho-farmer who murdered his family and was unsuccessfully hanged by the local townsfolk and, if you call his name, he will ‘come for you’. Good job it was a horror and not a porno.

Crowning moment: Frizzy-haired counsellor finds a decapitated head under the hood, sees her boyfriend murdered, gets chased through the woods, and has to hide from the killer in a fridge… and it’s still NOT enough to save her.

88: Child’s Play 2 (1990)

One of just two appearances from our plastic buddy in this countdown; the Chucky doll is resurrected and, along with it, the soul of Charles Lee Ray trapped within. He manages to get himself sent to the foster home where little Andy Barclay has been sent and reaps more havoc on all the Doubting Thomases who cross his path. This represented the peak of the comedy-horror formula that ushered in the 90s.

Crowning moment: Chucky realises every school kid’s dream and reaps a ruler-tastic revenge on a strict schoolteacher.

87: Camping Del Terrore (1986)

More sexy campers up against another forest legend in Ruggero Deodato’s (Cannibal Holocaust) entry in the teenie-kill canon. The Italian-pretending-to-be-American production values are diverting and the mid-80s Euro-fashions colorfully amusing. But it doesn’t make a whole lotta sense.

Crowning moment: 80s-tastic aerobics – complete with headbands.

86: Final Exam (1981)

An anonymous and motive-free killer stalks the campus of a small college in this unimaginative and dry Halloween wannabe. But it’s charm lies in its purity: Everything that happens is 100% predictable but there’s a likeability to Final Exam and its characters often absent in the genre.

Crowning moment: Camp almost-hero Radish discovers a body and does his best to raise the alarm and rescue the girl. But fails.

85: Club Dread (2002)

Whatever happened to Broken Lizard? Their sophomore outing came in the shape of this amusing but self-indulgent slasher parody, which has a killer running around a Caribbean island resort machete-ing the employees and some of the guests. Bill Paxton is fun as good-time stoner Coconut Pete and there’s adequate bloodletting, even if it does grind on 25 minutes longer than it should.

Crowning moment: A fleeing victim tries to make her escape in a golf buggy, finding it futile when the killer manages to out-walk her.

84: Boogeyman 2 (2007)

A sequel to the goddamn awful 2005 PG-13 horror that wasn’t really a slasher flick… A girl who lived through the murder of her parents as a child is admitted to an institution alongside several other youngsters with quirky phobias. Natch, they’re done in by a masked killer twisting their fears into reality…

Crowning moment: An anorexic beauty queen is pumped full of fat until she, well, bursts.

83: Wishcraft (2001)

Michael Weston is a high school nobody who receives an enchanted bull’s penis that grants three wishes. While he toys with what to use it for, somebody is murdering the unpleasant kids from his high school. An amusing mix of paranormal slashenings and comedy, plus Meatloaf is in it.

82: Opera (1987)

The outcome of Michele Soavi’s Stagefright was Dario Argento’s sticky tale of a young stage ingenue who is repeatedly kidnapped and forced to watch a series of murders by a killer who tapes needles under her eyes to ensure she witnesses his slayings… The usual flair and flourishes make this a little better than the film that influenced it.

Crowning moment: Casanova William McNamara’s gruesome demise, courtesy of a grinding pole through the chin into the roof of the mouth. During sex. Ouch.

81: Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter (1984)

One of the nominal fan favourites of the series, this was the last of the original Paramount films I saw and so I’ve never loved it as much as some others do. Anyway, Jason rises from the ‘dead’ and returns to Crystal Lake to kill more vacationing teenagers, only this time he’s met his match in the form of 12-year-old horror nut Tommy…

Crowning moment: Jason’s grisly denouement, cut from UK versions for years, with the infamous ‘machete slide’ courtesy of Tom Savini.

Friday the 1st

A BAY OF BLOOD

4 Stars  1971/18/81m

“They came to play, they stayed to die…”

A.k.a. Reazione a Catena [Chain Reaction]; Twitch of the Death Nerve; Bloodbath; Bloodbath Bay of Death; Carnage; The Ecology of a CrimeLast House on the Left Part II (!); New House on the Left (!!)

Director/Writer: Mario Bava / Writers: Joseph McLee, Filippo Otoni, Dardano Sacchetti, Franco Barberi / Cast: Claudine Auger, Luigi Pistilli, Claudio Volonte, Chris Avram, Anna M. Rosati, Leopoldo Trieste, Laura Betti, Isa Miranda, Giovanni Nuvoletti, Brigitte Skay, Paola Rubens, Guido Boccaccini, Roberto Bonanni.

Body Count: 13

Laughter Lines: “Can’t you sense the rattled breathing of death?”


Before The Texas Chain Saw Massacre… before Halloween… before Friday the 13th… but way after Psycho came this seldom appreciated (outside the horror community) massively influential unsung classic, that contains scenes that could be easily switched out with various Jason sequels and not raise suspicion.

Countess Donati is rolling around her fat ass mansion in her wheelchair when, totally out of the blue, a noose is flung around her neck and her chair kicked out from beneath her… The camera surprises us (those of us who’d seen other slasher films before this one anyway) by panning up and showing us the killer’s face. As he plants a suicide note and begins to tidy the scene, HE is knifed in the back by a different killer!

The “suicide” of the Countess and the disappearance of her husband (the first killer) attracts several interested parties to the bay; a developer, relatives, some bouncy teenage daytrippers – actually they happen by randomly – and the carnage soon begins. Everyone wants the bay, the house, the inheritance, whatever… and it seems that everyone is quite content to kill for it.

Undoubtedly the film peaks in terms of both fun and its proto-slasher sensibilities with the scene concerning the quartet of youths who come to the bay for a grand day out; two guys and their respective French and German dates. They find an old dance hall, lark about, then make themselves at home in a nearby house while one of them, the fabulous Brunhilda in her green dress and ribbons, opts to go skinny dipping. She happens upon the dumped corpse of the missing fellow and is murdered before she can alert the others.

Here, a scene that clearly inspired the infamous – and still unseen for 32 years – bunk-double-impaling from Friday the 13th Part 2 occurs. While the spare guy has his face split by a blade, the other couple are going for it in the bedroom next door. The killer picks up a spear and, from his POV, floats in and skewers the two of them. The Jason film recreated this moment almost shot for shot ten years later.

More people die, including innocent witnesses to the crimes. Suspects are narrowed to cranky fisherman Simon, son of the Countess, money-grabbing couple Renata and Albert, Frank Ventura the lawyer/developer/man-with-plans dude… But Bava is toying with our expectations. As per the original Italian title, for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction, and by the time 81 minutes have clocked up, 13 people are dead and the bay is under new ownership.

Despite the never ending spectre of death haunting everyone who is unfortunate enough to be there, there’s a decent wad of humour present and the almost laughable lack of humanity on show from the cast. It’s gory, but not ridiculously, typical in its visual cues with plenty of bright colours, dark shadows, and focus pulling.

Shockingly, it’s yet to be remade and modern audiences probably won’t be able to appreciate the influence carried, but Bay of Blood is essential viewing regardless and worth seeing more than once, evidenced by the fact that I upped it by a whole star on my second foray (about a decade after the first).

A delightful fixture of Italian horror: the bizarre psychic lady