The Italians were amongst the forerunners in inventing the horror genre thorough the 60′s and 70′s. With some of the most talented directors combining horror, suspense, gore and art-house, they cretaed films of astounding creativity and shocked audiences the world over. The films are still as scary as they were then, so with Halloween on the way, Swide chooses ten of the best.
Top 10 Italian horror films
The Beyond / E tu vivrai nel terrore! L’aldilà (1981)
A young woman from New York inherits a hotel in rural Louisiana but when a serious of supernatural happenings occur, she realises there may be something terribly wrong with her property. It transpires the hotel is built on one of the 7 gates to hell…. you know the drill. Known as the ‘Godfather of Gore’ Lucio Fulci was a prolific director who created some of the most out-there, shocking violent scenes ever seen in theatres up to that point. ‘ E tu vivrai nel terrore!’ was part of his unofficial ‘Gates of Hell Trilogy’ where he explored metaphysical themes, punctuating it with terrific splatter.
Dario Argento’s most successful film and arguably his best, either way it’s a masterpiece. A young American girl joins a ballet school, which turns out to be run by a coven of witches. The film has achieved cult status because of Argento’s artistic flair in direction, the bold sense of colour and gothic style. Argento strikes just the right balance between gore and suspense in this film and the soundtrack by ‘Prog Rock’ band Goblin is a classic. A remake is currently in preproduction in Hollywood and will star Isabelle Fuhrman of ‘Orphan’ fame.
Zombi 2 (1979)
Lucio Fulci’s most successful film cashed in on the success of George A Romero’s ‘Day of The Dead’ zombie success. The title suggests a sequel to ‘Zombi’ the Italian title to ‘Day of The Dead’, it revived Fulci’s career and made him a horror icon. Where Romero took the zombie myth and urbanised it as an analogy of modern consumerism, Fulci went back to the original Carribean concept of the zombie, setting the action on a tropical island.
The House of the Laughing Windows / La casa dalle finestre che ridono (1976)
A young man is called to a rural Italian village to restore a fresco of the Slaughter of St. Sebastian on a rotting church wall. He hears from various townspeople that the painter was a madman who painted real horror that he recreated. As much giallo as horror, Puppi Avati’s ‘The House of the Laughing Windows’ is full of cheap splatter and gore, but it is also a very sophisticated study in the art of suspense with the film building steadily scene by scene to a terrifying cescendo. Possibly influenced by Nick Roeg and his iconic ‘Don’t Look Now’ (1973).
Cannibal Holocaust (1980)
Cannibal Holocost is one of the most mind-bendingly shocking films of its, or any other time. Based on ‘real’ footage by a team of lost documentary film makers who disappear while shooting a film about a tribe of cannibals in the Amazon Rainforest, it is highly entertaining and extremely intelligent. Named as one of the major influences for ‘The Blair Witch Project’ it is something of a ground-breaker.
Kill Baby, Kill / Operazione paura(1966)
Set in the Carpathian Mountains, a doctor is sent to a remote village to carry out an autopsy, it soon transpires that the village is haunted by the spirit of a little girl bent on murder. Mario Brava, one of Italian’s foremost horror film directors excels in this unnerving masterpiece. Heavily influenced by the Hammer House of Horror, Brava puts his finger on something goulishly European here.
Beyond the Darkness / Buio Omega (1979)
A rich young orphan’s girlfriend is killed by voodoo magic employed by the young man’s nanny who is jealous of his affections. Rome-born director Joe D’Amato was so prolific across numerous genre from horror to giallo, exploitation, sword and sandal, and Spaghetti Western that he often made several films at the same time, directing, doing cinematography and sometimes writing all at the same time. ‘Beyond the Darkness’ is a slasher with an art house feel that explores torture, necrophilia, possessiveness and murder. One for the Avant-garde horror fan.
An American writer in Rome is stalked by a serial killer who one-by-one picks off everyone associated with his latest work. After his two exercises in pure supernatural horror ‘Suspiria’ and ‘Inferno’, ‘Tenebre’ saw Dario Argento return to the giallo subgenre he had helped popularise in the 70′s. One of his most celebrated films, it has the best of a suspense-thriller and a slasher-horror strung together by Argento’s masterful artfulness.
Black Sabbath / I tre volti della paura (1963)
Boris Karlov presents a collection of three nightmarish shorts that director Mario Brava himself considered his most satisfying work. Brava was way ahead of his time and this is just as scary today as it was in the early 60′s. Inspired the name of Ozzy Osbone’s rock band when the film was playing in a theatre across the road from their rehearsal studio and they needed to change their name in a hurry.
Deep Red / Profondo rosso(1975)
Probably Argento’s most acclaimed giallo, it was a huge hit in Italy and the US. A music teacher involves himself in the murder investigation which he witnessed and uncovers a psycho-supernatural mystery that draws him in. A deranged masterpiece by the maestro of Italian horror, Argento.
By Hugo Mc Cafferty
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