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Murder! Mystery! and the Italian bra-shortage of 1981


3.5 Stars  1981/97m

A.k.a. Murder Obsession (DVD); Murder Syndrome; The Wailing (UK video)

Director/Writer: Riccardo Freda / Writers: Antonio Cesare Corti, Simon Mizrahi & Fabio Piccioni / Cast: Stefano Patrizi, Anita Strindberg, Silivia Dionisio, John Richardson, Henri Garcia, Martine Brochard, Laura Gemser.

Body Count: 6

Laughter Lines: “After you were sent away [SPOILER] developed an interest in black magic. It was by this means, coupled with my psychic power, that [SPOILER] was able to induce you to [SPOILER SPOILER].”

The clock strikes giallo in this colorful black-glove mystery from gothic horror fixture Riccardo Freda, sometime mentor of Mario Bava.

Going under the usual phone-directory of alternate titles around the globe, Fear is an unusual and amusing slice of Italian cheese, in which actor Michael (Patrizi) visits his mother at her secluded country home with some industry friends in tow for a weekend “away from the smog” et cetera.

Much Psycho-ness abounds as the neo-incestual relationship between mother and son is apparent and Michael quite candidly tells his friends that he killed his father years before. He also begins ignoring Agnetha-esque girlfriend Debora, who has the longest dream sequence EVER, involving a spider with fingers.

About the only time her boobs stayed put

About the only time her boobs stayed put

Then soon after, the usual black-gloved loon starts doing away with the outsiders; gutting one, chainsawing another, axing a third.

Who is it? And why are the doing it? And who is it? Fear sort of collapses like a souffle as it pounds towards the bizarre ending, all black magic, cursed symbols, psychic abilities n’ such, but there’s a solid slasher movie opus lurking below the surface, and a killer with a rather standard motive.

Full of trademark zooms to suspicious expressions, a score that sounds like the composer had a seizure at the piano, bats on strings, boobs falling out of clothes at the slightest movement, and more than a few unintentional laughs from the dubbing and some of the cheapo effects on display, not least the axe in the head for one fellow. Did you know that when chopped in the noggin, the eyes actually disappear inside the skull!?


I mock, but I actually enjoyed Fear. It’s stacked with all manner of 70s/80s European fodder and Freda actually mixes the (then) new slasher craze with his gothic leanings quite well: Debora runs through the woods in a vicious downpour as lightning encroaches, and the house has a stone castle-like ambience, power that won’t stay on for long, and shitloads of candles everywhere.

Far and away the most intriguing thing about the film though, is Oliver. Oliver is mother’s butler/handyman/whatever. He takes in luggage, prepares supper, strikes a Five Star pose when about to be photographed and is the subject of nearly all of the zoom-red-herring moments. He appears at windows, stops for smell-the-fart moments when scrubbing the floor, walks in trances through the woods… What is he hiding? I’m not telling, but for now, behold the many stares of Oliver…


Despite all this super-fun, Fear seems largely unknown. A few websites I would bet on finding information about it came up blank and it’s almost as if it lay forgotten at the bottom of some VHS well throughout the 90s and 00s until it was dug up and bunged on DVD.

While not a must for fans, this is a whole lot better than a lot of Euro horror from the early 80s, with a little less sleaze to proceedings (despite the full frontal nudity and recurring “wardrobe malfunction” gag) and directed with substantial competence and flair by a bloke who was already in his 70s.

Blurbs-of-interest: Both Richardson and Brochard were in 1975’s Eyeball.

Pant-Soiling Scenes #21: SOLE SURVIVOR

This was a logistically difficult Pant-Soiling Scene. I only have a clunky old VHS copy of spooky 1982 proto-Final Destination film Sole Survivor so could not use software to grab stills. Instead, I had to hover before the screen with my camera and do my best to capture the creepy.

If you’ve not seen this low-key, slow-burn, rare little gem, it’s definitely one to source. Anita Skinner is the – duh – sole survivor of a plane crash and in the weeks after her recovery, she encounters various people who just sort of… stare at her from afar.

First is this little girl on a landing dock. Actually, the actress in reported to be none other than Susan Jennifer Sullivan: Melissa from Friday the 13th Part VII.

As the film goes on and more of these silent, unmoving (actually dead!) folk appear in parks, on the road, even on her front porch. Always… fixedly STARING.

In recent years, Asian horror has really done this to death but Sole Survivor is genuinely unsettling. From the kooky has-been actress who keeps receiving messages from the other side to the dim photography and zombie-like movements of the stary-squad.

Second choice of eerieness goes to man-atop-escalator when Anita finds herself alone in a car park.

This has the kind of horizon-of-dread tone that the powers behind Final Destination would kill for (in a wild and gruesome way, no doubt); it’s a stark, cold and lonely affair that deserves a hell of a lot more credit than it gets.

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Pant-Soiling Scenes #19: INSIDIOUS

Having totted up over 1,000 horror films, you’d think there’d be little scary stuff left to see. Slasher films take place in nicely controlled environments – killer and victims; zombie films have clear cut rules about survival.

Hauntings, however, can do whatever the fuck they want. They can be slow and unsettling or fast and bloody. No rules.

Therefore, when I finally got around to see Insidious last week, I expected maybe a little tension here and there. I didn’t expect to recoil in fright from some of the ejector-seat shocks, accompanied by thundering “gung” sounds.

The first one was when Rose Byrne went to check on her crying baby and encountered a damn creepy spectre lurking behind the net curtain thingy:

Shudder. It even looks like Michael Myers. That’s some eerie shit right there. However, it almost pales in comparison to Barbara Hershey (nicely cast in a nod to her role in the supremely freaky The Entity), who recounts a horrible dream she had about the haunting and then sees the face from her dream right there, behind Patrick Wilson.

Shudder again.

I don’t care if it was over-hyped, if the final act kinda went silly and ended up a marriage of Elm Street and Poltergeist II, this is one scary film the first time around and a warning to all ye who are astral plain explorers or whatever…

Pant-Soiling Scenes #18: DARK NIGHT OF THE SCARECROW

In this day and age, TV horror movies largely consist of SyFy ‘originals': dripping in shitty cheap CG monsters feasting on washed-up actors and mute extras.

Back in ’81, however, the TV movie was a real event and, in horror terms, Dark Night of the Scarecrow stands as one of the most successful in terms of style and ambiance. A.K.A. it’s fucking creepy shit, as evidenced in the final shot of the movie.

…unless there’s another shot after. I can’t remember right this minute, but you catch my drift, right? Turns out after all the nerve-shredding tension that Bubba in Scarecrow form was the one reanimated and doing all the killin’!

No other scarecrow-themed film has touched it thus far.

Read a full review here.

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