Archive for the stendhal syndrome

Favourite Five Series: DARIO ARGENTO

Posted in Favourite Five Series, Italy, movies with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 17, 2013 by goregirl

My Favourite Five Series continues with director Dario Argento. Argento has 23 director credits on IMDB. I have seen all of Argento’s directorial efforts with the exception of the 2012 film Dracula 3D. It has been getting more and more difficult to be enthusiastic about Argento’s films as the years go by. The 70s and 80s were his high years, but he did produce a few intriguing efforts in the 90s also. Just the same, Argento’s name is still one of the first that comes to mind when I think of genre favourites. The following five films have endured multiple viewings and still shine with the lustre of a million jewel-filled treasure chests. Argento’s stylish visuals are what makes his unique, surreal, violent, sexy, dreamy-nightmarish and horrifying world so bloody special.

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DEEP RED (1975)

Deep Red has long been not only a favourite Argento film but an all time favourite horror film period. It has had a place on my top 100 favourites of all time for as long as that list has existed. As a matter of fact the same can be said for the next two Argento films listed here. Deep Red boasts Argento’s unique and stylish visuals; prolonged shots of inanimate objects like windows, shots around corners and weird angles. The man can make the most mundane of objects eerie. It is packed with interesting and unique set pieces; especially appealing is a collection of odd toys. Love the faceless yarn Wicker Man-esque doll with pins in its chest and of course this guy…

Deep Red2

The score for Deep Red is fantastic. The performances are great. David Hemmings plays a pianist who lives below the film’s first murder victim and witnesses her death. He is a pianist not a detective and he trips and bumbles his way to the end with a likable and natural turn. Daria Nicolodi does a solid job as an aggressive liberated journalist/reporter who works with Hemmings to solve the mystery. The twist and finale are one of Argento’s finest. Argento offers plenty of variety with the death, from hatchet, to scalding, to decapitation. Argento’s flawless Gialli is a Classic!

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TENEBRE (1982)

While all of Argento’s films feature creative death sequences Tenebre is one of his most graphic entries containing more violence and nudity than his previous offerings. Author Peter Neal has travelled to Italy to promote his latest book Tenebre. When he arrives at his temporary lodgings he is greeted by two police detectives. A local woman has been found slashed to death by a straight razor with several pages of his new book shoved into her mouth. This is only the beginning in a string of Tenebre inspired murders. As the bodies continue to pile up around him, Neal unwillingly becomes involved in the case and even does a little detective work of his own. Tenebre boasts plenty of twists and turns in what may be Argento’s most plot-driven offering. The Giallo features are firmly intact with red-herrings, black leather gloves and death most beautiful. There are several well-executed death sequences including a particularly impressive crane shot of the outside of a house that follows a busty woman in various states of undress whose life inevitably comes to a brutal end. There is also a dog attack, strangulation, stabbing, axing and razor slashing. There is also an outstanding reoccurring dream/flashback sequence of a woman in a white dress wearing red pumps. The viewer doesn’t know which character is having the vision, but the woman in the white dress clearly torments them and is central to the plot.

Tenebre

Anthony Franciosa is excellent as Peter Neal and Daria Nicolodi gives an amiable performances as his assistant. The two have great chemistry. The supporting cast give sweet support; John Saxon who plays Neal’s sleazy agent, Lara Wendel who plays Maria, the landlord’s jailbait daughter and Christian Borromeo who plays errand boy Gianni. Tenebre is a well-filmed, suspenseful and gory horror-thriller complimented by a brilliant score composed by ex-Goblin members Morante, Pignatelli and Simonetti. Tenebre is top drawer horror entertainment.

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SUSPIRIA (1977)

Suspiria is Dario Argento’s best known film and for good reason. It is without a doubt his most impressive film visually; particularly his epic use of color. Suspiria is the first installment in Dario Argento’s “Three Mothers” trilogy. The plot revolves around Suzy a new student at a prestigious dance academy run by a coven of witches. Inventive camera work, beautiful colors, impressively staged death scenes, an excellent cast and epic soundtrack are the icing on the cake.

Suspiria

Suspiria Without a doubt is one of the most beautiful horror films ever made; a truly stunning nightmare! There is pitch-perfect mood and a feeling of unease established from the moment Suzy Bannion arrives at the Ballet school that doesn’t let up until the final Credits. Its beauty is quite remarkable but is only one of its impressive qualities. Suspiria is claustrophobic, intense, suspenseful and thrilling. Suspiria is a bona fide horror masterpiece.

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INFERNO (1980)

Inferno, Dario Argento’s second installment in the “Three Mothers” trilogy is one of his best and most under-appreciated flicks. The story moves from a prestigious dance school in Germany to an apartment building in the USA. An architect named Varelli built separate dwellings for the three mothers in Rome, Freiberg and New York. Writer Rose Elliot acquires a tome entitled The “Three Mothers”; a trio of sisters who ruled the world with darkness and sorrow. Rose believes her current dwelling to be the former home of one of the sisters. An investigation of the building reveals horrors that appear to inspire a chain of violent events. Easily one of Argento’s most gorgeous films it does not let down in the horror category either. Anyone who appreciates Argento’s style should rank Inferno high among their favorites. The colors, shadows, hidden passages, black gloved-killers, amazing sets and especially the superb underwater sequence are just a few of its notable assets.

Inferno

Inferno is a visual extravaganza; the cinematography, lighting, fantastic surreal sets and beautifully bizarre and nasty images linger in the mind for days on end. Inferno is truly a feast for the eyes; sit back and let it wash over you with its dream logic.

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The above four films have long been favourite Argento flicks but choosing a fifth was rather a bitch. I re-watched The Stendhal Syndrome, Opera, The Bird with the Crystal Plumage and Phenomena before making this list as I gave all four of these Argento entries a 4/5 rating. The Bird with the Crystal Plumage was the nicest looking film visually, The Stendhal Syndrome had the most intriguing story and Phenomena had the best effects but in the end it was Opera and its gore that won my heart and a spot on this list.

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OPERA (1987)

Performing Macbeth is believed to bring bad luck. The urban legend appears to be true after the lead of a modern operatic version of the play is hit by a car. The dead diva’s reluctant understudy Betty is brought in to replace her. The bad luck continues into opening night when a huge lighting fixtures falls from a balcony and a stagehand is killed. Alas the show must go on but at what price? Betty soon finds out after being assaulted. Betty is tied to a column, her mouth is taped shut and her eyes are forced open with needles. She has no choice but to watch the brutal killing of her boyfriend and is then freed. This sets the stage for a gory whodunnit featuring a masked killer, ravens, weird dream sequences, pulsing brains and memorable death scenes. The film’s ravens are used to great effect throughout and are pivotal to exposing the identity of the killer.

opera

The death scenes are all creative, bloody and grandly staged affairs. Specially notable and memorable is the perfectly executed bullet to the eye and a beautifully excessive stabbing death. The stunning opera house where most of the film takes place really is spectacular as are Argento’s countless trademark extended shots down hallways, up staircases not to mention a monumental dizzying birds-eye view. Opera has style in spades, but it does flounder just a touch in the substance category. Cristina Marsillach does a pretty good job with the wishy-washy character of Betty. Betty is downright useless for most of the film and really doesn’t do much of anything to help herself. I would have liked her character to have had a little more strength and depth. With the exception of Betty’s boyfriend who is as wishy-washy as she is, most of the supporting characters are actually far more interesting than Betty. Admittedly the killer’s identity isn’t much of a surprise although his motivation certainly was, and it left me sated nonetheless. The dream sequences are crazy cool and relevant to the plot so pay attention. I found the mix of opera and rock music interesting although the rock pieces do date the film; there is no mistaking this is a film from the late 1980s. Opera is perfectly paced and felt much shorter than its runtime and its visuals alone are easily worth the price of admission. A beautifully filmed, entertaining and energetic entry worthy of accolades.

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Goregirl’s TOP 10 Favourite Horror Films From 1996

Posted in horror, movies with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 17, 2013 by goregirl

There was the regular volume of 90s mud to wade through and a few of the worst of the worst were mainstream efforts which included The Island of Dr. Moreau, Mary Reilly and Diabolique but I still managed to pull together what I think is a solid top ten. There have not been a whole lot of repeat directors showing up on these 90s list but 1996 is an exception with Dario Argento, Peter Jackson, Shozin Fukui and Wes Craven all having their second entries! Film number one earned a 5/5 rating, films two through nine are films I rated 4/5 and film ten I rated 3.5/5. I gave one other film from 1996 a 3.5/5 which was Ebola Syndrome.

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#10 KILLER CONDOM
Directed By: Martin Walz

Killer Condom is based on the comic book of the same name by Ralf König. Apparently H. R. Giger was a creative consultant on the project. Killer Condom is a German film spoken in German that is set in New York?! Men in New York are losing their penises to the titular Killer Condom’s and Luigi Mackaroni is on the case. Luigi Mackaroni is a man who knows the streets of New York; a well-seasoned, chain smoking openly gay detective who is well known at the particular hotel where it all started. While Killer Condom definitely has a sleazy vibe and an outrageous premise neither the violence nor nudity is graphic; it is more campy than exploitative. It features a super Luigi sized killer condom, a mad scientist, a self-righteous pious villain and a lot of adorable little rubbers that make giggly cartoony noises. If that isn’t enough it has a love story and a heart warming happy ending! Killer Condom kept my attention and made me laugh often. To read the full review click here.

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#9 GAMERA 2: ATTACK OF THE LEGION
Directed By: Shûsuke Kaneko

Gamera! I mean really?! Who amoung us does not love a giant flying turtle?! Gamera 2: Attack of the Legion is one of the many entertaining post 80s Kaiju flicks I am discovering is well worth visiting. In Gamera 2: Attack of the Legion; the Legion refers to a species of alien insects that landed via meteor and have created a home in the city’s subway. The Legion is causing the oxygen levels to rise which explode their flower thingies with an end game of colonization. Gamera to the rescue! Tons of destruction, huge spectacular Kaiju battles, cool monster effects (some of the best I have seen in a Kaiju film!) and action galore make Gamera 2: Attack of the Legion an absolute must see bit of entertainment!

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#8 SPLATTER: NAKED BLOOD
Directed By: Hisayasu Sato

Splatter: Naked Blood is about a trio of women who volunteer to test a chemical contraceptive. The doctor’s son however is looking to conduct his own experiment and injects his own potion into his mother’s with horrific results. Splatter: Naked Blood has some nasty gore, weirdness, nudity, sex, laughs, nifty sound effects and a neato soundtrack. Be warned, the gore is nasty, but if that is your thing, have at it! To read my full review click here. I couldn’t find a trailer for the film, but I think this clip says it all.

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#7 THE STENDHAL SYNDROME
Directed By: Dario Argento

The Stendhal Syndrome is based on psychologist’s Graziella Magherini book about the affliction. Argento himself apparently once suffered from Stendhal Syndrome when he was a child. Detective Anna Manni is struck by the titular torment while at a museum. The detective is on the trail of a serial killer who uses the infirmity against her. Asia Argento plays Detective Manni and goes through the full gamut of emotions and is at times vulnerable, sad, and fierce; I think it is one of her best performances and despite looking terribly young and fresh faced she is quite effective in the role. The Stendhal Syndrome did not come up on the IMDB horror movie list much to my surprise! After this re-watch I understand why; The Stendhal Syndrome really is a dramatic thriller not a horror film. The Stendhal Syndrome is not without some plot issues, but is well paced, beautifully filmed with gorgeous sets and is a fascinating, unsettling and at times brutal bit of goodness.

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#6 THE FRIGHTENERS
Directed By: Peter Jackson

The Frighteners is a wacky horror-comedy about an architect named Frank Bannister who after surviving a car wreck that kills his wife has the ability to communicate with ghosts. The architect becomes a ghostbusting con man who uses the spirits to haunt residents that he than exorcises for cash. It is all fun and games until a malevolent spirit shows up. Frank tries to help the victims as he is able to see a number on their foreheads prior to their deaths and becomes suspect himself. Eccentric and obsessive FBI agent Milton Dammers is brought in to work on the case. The Frighteners is well-written, humorous, creepy, and has outrageous characters and great effects. Nicely cast too especially Jeffrey Combs who is absolutely brilliant as the insane FBI agent Dammers. Boo-haha!

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#5 RUBBER’S LOVER
Directed By: Shozin Fukui

Shozin Fukui’s 964 Pinocchio earned the number four slot for my favourites of 1991. Fukui’s Rubber’s Lover is a prequel of sorts to 964 Pinocchio and is an equally hallucinatory trip! Like its predecessor; Rubber’s Lover is a highly visual, incredibly weird, graphic and violent cyberpunk entry. Rubber’s Lover focuses on a group of psychotic scientists conducting twisted experiments using sensory depravation and mind-altering drugs to torture their unfortunate and involuntary patients. Their experiments are dangerous and brutal and inevitably result in calamity. Filmed in black and white with a heavy emphasis on metal, gears and fetishism. Do not stand; Keep your arms inside the vehicle at all times and your seatbelt securely fastened.

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#4 DON’T LOOK UP
Directed By: Hideo Nakata

It is like Don’t Look Up never existed. I could not find a trailer or a single clip for this film on YouTube; only its god-awful disaster of a remake from 2007 showed up in searches. This original directed by Hideo Nakata is virtually impossible to find and doesn’t seem to have ever had a release on DVD. What a shame because I think it is one of Nakata’s best. A crew filming in an old studio reviews the rushes from a day of shooting and it appears some old film stock has become intermingled with their new shots. The director recognizes the old footage from something he had watched on television as a child. He becomes obsessed with the images and learns the film was never finished. I seeked out this well-made, thoughtful and eerie supernatural tale on the strong recommendation of Wednesday’s Child over at 90s Horror (and Deep Red Rum) and it was no easy task to find! I am certainly not in the habit of doing such things, but this was such a great little film I have decided to post the link to where I was able to watch it online (click here). For fans of Japanese ghost stories I think it is well worth a watch.

don't look up

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#3 TESIS
Directed By: Alejandro Amenábar

Tesis did not come up on the IMDB horror film search and definitely leans towards a mystery-thriller but I think the film’s theme qualifies it enough to be here. Angela is a film student working on a thesis of violence in media at the University Complutense (the same University its director Alejandro Amenábar attended in real life). Through her research she discovers a video where a former student of the university is brutally killed. Her investigation of the material draws her into a heinous snuff ring. The film’s tagline is “My name is Angela. They’re going to kill me.” Which should give you some idea of where the story inevitable goes. The excellent performances from Ana Torrent, Fele Martínez and the handsome Eduardo Noriega (who would go on to star in Amenábar’s excellent Open Your Eyes) are all top notch. Tesis is smart, thrilling, suspenseful and an exceptionally well acted film from Spain that is well worth checking out.

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#2 SCREAM
Directed By: Wes Craven

Scream satirizes the horror genre and its many clichés. Based ever so loosely on The Gainesville Ripper and taking place in the fictional town of Woodsboro; it focuses on central character Sidney Prescott whose mother was killed one year previously. When teenagers from the town begin turning up dead Sidney begins to think that the crimes may be related to her mother’s death. An estranged father, her mother’s ex-lover and even her friends are all suspects. Scream was a huge commercial success and brought renewed interest to the genre; sadly it also seems to have birthed a series of irritating, stupid nonsense like I Know What You Did Last Summer, Valentine and Urban Legend but nonetheless Scream is a funny, clever and nasty film that is damn entertaining.

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#1 FROM DUSK TIL DAWN
Directed By: Robert Rodriguez

Bad-ass Brothers Richie and Seth Gecko are wanted men looking for a way to cross the border. As luck would have it a pastor questioning his faith and his two children show up in a motorhome. The Gecko’s take the family hostage and successfully cross the border to meet up with their contact at a remote strip club called the Titty Twister. Unfortunately for the group the Titty Twister happens to be a nest for a whole lotta vicious and nasty vampires. I love how From Dusk til Dawn starts out as a crime thriller and evolves into a full frontal horror flick. From Dusk til Dawn is action-packed, violent, nasty, well-paced, full of dark humour, has great effects and is perfectly cast. Harvey Keitel, Juliette Lewis, George Clooney, Ernest Liu, Quentin Tarantino and cameos from the likes of Cheech Marin, Michael Parks, Salma Hayek, John Saxon, Danny Trejo, Fred Williamson and Tom Savini. And it has pussy; hot pussy, cold pussy, wet pussy, smelly pussy, snapping pussy…come on in pussy lovers…From Dusk til Dawn is a shitload of bloody fun!

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