Review: The Strange Color of Your Body’s Tears

Typically when I have failed to write about something prior to the BAM Awards, then that film is nominated a half-dozen times, then wins three times; I consider myself done writing about it for a time. However, The Strange Color of your Body’s Tears is one of the films that deserves some extra consideration. It should rouse some giallo fans out of the funk and stupor of scouring old titles whose hats are now as old.

If you saw Amer, and walked away disappointed as I did, this is a wholly different experience from directors Hélène Cattet and Bruno Forzani. This is a fully realized vision. Now one thing I will caution viewers on was that this was not an insight I came to immediately.

This is a film I didn’t re-watch yet but has lived off-and-on in my mind since I saw it. The initial ambivalence about it overall are fading away. Yes, I was floored by the sound mix, edit, the visuals and oneiric flow, but I think now that I’ve chewed on it enough that it’s the giallo elevation I wished Amer was, and whether or not I get it intellectually is almost secondary to its overall gut-punch impact. It’s a film you should allow to ravish you. I cannot guarantee that it will be as rewarding for the uninitiated as it is for someone who knows Giallo, well but if you stick with it and start to reconstruct the jigsaw you may well find you like it as well.

…deep, penetrating backgrounds and precision [camera] movements in The Strange Color of Your Body’s Tears.

Quite frankly the only word to adequately describe the images carved out in this film is astonishing. There’s a lushness that far exceed the prowess of gialli that inspired it and brand themselves on the eyes and minds of those who see it. Sure, it’s excessive but it is so with definite intentions and planning and is all the more breathtaking because of it.

The Strange Color of Your Body’s Tears, which does cut frequently but with purpose. It is almost nearly living in someone’s psyche and attempting to replicate that with it also moving through time, creating frames and meaning visually it is clearly the most outstanding work of the year.

The Strange Color of Your Body’s Tears assaults the senses throughout its duration and the ears are not exempt. Many of the jolts, much of the impact is through the mixing of effects, dialogue and score and helps contribute to its dreamy flow greatly.

It is available on digital and disc not and is recommended for fans of this unusual subgenre and the unusual.

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61 Days of Halloween: The Case of the Bloody Iris (1971)

Introduction

For an introduction to the concept of 61 Days of Halloween, as well as a list of previously featured titles, please go here.

The Case of the Bloody Iris is a giallo film from 1971 by director Giuliano Carmineo. It’s written by Ernesto Gastaldi based on his own story. Now as is the case with many Giallo films it could end up being “just another one,” especially considering that this one does take place, at least in part, in the world of fashion (as quite a few do). Staple actors of the genre Edwige Fenech and George Hilton are leads. A lot of it boils down to how it all shakes out in the end.

Without spoiling it, I was highly satisfied with the result of the whodunit. There were, in my estimation, a few unsavory possibilities in that regard, and the best path was taken. The outcome does leave a question or two, but most of it works.

Yes, there are a few elements that do date it however some of the representations (both in terms of ethnicity and sexuality) while ensconced in the lack of political correctness of the day are somewhat departures from the norm, which was refreshing to see.

The mystery is cloistered about one building. The police involvement can be counted on for a bit of bumbling, and comedy, but they are mostly competent. It’s just that the enigmatic nature of the case does prove to be a rather difficult one.

For as many complications this film foists upon itself and engaging in the occasional flashback sequence, it never gets confusing which is another win for it. And, on a pet peeve note: gialli have some of the greatest, most florid titles in cinema. However, the more often than note end up being a bit of a stretch (one example would be The House with the Laughing Windows) that is not the case here. Despite its strong elements I can’t say it’s a great giallo, but it is a good one that is worth seeing if you’re a fan of the genre.

61 Days of Halloween: Cat in the Brain

Most holidays worth their while encompass entire seasons, such as Christmas, for example. However, as you may have noticed there is a corporate push every year for us to think about the next holiday even sooner. While this has many negative side effects I figure I may as well embrace it. Since Labor Day is really only good for college football and movie marathons cinematically it is as significant as Arbor Day, which means the next big day on the calendar is Halloween and we can start looking toward it starting now. Daily I will be viewing films in the horror genre between now and then and sharing the wealth. Many, as is usually the case, will not be worth it so for every disappointment, I will try and suggest something worth while as well.

Cat in the Brain

This review does pertain to the DVD edition of the film.

Lucio Fulci’s Cat in the Brain is a must-have for any fan of giallo or Italian horror in general. And for all those enthusiasts, I have no tolerance for Fulci vs. Argento arguments – you can’t have one without the other, and talks of rivalry between the two are greatly exaggerated. Also give this film a chance and don’t dismiss it merely because it is “late Fulci.” Lucio Fulci himself stars in this film, and like most directors he is not mistaken when placing himself in this role, as Fulci plays himself he creates an interesting little bit of simulacrum while also turning the typical giallo formula on its ear. The premise is simple… Fulci is getting paranoid having visions of gruesome murder scenes he has filmed both in his current film and in the past. The film cleverly uses clips from Fulci-directed films such as Touch of Death and The Ghosts of Sodom to be both Fulci’s delusions and the blueprint for the killer framing him. Fulci ultimately thinks he’s the culprit when tricked by his therapist while under hypnosis. This is where the twist occurs and the formula is turned upsidedown. Usually the killer’s identity is a mystery to the protagonist and the audience. Here the protagonist thinks he’s guilty and the audience knows who is at fault. And the twist at the end is quite effective, as the film blurs the line between memory and reality and film and reality throughout. The best thing about this film it is that it lives almost entirely in the head of the protagonist who is so stressed he is constantly delusional. That allows for probably more splatter-filled moments than any Fulci film ever made. Many Italian horror or giallo film’s titles are based on minor plot points or metaphors. This one is actually more fitting than many after an opening shot and a mention in dialogue later. For those unfamiliar with the genre this may be the best introduction to the way Italians like to do things and considering the “clip show” approach if you don’t like Fulci after this you never will. The DVD is loaded with bonus features and includes the original Italian audio track with subtitles which makes a huge difference in the quality of the film, as dubbing helps to ruin so many films. 7/10

61 Days of Halloween- The Amityille Horror (1979)

Most holidays worth their while encompass entire seasons, such as Christmas, for example. However, as you may have noticed there is a corporate push every year for us to think about the next holiday even sooner. While this has many negative side effects I figure I may as well embrace it.

Since Labor Day is really only good for college football and movie marathons cinematically it is as significant as Arbor Day, which means the next big day on the calendar is Halloween and we can start looking toward it starting now.

Daily I will be viewing films in the horror genre between now and then and sharing the wealth. Many, as is usually the case, will not be worth it so for every disappointment so I will try and suggest something worth while as well.

The Amityille Horror

James Brolin and Margot Kidder in The Amityille Horror (American International Pictures)

What is interesting to note, for what it’s worth is that both the 1979 and 2005 versions of this film have the same score on the IMDb. This score seemingly ignores the biggest difference between the two which is that the original runs 120 minutes and the remake runs 90 and that running time is put to very good use. Not only do the incidents mount and come with greater frequency it allows for more narrative threads to be developed to support what we all know to be true.

What people are likely to hold against it might be that not enough happens but mind you that there are many incidents and there certainly seems to be more of a crescendo than last year’s (at the time of this writing) runaway hit Paranormal Activity which may be the slowest moving horror film ever crafted.

Another rarity that makes this film one worth seeing is that it has always been difficult to attract names to tales of horror or the supernatural but this film boasts James Brolin, who at the time was already an Emmy-winner, Margot Kidder who was just coming off Superman and Rod Steiger who had already won an Academy Award for In the Heat of the Night. This is in the same decade as The Exorcist which boasted Ellen Burstyn and Max von Sydow. These are the kinds of casts you can’t find anymore and the kind you need to convey a tale in which terror lives in the characters’ minds even more than it does in reality.
 
The score which opens the film and recurs a few times is reminiscent of certain Giallo films. The score combined with the quick flashbacks at the beginning to illustrate the house’s past are the perfect way to set the table.

I am not going to say this is the quintessential haunted house movie because that would be a disservice to films like The Haunting and The Legend of Hell House which deserve recognition, however, it does take a different approach than those and ushers in the age of suburban terror and perils of home ownership into the genre.

While occasionally you do get some bad looking blood, which is such a pet peeve of mine. There is the compelling case of the priest trying to convince people of what he experienced. The nun who was violently ill on the premises, then subplots that run longer like the obsession with woodcutting due to the cold; Jodie, the “imaginary” friend, The dog digging at the wall in the basement and the police sergeant sensing something is amiss and tailing the family and the priest. All this offers many more layers than you usually get in this type of tale.

Lastly, the film also employs titles very effectively as not many do. It can be an extremely effective when used well and this film does on more than one occasion.The Amityville Horror definitely has a lot to offer the horror connoisseur.

8/10

Review- Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark

Bailee Madison in Don't Be Afraid of the Dark (Film District)

Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark? Don’t worry I won’t be. Allow me to state for the record that I do not have anything against a slow burn, which this film is, however, there’s not enough spark there to get it going. A lot of that has to do with the fact that stupidity abounds in this film. The other is the pace itself and then there’s the subject matter.

Firstly, it is easy to create an adequately entertaining to great teaser scene in a horror film, however, if the rest of the film comes nowhere near matching it then you’ve done yourself a disservice and I understand the temptation to not do one. Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark‘s teaser scene is the one truly cringe-worthy moment the remainder of the film is hopelessly tedious and ineffective.

Equally as ineffective are the fairies in more ways than one. Yes, I am aware of the fact that a lot of the lore pertaining to fairies is in no way cutesy but that never really translates in this film. Their voices are small, silly and squeaky and never menacing. Though they’ve had many years to practice are about as hapless as killers can get and that really undercuts any tension that might be built. Not to mention the fact that their whole modus operandi lacks a very cogent explication.

Then you have the parents: Alex (Guy Pearce, with the most unfortunate hair) and Kim (Katie Holmes), the oh-so-young stepmother. These are your classic dumb characters in horror films. They are oblivious and/or in denial about what is really happening for far too long. Neither of them comes across as someone you could empathize with much less sympathize, Pearce with his cold dead-pan and Holmes with her patented smirky face lack depth as badly as the film does.

There is only any light shone upon the fairy backstory in one scene and that scene works but then it introduces a scene where Kim rushes back to the house drops a canvas and reveals a huge, blatant and graphic mural. The fact that this mural was missed before (or implied to have been missed) is laughable and not worthy of C-Grade Giallo films.

The only thing the film has going for it from start to finish is the stellar performance of Bailee Madison. She is often alone and having to be convincingly scared with no one to play off her and/or reacting to CG elements and she does wonderfully. The fact that Madison shines cannot save this film though.

The pace hardly ever quickens and the horrors of this this film are so avoidable such that it wallows in tedium. The film ends up not being scary, funny or entertaining. Some situations added to create character are so trite it’s surprising they’re in the film at all and to top it off the ending is just dementedly stupid.

It’s rare when a film has me leave fuming as opposed to bow-beaten by its awfulness. This film did that.

2/10

61 Days of Halloween: All the Colors of the Dark

Most holidays worth their while encompass entire seasons, such as Christmas, for example. However, as you may have noticed there is a corporate push every year for us to think about the next holiday even sooner. While this has many negative side effects I figure I may as well embrace it.

Since Labor Day is really only good for college football and movie marathons cinematically it is as significant as Arbor Day, which means the next big day on the calendar is Halloween and we can start looking toward it starting now.

Daily I will be viewing films in the horror genre between now and then and sharing the wealth. Many, as is usually the case, will not be worth it so for every disappointment so I will try and suggest something worth while as well.

All the Colors of the Dark

All the Colors of the Dark (Shriek Show)

This is the kind of film that proves an axiom that is even more true of the giallo subgenre than it is of the horror as a whole. While some may disagree on the percentage the premise is this: only 10% of horror films are good, honestly and truly good.

The giallo subgenre has many trappings which make this equation at times even harder. This film follows the basic rules: there is a female protagonist, a secret buried in the past that if unearthed may lead to the identity of the killer which is a mystery.

This one just fails to work in many instances. One reason is that the web of conspirators against our lead is far too large. While it is good that a seemingly innocuous plot point may have cleared things up you wonder why the caller was so arcane and why the lead wasn’t curious enough.

The set up does work well. There is even some disturbing dream imagery that throws you off the scent a bit too much. However, the whole film becomes far too concerned with blurring the line between dream and reality. It makes you wonder if Fellini ever secretly regretted opening 8 1/2 in a dream though he can’t be held accountable for this kind of hackneyed use of a dream beginning.

The cinematography at times gets quite clumsy even for the surrealistic effect that is sought.

While the involvement of a cult in this story is interesting it is typically a move that ends up being a trap. For every positive scene that is introduced due to this aspect there is another which is less desirable that can come in to play because its hard to swallow how any are in this particular cult.

This film not only has dreams but it would appear visions which eventually are so exploited that they lose all effectiveness.

5/10

61 Days of Halloween- Introduction and A Blade in the Dark

Most holidays worth their while encompass entire seasons, such as Christmas, for example. However, as you may have noticed there is a corporate push every year for us to think about the next holiday even sooner. While this has many negative side effects I figure I may as well embrace it.

Since Labor Day is really only good for college football and movie marathons cinematically it is as significant as Arbor Day, which means the next big day on the calendar is Halloween and we can start looking toward it starting now.

Daily I will be viewing films in the horror genre between now and then and sharing the wealth. Many, as is usually the case, will not be worth it so for every disappointment so I will try and suggest something worth while as well.

A Blade in the Dark

A Blade in the Dark is a film by Lamberto Bava (Demons, son of Mario Bava) which fits in perfectly in the Giallo tradition of filmmaking. You have all the necessary components: an unknown killer, a series of unexplained deaths, a theme song anchoring the film and a twist as to who is the culprit. What is most clever is that Bava here makes his protagonist a musician working on a film score so the repetition of the theme is naturalistic most of the time and can’t get annoying.

You may notice a slight similarity to Four Flies on Grey Velvet but there is a decided difference here. In this film you also have a film-within-a-film which doesn’t take up a lot of screen time but plays a significant role. You see one of the pivotal scenes full-frame before the credits roll and only later realize it’s a film-within-a-film. This little vignette also features Giovanni Frezza who was the poster child of the genre in the 1980s appearing in the works of Fulci and the elder Bava as well.

Giovanni Frezza in A Blade in the Dark (Blue Underground)

The twist in this film is one you think you see coming but you truly don’t. The film does a great job of dividing your suspicions in this whodunit and thus misdirecting you completely. While there is one scene in particular, the first kill, that stands out as being awkwardly staged the rest of it is handled masterfully. There are some tooth-clenching sequences and great gore work.

8/10